Tag: 2020 aflw draft

2020 AFLW Draft review: St Kilda Saints

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with St Kilda, a team that showed promising signs in its inaugural season and will be on the rise in 2021 after being one of the most impressive performers through the draft.

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Tahlia Meyer (South Adelaide)

Every club is a winner post-draft, but St Kilda’s draft hand is one to celebrate and leave the red, white and black supporters really excited. Three young guns who were steals in the draft, followed by a couple of mature-agers including one already in the Saints’ program and another underrated talent in the SANFL Women’s, this is a side to watch in 2021.

Tyanna Smith was one of only a few who could challenge as the best player in the AFL Women’s Draft crop, so to see the Dandenong Stingrays star land at pick six and join former Stingrays’ teammates Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon at Moorabbin is a coup in itself. She is arguably the most complete player from the Under 18s, with elite athleticism, great skills, terrific decision making and a big-game player. She will complement Georgia Patrikios in there and the two will almost be uncatchable.

Alice Burke is one the fans would have been tracking for a little while given the men’s team has not had too many father-sons over the years. The daughter of club legend and now Western Bulldogs’ coach Nathan, Burke is a tenacious midfielder who has also spent time at half-back. Coming from a soccer background, Burke would have been a top 15 pick in an open draft, so again like Smith, represents value. With her defensive pressure and dual-sidedness, Burke is a massive inclusion to the Saints’ outfit.

Renee Saulitis was the premier pure small forward in the draft, and while she showed over the last 18 months she could play in defence or midfield, she is most at home in a forward pocket. Oozing X-factor and goal sense, she is another who could come straight in and cause all sorts of damage at the feet of Caitlin Greiser, and is one to watch as a quick developer. She provides a niche little role in there, and cannot be left alone inside 50.

Jacqueline Vogt comes out of the Southern Saints program where she performed as a versatile forward. Strong and not afraid of the contest, the mature-age Vogt could slot into the side straight away if required following her consistent 2019 VFL Women’s season.

Finally, the Saints picked up slick ball user Tahlia Meyer with the extra pick they opted to pass on draft night. The South Adelaide prospect was one of the most underrated players in the SANFL Women’s competition, but hardly put a foot wrong with her disposal and vision going inside 50 a treat to watch. It seems to be a running theme with the Saints – good ball use and decision making – and Meyer fits the bill and is also readymade to have an impact at senior level.

Overall the Saints included some serious X-factor and talent to their line-up with fans likely to see them continue to rise up the ladder and worry some more experienced teams next season.

Picture: St Kilda Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Carlton Blues

NOW that the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked, and what each player might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Carlton, a side which had few glaring weaknesses to cover, but selected a versatile trio of Vic Metro-based midfielders, two of whom are former NAB League captains.

Carlton:

#12 – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#28 – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#36 – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

A club moving into its premiership window, Carlton chose to stick with Victorian youth to bolster its squad heading into season 2021. Positioned well with their three picks, the Blues selected players with the character and upside to make an impact on the senior side as soon as in their debut season. Having held picks two and three in the last couple of drafts, the Blues were able to select ‘best available’ talent from the rich Victorian pool.

First up was Mimi Hill, a two-time Oakleigh Chargers captain who has led the fast-improving region to with aplomb. She, along with Sandringham Dragons skipper Winnie Laing, directly address the loss of Sarah Hosking to Richmond during the sign and trade period. Hill’s ground level game and hard-running style, combined with Laing’s attack on both ball and carrier make for a terrific couple of selections at picks 12 and 36 respectively.

While pegged as a natural midfielder who can play both inside and out, Hill is still quite light-on and found herself more often employed across half-back as a top-ager. As she develops her strength and tackling, she could well rotate through the midfield and emulate her idol, Sam Mitchell. Laing is a tough midfielder who, fittingly enough, idolises Patrick Cripps. As another leader in the bunch, she will look to drive standards and contribute to the culture, while impacting physically on-field.

In between those selections, Daisy Walker was snapped up with pick 28. She also hails from the Sandringham Dragons talent program, and is more of a developing type who comes from a basketball background. Her love of football grew as she watched her older brother, Will rise to AFL Draft selection with North Melbourne. Her agility and endurance make for a good athletic platform to develop upon, with clean hands and improving fundamentals making her a high-upside choice who could come on rapidly in an elite environment.

