Tag: afl women’s draft

Confident Chargers looking sharp despite preseason disruptions

OAKLEIGH Chargers regional talent operations lead, Jy Bond says his troops are “looking sharp” ahead of what is set to be a whirlwind 2021 NAB League Girls season, starting February 6. The Chargers have undertaken a changing of the guard with Bond now overseeing both the girls and boys programs, and new coach Jason Davenport tasked with the same duty. Despite an elongated break and some disruptions during preseason, Bond says he is happy with the progress shown ahead of season proper.

“It’s been pretty interesting, obviously coming back after COVID having hired a coach (Marco Bello), then that coach left then we had to hire a new one (Davenport)… so that was pretty disruptive,” he said. “Having said that, the boys and girls still had a pretty good preseason and they’ve been working hard. “The girls looking really sharp, which is great. They’ve been training well, we’ll probably have a pretty competitive team again with a fair few top end talents running around so we’re pretty confident.”

With no time for practice matches, each region is relying on match-simulation and intraclub hitouts to help bring their players back up to speed after nearly a whole year away from competitive action. Expectations are being tapered, but after a promising 2020 campaign was cut short, the Chargers are hopeful they can compete at a high level once again.

“We’re putting no pressure on the girls,” Bond said. “We’ve said from the start it’s about enjoyment, developing and having fun. We’re not really worried about the score, we’re more worried about the girls getting out there and having a having a crack because they haven’t played in around 10 months.

“We’re not really expecting them to come out and play at their best straight away, but we’re hopeful that with a few weeks they’ll be back at sort of the level where they left off last year.”

“We’ve just got to make sure that we look after the health and well-being of the girls and we’re not really prepared to put them into that sort of match situation so early, but we’ll do a lot of match simulation and small-sided match practice at trainings to make sure they’re right for Round 1.”

While on-field success was difficult to measure in just two games, albeit with an average winning margin of 76 points, Oakleigh can still put a sizeable tick next to 2020 given its presence at the draft. Three Chargers were selected within the first 26 picks of the AFL Women’s draft, adding to the six graduates taken within 23 picks on the men’s side. In the modest words of Bond, it made for a “pretty good result” overall.

Alice (O’Loughlin) was a bit of a surprise packet, we knew that she was definitely capable,” he said. “I know (former coach) Luke O’Shannessy was a big wrap for her, she’s definitely got a great athletic profile and it seems like she’s going really well down at North Melbourne. “We were obviously pretty confident of Mimi (Hill) going quite high. She’s just been an exceptional player for us over the last two years and then Joanna Lin, I think I was quietly confident about Joanna and I know Luke and I we do really love the way she went about it. “I watched a couple of games last year and I was really impressed with her courage… she’s definitely got something to offer so for her to go to Collingwood was a great result.”

Despite the turnaround of top-age guns the departure of some promising multi-sport athletes, Oakleigh is well-stocked across the board. Arguably atop the region’s talent pool is Charlie Rowbottom, the sister of Sydney midfielder James. She is one of many draft-eligible prospects Bond identified as promising after putting in strong preseasons.

“We’ve got Charlie Rowbottom, probably one of the most talented girls on our list at the moment,” Bond said. “Kalarni Kearns is another one who’s thereabouts, Amanda Ling is strong midfielder that we’re hopeful that will develop this year, Stella Reid is another player who has shown an exceptional amount of skill and ability to read the play over summer, Taylah Morton we’re looking to play in a few different roles this year, (and) Eliza James is definitely up there, she’s had a great preseason. “So we’ve certainly got some talented girls running around, we’re pretty excited with the girls to be honest.”

Others on the radar, albeit not yet of draft age include some potential father-daughter selections. 2004-births Gabriella Rawlings (daughter of Jade) and Jemma Rigoni (Guy) are part of the program along with Jasmine Fleming, the daughter of former Australian Test cricketer, Damien. Another middle-ager, Ruby Vanden-Boom is a developing tall who the Chargers will also look to utilise this season. She is quite “raw” according to Bond and also competes as a high-level rower.