Overall, the Blues have been able to bolster their already-strong midfield group with three shrewd selections at this year’s table. Coach Daniel Harford obviously sought to bring in a balance of hardened types with plenty of upside who can develop on the outer or flanks before filling the engine room in years to come. Character is another important trend in this cohort, with two junior captains selected to help keep Carlton’s premiership tilt on track.

Tenacious Snow takes the long road to her footballing goal

THE PATH less travelled by is a phrase often attached to the journey of budding AFL Women’s draftees. Well, how does Perth, to Singapore, to America, to Melbourne sound?

That’s the journey Northern Knights prospect Ashleigh Snow has embarked on throughout her young life, with an AFLW club potentially the next destination. The diminutive defender-turned-midfielder learned to play football through a school program during her seven years in Singapore, and says she “always wanted to play” having watched her brother and dad do the same.

“I went to an Aussie school, so they had a little program where I learned to play,” Snow said. “My brother and dad played so I just always wanted to play. I played there for two years and then came back to Melbourne and that’s where I joined my first girl’s team at West Preston.”

Snow entered the Northern Knights through its development program, before turning out six times throughout the region’s undefeated premiership season in 2019, and thrice more in 2020. Though injury kept her out of last year’s Grand Final team, Snow came back strongly as a top-ager.

Her form was enough to warrant a National Combine invite, something which Snow says was “unexpected” following the cancellation of this year’s NAB League season.

“In the year that Knights won the NAB League premiership, I missed out because of my injury which was a bit hard,” she said. “I went back this year and only got to play the three games, but I feel like I came back pretty (strongly) and got to show what I could do in those games.”

“I started playing midfield which was a bit different because I played (in the) backline for the last two years before that. I feel like I seemed pretty determined and was always going hard for the ball. In one of the games I even got a goal against Calder, which is a bit different for me, always being down back.”

“The draft, being invited to the combine, and having the interviews was actually really unexpected for me. I just thought ‘the season’s over and that’s it’. “But luckily enough I have a little gym in my garage so I’ve been doing circuits every day to keep my fitness up. So hopefully if I do get drafted I’ll be in alright shape for preseason.”

Lauded for her tenacity and toughness at the ball despite her size, Snow’s importance to the team has long been known to those who can see past the conveyer belt of stars Northern has produced of late. She comes from good pedigree as well, with her father, David a former WAFL footballer and 1996 Simpson Medal winner. The ‘daughter-of’ says her dad has long been one of her greatest motivators, along with outgoing Knights coach Marcus Abney-Hastings.

“My dad has a massive footy background and I just have to say, he’s the one person who’s non-stop motivating me,” she said. (He is) always asking me to go for runs, do workouts with him, and wanting to go for kicks. “When I don’t want to do any of that he’ll keep pushing me and he knows that in the long run I’ll be thankful that he made me do it.”

“Marcus has been the coach for the whole three years I’ve been (at Northern). I really like him and feel like he’s been the most supportive…  obviously all the coaches as Knights like Marcus and Nat Grindal, they’ve been a massive help. “They’ve always made me keep belief in myself and given me the confidence that I sort of struggle to have.”

The Knights’ affiliation with Carlton’s AFLW side saw Snow choose the Blues as her favourite women’s side, though her upbringing in Perth meant she grew up a West Coast Eagles fan. Heading into the draft, Snow says she will be watching alongside her family and boyfriend at home amid Melbourne’s lockdown, hoping to hear her name called out.

“My parents and friends (have) always supported me in life. My boyfriend I think is my number one fan, he’s proudest out of everyone,” she said.

The 2020 AFL Women’s Draft will be held virtually at 7pm AEDT on October 6.

Capable Chaplin knows believing is achieving

HER coaches know it, her teammates know it, anyone who has observed her journey through the NAB League pathway knows it, but only now is Maeve Chaplin realising that she truly belongs among the best women’s football has to offer.

The Northern Knights defender has come a long way since starting football at age seven; originally playing alongside boys, then moving to girl’s sides at West Preston Lakeside and the Darebin Falcons, while also advancing through Northern’s elite talent program.

As a middle-ager, Chaplin was part of the Knights’ undefeated premiership team, shining across half-back with her mix of physicality and class on the ball. An injury in Round 3 of her top-age campaign was unideal, though it would matter little in the grand scheme of things as the season would eventually be scrapped amid a global pandemic.

By her own estimation, Chaplin was “travelling pretty well” and was as fit as she had ever been. She was in the midst of a move into the midfield, joining co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald at the centre bounces and waxing well with the probable first-round draft talents.

While the 18-year-old and her teammates may have had plenty more to give in 2020, Chaplin says the break in play has allowed her to work on the mental side of her game.

“I definitely tried to use (the lockdown period) to my advantage and I really worked on myself mentally,” Chaplin said. “It was a big thing for me because I didn’t really have the time like I do now to just focus on myself. “It was a time for me to understand that I really do want to get far in footy and that I am prepared to play at a professional level. “In order to do that I really wanted to mature in those areas.

“I just wish I did believe in myself… but it’s something that I really want to work on and I have been working on throughout this isolation period. Just knowing mentally that I am good enough and I can get to that next level, it’s just all about pushing myself.”

The friendship of a Knight-turned-Bulldog who has also been part of the Darebin football family, Nell Morris-Dalton has helped Chaplin thrive. Chaplin says she has remained in constant contact with her former teammate throughout the lockdown period.

“A big (mentor) for me has definitely been Nell,” she said. She’s really helped, inspired, and guided me a lot throughout the season because we’ve got the same personality in a way. “I’ve been texting her quite a bit during isolation so she’s a really good friend.

“It’s pretty amazing to play with (the Northern Knights), they’re all so talented. “You really grow off each other and challenge each other, so it helps everyone get better at the end of the day. “Playing with them, you don’t really think about how good they are, they’re just more your friends.”

Maeve Chaplin moves through traffic

Northern’s cohesive team and a family-like atmosphere has certainly played a part in Chaplin’s rise. The aforementioned midfield move was one bought on by coach Marcus Abney-Hastings and talent manager Nat Grindal, allowing Chaplin to bring her defensive nous to a rather potent midfield group.

She says the move was somewhat of a natural progression from the defensive post she owned throughout 2019, though she still harbours hope of returning to half-back in future.

“It was kind of expected,” she said. “Nat and Marcus let me know that they were going to put me up into the midfield and get me a bit more of the ball which was good to have.

“I definitely brought some of my defensive traits into the midfield, using my bodywork, so that was a bonus. “I felt like in doing that, I helped Ellie and Jess play their best footy as well. “It was definitely a good move up the ground, it was fun.

“I would prefer to play on the half-back flank (at AFLW level) but playing in the midfield does come naturally to me just as much as the backline. “But I’ll obviously put my best effort in playing there and it’d be a really good opportunity.”

The versatile prospect, who models her game on Richmond defender Phoebe Monahan, has not only improved herself off-field, but has reaffirmed some of the improvements to be made through contact with AFLW clubs. While “feeding off” their directive, Chaplin has also put the onus back on the recruiters and coaches during their meetings.

“They have given me some things that I need to work on, or they’ve mentioned them and I’ve fed off them a little bit,” she said. “But I’ve been more self-directing, I’ve just told them what I feel like I need to work on and ask them how they’re going to support me and all that kind of stuff.”

“Obviously there’s a few things (to improve on). My aerobic endurance I definitely want to work on, I want to be the fittest that I can be because that was definitely me at the start of the year. “With the right support staff I can definitely get to that level again and even better than that.

“A few other things that I really want to work on are just my mentality, that’s a big thing for me. Just knowing that I am at that level physically to play, and getting myself there mentally as well.”

Outside of football, Chaplin is working through her Year 12 studies and hopes to move into either nursing or paramedicine next year. She sought to thank all the people at the Northern Knights for all the support and life lessons she has received from them, as well as her teammates Fitzgerald, McKenzie, Alyssa Bannan, Ash Snow, and Abigail Bennett.

“They’re all just really good teammates, I really love them.”

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Richmond & St Kilda

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two recent expansion sides from Victoria, in Richmond and St Kilda.

Richmond – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 1, 42 (28), 52 (33)

Off-season summary:

There’s no way around it, Richmond’s maiden AFL Women’s season was a disaster. But the fast-moving nature of the competition means the Tigers can quickly turn it around, and they have started anew (again) by targeting some more mature talent, with help from concessions.

Richmond’s end-of-first-round pick (15) granted by the AFL was used well, transferred to Carlton in exchange for heart-and-soul inaugural Blue, Sarah Hosking. The hardened midfielder adds some much-needed grunt to the engine room alongside long-term midfielder/forward Sarah Dargan, with fellow former-Magpie Sarah D’Arcy and Harriet Cordner (ex-Melbourne) within the experienced age bracket.

Grace Campbell, a pacy raw midfielder was lost to North Melbourne for not much, with 19-year-old Ella Wood a shock retirement to go with that of Laura Bailey and Lauren Tesoriero. Nekaela Butler, Ciara Fitzgerald, and Emma Horne were all delisted too, sealing what was a relatively big turnover in players for the second-year club.

A draft look:

All eyes will be on what the Tigers decide to do with pick one. The two frontrunners are Northern Knights midfielder/forward Ellie McKenzie, and Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Tyanna Smith. McKenzie, a mercurial type who boasts a well-rounded game may edge out her country counterpart at this stage, but both would be fine selections. As expected from such high draft picks, particularly of late, both will be able to immediately impact the Tigers’ side from Round 1 and provide a much-needed spark to the unit. They could also be generational players for all the loyal Tigers fans to adore for years to come.

With their later picks, 28 and 33 in the Victorian pool, the Tigers may look to consolidate their midfield even further, potentially freeing Katie Brennan up to spend more time forward, while taking some pressure off the shoulders of Monique Conti, and the incoming pick one. In a team which lacked goals in 2019, Richmond could also do with some firepower up forward – mostly in the medium/small category.

St Kilda – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 6 (4), 24 (16), 34 (23), 49 (26), 51 (32)

Off-season summary:

After a strong maiden AFL Women’s season, the Saints have came away with plenty of promise to build on. While the losses of Alison Drennan (Gold Coast) and Jess Sedunary (Adelaide) will be felt along with the retirement of Courteney Munn, St Kilda managed to bring in a couple of solid defenders to bolster the team. Bianca Jakobsson and Jayde van Dyk are those defenders set to make an impact, with the Saints’ draft hand also looking strong. That hand, as discussed below will help them secure father-daughter selection, Alice Burke at not too pretty a penny. Overall, the new Victorian team looks in good shape, boasting a solid core and some exciting members of the next generation.

A draft look:

Given the balance on St Kilda’s side, recruiters and coaching staff can look at taking the best available throughout – particularly with pick six (four). With one of McKenzie or Smith poised to be taken first off the board, the Saints can look at the likes of Alyssa Bannan and Sarah Hartwig as realistic targets. Of course, the Bulldogs may well opt to secure a key forward with pick two, meaning that Smith could even fall to St Kilda pending what Melbourne do with pick three.

The first pair mentioned are both dynamic midfielders with plenty of weapons and game-breaking abilities, while Bannan is an athletic key forward, and Hartwig a defensive marking machine. Of course, St Kilda has also already confirmed the addition of Alice Burke, the daughter of club legend and current Bulldogs coach, Nathan. The tough midfielder will likely cost the Saints one of their later picks. With the others remaining, the strong Dandenong Stingrays ties could also be maintained, given pre-listed players such as Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon both came from the region.

Sports mad McKenzie hoping to hit the ground running

SINCE bursting onto the scene with bags of goals as a bottom-ager in an impressive Northern Knights side, Ellie McKenzie has been touted as one of the leading AFL Women’s Draft prospects of her year.

Back then, in 2018, her performances were also tied to that of her older brother, Tom who spent a year on North Melbourne’s rookie list. The two would often run out on Preston City Oval within the same afternoon, donning the navy, black, and white in the formerly-branded TAC Cup competition. Their love of footy was moulded by a family “crazy about sport”, and McKenzie says her football has always been her “main passion.”

“I grew up being a pretty sporty kid,” McKenzie said. “My family loves sport so I grew up playing not just footy, but (also) cricket, I did some athletics as well, swimming, and gymnastics – just all over the shop really.

“Footy was always the main passion though. My brother Tom went straight to Auskick when he was about five and I looked up to him, I still do obviously. “I went along to Auskick as well, thought I’d give it a go and fell in love with footy from there.”

The potential number one pick started out in the Fitzroy Junior Football Club’s Under 10 boy’s team at just eight years of age, before moving into a girl’s team at 13, and eventually entering the elite talent pathway through Northern’s region. McKenzie says the experience of playing alongside boys has helped develop an edge in her skills, something which sets her apart to this day – along with a “peak” fitness level.

“I think the main thing that sets me apart is my kicking ability,” she said. “Obviously I’ve been playing for a long time and playing with the boys definitely helps that kind of skill. “I’ve been working really hard on my right foot too, I think that’s something that you don’t see much in AFL Men’s, let alone AFLW being able to kick on both feet. “If I keep improving that, I think that’s something that can get to an elite level as well.

“I think this was the first preseason that I’d been at the Knights where I didn’t have an injury. “I had gone through the whole preseason uninjured, I’d been training really hard, and I think that I’d gotten my fitness to a level that I’d never seen before, it was my peak level.”

While high flies and goals in bunches helped McKenzie gain early traction, she has since developed into quite the midfielder on the back of that fitness base. Clean hands, athleticism, speed, and penetration all also work to make up a well-rounded style, as the 17-year old looks to borrow the best traits from some of the game’s elites.

“I definitely mould my game on a few people,” she said. “Through the forwardline I’d probably say Katie Brennan. She’s just an elite kick, her leading patterns down forward are great, and her marking ability is something I try to emulate myself. “From the men’s I’d say Marcus Bontempelli. Just his ability to burst out of a pack and have such power and strength is something I also aspire to. “And Steele Sidebottom, his kicking ability on both feet is something I look up to and try to achieve myself.

“I like to say that I’m a pretty versatile player, that I can be thrown in almost all positions. “Half-forward has always been a spot where I feel comfortable at, where I can run up the ground and I think obviously the midfield this year I played well in as well. “I guess it’s up to the club that I get picked at.”

Speaking of, McKenzie has nominated the Vic Metro zone as her region of choice for the upcoming draft, allowing her to remain at home. The Hawthorn supporter says she has peaked at the draft order, but “just want(s) to get drafted” and make an immediate impact at the elite level.

“I definitely hope to be picked for the Round 1 game, that’s my aim,” she said. “I don’t think I’m looking to just ease myself in, I really want to hit the ground running and get straight into the team and impact it as well.

“Being able to play alongside people like Gabby Newton, Sarah (Sansonetti), Nell (Morris-Dalton) and Brit (Gutknecht), they’ve all been massive role models for me and I’ve really enjoyed playing alongside them. “I know that I can match the pace of AFLW because I’ve matched it with them, so it’s given me a bit of confidence there, and I guess the success that we’ve had was due to (having) such a strong connection.”

That connection continued into 2020, in a team which McKenzie led alongside good mate, Jess Fitzgerald. After an undefeated premiership season, the Knights co-captain says her side was on track for more finals success, while also putting her outstanding performances down to a mental “reset” after Round 1.

“I was happy with my first three games,” she said. “I think after the (Round 1) Calder Cannons game I had a really high expectation of what I wanted to get out of the game, so I had to kind of reset my mindset. “After that I was really happy with my Geelong Falcons game and my Dandenong game. I thought that I played well for the team and I showcased my skills at the same time. “I was happy with it and I know that the team were happy with the performances overall, obviously getting three out of three wins is something that you really want. “We were definitely on track to be in the Grand Final again this year and maybe even a premiership.”

Much of the Knights’ success has been put down by many, including McKenzie, to a culture of “family”. As much is clearly evident in McKenzie’s glowing reviews of fellow draft hopefuls Fitzgerald and Maeve Chaplin.

“They’re two of my best mates down at the Knights,” she said. “Jess (is) amazing, she’s really funny… but Jess is I think the most hard-working person I’ve ever met. “She’s so determined, she’s always there to pick up her teammates when they’re down, and I know for me she’s always been that positive kind of person on my shoulder, just making sure that I’m in a good headspace.

“Maeve, obviously she’s really charismatic and everyone loves her down at the Knights. “But I think something that a lot of clubs and a lot of people don’t see is that she’s really able to flip the switch and be serious when it comes to a game.”

The pair were among plenty of people McKenzie sought to thank.

“I’d love to thank my family, they’ve always been there for me over the last 10 years I’ve been playing footy,” she said. “They’ve always supported me and not really looked at me as a girl playing footy, but just a person playing footy, an individual.

Nat (Grindal), Marcus (Abney-Hastings) and all the coaches down at the Knights, they’ve been amazing for me and the club. I’m so happy we were able to achieve such success there.

“Everyone at my school has always supported me as well, and all my coaches throughout my junior career have been a massive help.”

The nervous wait until the first name in the 2020 AFL Women’s draft is called out comes to an end on October 6, with McKenzie right among the frontrunners to land at Richmond with pick one.

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Geelong & North Melbourne

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two sides from Victoria, in Geelong and North Melbourne.

Geelong Cats – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 10 (5), 20 (13), 21 (14), 27 (19)

Off-season summary:

As if often the case, Geelong was rarely sighted throughout the sign and trade period, through the Cats made the bold move of bolstering their draft hand by parting with pick five. In return for said pick, along with number 35 and a fourth rounder, Geelong received selections 10, 20, 27, and 39. The move was in line with the Cats’ strong youth focus and trend of growing from within, with a bumper draft likely to see them build on a two-win 2020 season. Mel Hickey was a major retiree along with Anna Teague, while Gemma Wright and Cassie Blakeway were delisted. A steady turnover of players bodes well for squad stability, and the lure of local players should see some fit right in come draft time.

A draft look:

The forwardline is arguably Geelong’s greatest priority, in need of both tall and small options. Some key position depth up the other end wouldn’t hurt either, while the midfield is a known strength of the squad at full capacity. Local Geelong Falcons guns Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney are likely first-rounders, but hardly fit the bill in terms of squad needs as ball winning midfielders. With the Geelong nomination zone scrapped, the Cats can look to a wider Victorian pool with their selections. They’d be thrilled if Alyssa Bannan gets through to the fifth Victorian pick, an athletic key forward who is raring to play Round 1 in 2021. Fellow key position outlets Sarah Hartwig, Olivia Barber and Isabelle Pritchard could also suit a need, while the likes of Maggie Caris, Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman loom as other long-term tall options.

North Melbourne – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 13 (8), 22 (15), 43 (29), 48 (31), 55

Off-season summary:

The Roos didn’t need to add much to their stacked list, but went about securing Grace Campbell as yet another midfield option – nabbing her from Richmond in exchange for pick 43. Slightly improving their draft hand in a three-way trade was also shrewd, moving up to pick 22 from 29 to have two picks within the top 15 in terms of the Victorian pool. North lost two players to other clubs in Abbey Green (Collingwood) and Jess Trend (Fremantle), while Taylor Mesiti was the sole retiree, and Chloe and Libby Haines were among four players to be delisted. Jess Duffin should also act as somewhat of a new recruit as she returns to the fold.

A draft look:

As mentioned, the Roos lay claim to a couple of picks within the top 15 of the Victorian pool. With no real pressing list needs, they can essentially select the best available at that range and get some great value from a strong local crop. With their later selections, a project ruck option could be the way to go in lieu of Green’s departure, with Tasmanian tall Charlie Vandenberg a likely suitor late in the draft. Of course, North Melbourne has also secured an historic father-daughter selection in Amy Smith, the daughter of Shaun. The athletic midfielder was a bolt from the blue among this year’s nominees, with the Kangaroos committing to her despite not being able to play at VFLW level in 2020.

Featured Image: New North Melbourne father-daughter recruit Amy Smith | Source: NMFC.com.au

Knights star Bannan leaves it all out on the field

BUDDING AFL Women’s draftee Alyssa Bannan came into her top-age year looking to “put everything out onto the field with every game.” Little did she, or any of her fellow NAB Leaguers know that their season would be cut short to just three games, but an increase in work-rate, work ethic, and intensity certainly payed off for the Northern Knights key forward.

“I was actually very proud of how I went,” Bannan said. “Knowing that this was my last year as a top-ager and it was my opportunity to get drafted, I went out thinking that I had to play my best game, every single game. “How I felt coming off the field definitely made me think that I did myself proud, did my family proud, and did my friends proud with how I played.”

Nine goals in three outings, including a bag of five in the season-opening Grand Final rematch goes a long way to instilling such pride. It even saw Bannan shift her original end goal of being drafted, to being selected within the first round. But more significantly than simply being a great player on-field, the 18-year-old is determined to prove her worth as a quality person, off it.

“It’s definitely not so much about being a good player on the field, but also being a good person off the field,” she said. “I’ve found that clubs have been very big on not only being a very skilful player, but being kind, being caring, being motivated, and that’s what has been the focus throughout the year.”

Alyssa Bannan gets a kick away during this year’s NAB League season

The break from football has somewhat proven a blessing in disguise. While Bannan admits the early unknown was “difficult”, she says the time off has allowed her to find a greater balance in life.

“At the start it was definitely very difficult not knowing if we were going to be able to finish off our season,” she said. “But I think having this break has allowed me to develop individually on aspects of my game that I wouldn’t normally focus on, such as my mental heath with wellness sessions and being able to (practice) mindfulness. “Although it has been disappointing not being able to finish, I’ve definitely been able to work on those different aspects of my life to balance it out.”

Having played a key part in Northern’s unbeaten NAB League premiership last year, Bannan has risen through the ranks alongside some of the greatest players the competition has seen. Namely, 2019 captain and current Western Bulldogs rising star Gabby Newton has had a major impact on the Knights’ no. 6, helping establish a healthy and competitive environment to improve in.

In line with the standard such players set, Bannan says she also sought to become a leading figure in her side’s setup.

“Having played alongside Gabby Newton and personally getting to know her, her qualities and attitudes as a player have definitely been something that I look up to,” she said. “Her teamwork, her (desire) to do really well and continue to improve are definitely qualities that really strike home to me as ones I want to present.”

“The new role as a top-ager really made me want to lead and present myself as someone who people can look up to and can think ‘She’s a really good player, I want to aspire to be like her.’ That’s been my overall goal throughout, especially this season.”

The Northern Knights celebrate their 2019 NAB League premiership

Bannan, a Carlton supporter also looks up to AFL Women’s trailblazer Tayla Harris. If a player comparison is what you are after, an easy link can be made between the two high-flying forwards.

“Tayla Harris is a big player who I wanted to model my game style on,” Bannan said. “Playing in similar positions, having a similar style of play, she’s definitely been a player that I really look up to and who I would like to emulate when I hopefully get to play AFLW.”

Football has also impacted the youngster in terms of her other potential career options, too. As she completes her Year 12 studies, Bannan has one eye on a vocation in the sporting realm, helping athletes get the best out of their game. It is a theme she says her football career has helped bring out.

“Sport is definitely on the list,” she said. “I’d love to do anything to do with strength and conditioning, high performance, even if it’s performance analysis. “Just improving players and their performance, because that’ll definitely help me see how to improve my performance as well. I think footy’s definitely brought that side out in me.”

With her first round draft dream in tow, Bannan is seeking to hit the ground running once her shot at the big-time is sealed, out to prove not only to herself and clubs, but to fans that she is “on the field for a reason.” The Northern Knights graduate also sought to thank the “long list of people” to have influenced her footballing journey; from her supportive family, to her coaches, teammates, staff, and everyone in between who helped her get to where she is.

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Carlton & Collingwood

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two sides from Victoria, in powerhouse clubs Carlton and Collingwood.

Carlton Blues – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 12 (7), 28 (20), 36 (25)

Off-season summary:

Carlton was involved in a couple of major trade deals during the off-season, with inaugural Blue Sarah Hosking‘s move to Richmond one of the most notable exchanges of the trade period. It was the first confirmed deal made, and would allow the Blues to then land Melbourne gun Elise O’Dea and fellow former-Demon Maddy Guerin, offloading the pick 15 they received for Hosking. The Blues moved up the draft order ahead of a bumper crop, as defender Jayde van Dyk and pick 46 were swapped for pick 36. Add former Gold Coast youngster Charlotte Hammans to the mix, and Carlton remains one of the big winners out of a busy off-season as it enters the premiership window. Four players – Joanne Doonan, Katie Harrison, Sharnie Whiting, and Emerson Woods – were delisted.

A draft look:

While the O’Dea coup will undoubtedly bolster Carlton’s already elite midfield group, Hosking’s departure arguably leaves room for a fast, outside midfielder to enter the fold. With their first selection back at pick 12, the Blues will have access to the seventh Victorian pick.

There are a bunch of high-end hopefuls in the mix; Northern Knights co-captain Jess Fitzgerald would provide a like-for-like Hosking replacement, able to bring speed on the outside and good balance with her inside toughness, while Alyssa Bannan could be a shrewd pick to develop under her idol, Tayla Harris – though the Blues are well stocked in the key forward department. Carlton has a great relationship with the Northern region, and could continue the trend with their latest crop.

The likes of Winnie Laing, Abbey Jordan, and the silky Bella Eddey could all be in the mix for a share in those later two picks. Laing is a leader at the Sandringham Dragons and is a terrific runner, Jordan fits the bill for outside run, while Eddey is a terrific user of the ball who can rotate through the midfield from up forward.

Collingwood Magpies – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 19 (12), 25 (17), 26 (18), 31 (21), 33 (22)

Off-season summary:

With an incoming father-daughter selection and a forwardline to bolster, the Pies had a mixed off-season. Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan were packaged up to Richmond in exchange for picks in the later rounds, with Katie Lynch also headed to the Bulldogs. It leaves Collingwood a touch lacking in that forward department, with D’Arcy and Lynch doubling as tall depth lost. Abbey Green was nabbed from North Melbourne to support Sharni Layton in the ruck, while exciting Melbourne forward Aliesha Newman is another good get. With four retirees – Emma Grant, Kalia Bentvelzen, Eliza Hynes, and Machaelia Roberts – only one player (Georgia Gourlay) was delisted, with a decent turnover rate meaning the Magpies will have to gel quickly in order to continue their steep rise. It was hardly the big-name signing period Collingwood had last time out, but should set the club up well in future and for the upcoming draft.

A draft look:

Parting with their first round pick means the Pies will likely only have to pay a second round price for gun father-daughter selection, Tarni Brown. She is daughter of 254-game former captain, Gavin and sister of current players Callum and Tyler. The Eastern Ranges product has long been on the elite level radar, and is clearly cut from the same cloth as her brothers with terrific footy smarts and agility through midfield.

Elsewhere, Collingwood may look to re-stock its forwardline with whatever picks remain. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) utility Renee Saulitis would be a handy fit to replace Dargan with some x-factor, while Rebels teammate Isabella Simmons may also be a good fit at 185cm. Incidentally, both are Magpies fans. Another GWV tall, Maggie Caris could also be the developing ruck type Collingwood is after, while Mimi Hill is a classy midfield option should the Pies look to continue their Oakleigh link. Norwood’s Matilda Zander could prove a smokey having played under Steve Symonds in South Australia. She was poised to play for Collingwood’s VFLW side this year.

Late blooming Buethke leans on dual-sport edge

IT was a move that took great courage.

Tahlita Buethke had played netball since she was six years old, but after some deliberation, made the transition to high-level football with South Adelaide. Despite a rollercoaster year for budding AFL Women’s draftees, the 18-year-old has not looked back.

“It took me a long time to actually have the balls to go out to South,” Buethke said. “When I started playing I always got so much joy out of the game. I definitely want to get somewhere in footy but still have lots of work to do yet.”

Having made her SANFLW debut for the Panthers in 2020 and played seven games, the athletic midfielder has in large part justified the faith shown in her as she entered the South Australian junior talent pathway. Described by SA talent manager Robbie Neill as having a “big future”, Buethke’s rate of development has been steep.

She says the elite pathway has aided her growth despite a pandemic-effected season, combining well with the already-present sporting base which has seen her transition to the level seamlessly. It has her dreaming big.

“The South Adelaide Under 17s program helped ready me for the seniors,” she said. “They have developed me so much within this short season due to Covid-19. “The South Australian pathway, with both of them helping, worked so well and this year I have learnt so much about the sport.

“My speed is very helpful and with me playing netball, my marking is pretty good. (I am still) needing to improve on knowing when to take the game on… (but) I like a fast game.”

“Having the opportunity to play for a team like South (was a big achievement), in the next coming years I’d like to to try get drafted.”

Buethke sees the wing as her best position at senior level, and an impactful showing during this month’s AFLW Under 18 All-Stars showcase undeniably boosted her stocks. The raw prospect supports the Adelaide Crows’ women’s side, but says if given the chance, she “would definitely move away” to play top flight football interstate. With a part-time job as a painter in tow, Buethke is also kept reasonably busy during the week – often enjoying a “quick nap” before scooting off to training.

The South Australian’s next major point of call will hopefully be at the AFL Women’s National Draft on October 6.

Featured Image: South Australian All-Star Tahlita Buethke gets a kick away | Credit: Daniel Kalisz/AFL Photos via Getty Images