Fleming, a promising cricketer, is one of a few players who will be rested for this weekend’s preseason testing event, but Bond says there are no glaring injury clouds over the squad heading into Round 1. The leadership group has been voted on by the players, set to be announced at the club’s jumper presentation night shortly.

Featured Image: Charlie Rowbottom in action last year | Credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

2020 AFLW Draft review: West Coast

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 West Coast, a team that had the one win over in the west last year and whilst did not manage to get going too much in their debut season, was able to bring in some more experience to the lineup and position itself well heading into the draft.

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont/Western Australia)
#56 – Amber Ward (North Adelaide/South Australia)
#59 – Lauren Gauci (North Adelaide/South Australia)

West Coast had a balanced draft, picking up a couple of young stars, some experienced West Australian talents and a couple of SANFL Women’s premiership talents. They managed to get three teenagers all up, and three that have had more experience under their belt as they look to rise up the ladder in 2021.

The Eagles’ first pick in the draft came at Pick 3 when they snapped up Claremont’s Bella Lewis. The hard midfielder who can also play at half-forward had an outstanding year that came off a memorable AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year. A member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Lewis is one who will join fellow tough nut, Mikayla Bowen in the middle and really create headaches for opposition sides.

Fellow AFL Women’s Academy member Shanae Davison caught attention with her massive hanger earlier in the year, but the Swan Districts product put in a consistent season all up, showing clean hands in the air or at ground level, even in challenging conditions. She will likely play forward with an eye to work into the midfield in the coming years, but is an exciting talent for the future.

Julie-Ann Norrish was consistency personified in the WAFL Women’s competition this year. The East Fremantle defender was a persistent rebounder for the reigning premiers, hardly putting a foot wrong with her intercepting and running ability. Good one-on-one with her positioning and reading the ball in flight, expect her to walk into the starting side.

Andrea Gilmore is a former West Coast Fever netballer who turned her attention to football of late and was a train-on player with the club. The 31-year-old forward/ruck is a towering presence at 183cm and has terrific athleticism. Needing a forward target, the Eagles could look to Gilmore to make an immediate impact, providing further depth to that end after completing a consistent season with Claremont this year.

The Eagles passed their final two selections, but ended up using them on North Adelaide duo, Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci. Ward is an over-age tall defender with a powerful kick and great hands that make her a brick wall at centre half-back. Like Norrish, she could slot straight into the back 50 and provide some resistance for the Eagles, earning a spot after year another brilliant year in a premiership-winning SANFL Women’s outfit.

Gauci was alongside her with the slick ball user also in the back 50. The 23-year-old is one who loves to run off intercept possessions and played in the Roosters’ defence alongside Ward and former Eagle Talia Radan. The glowing reviews gave the Eagles enough to select the pair and allow them to move west together.

Overall the Eagles managed to grab some extra depth in both the front and back halves as well as elite midfield talent which will hold them in good stead for the future.

Picture: West Coast Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Gold Coast Suns

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 Gold Coast, a side that added the most draftees of any team, with a mix of youth and experience coming into the program for 2021 after reaching finals in their inaugural year.

Gold Coast:

#7 – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)
#23 – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)
#50 – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)
#54 – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)
#57 – Lucy Single (Bond University)
#58 – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)
#60 – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)
#61 – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

The Suns were able to make the most of a giant draft hall by picking up three AFL Women’s Academy members, a couple of mature-agers and even a forward with AFL Women’s experience by the time they had finished on draft night.

Annise Bradfield ended up being the Suns’ first selection with the talented midfielder one of the three AFL Women’s Academy members. Bradfield is capable of also playing forward and looks up to Katie Brennan as a similar player through both roles and their journeys – featuring setbacks. She will be one who can slot straight in if required.

Another player who can slot straight in is former Adelaide and Melbourne AFL Women’s forward, Sarah Perkins. Playing in her third state in as many years, Perkins nominated for Queensland and landed at the Suns’ with their second selection. She could provide that extra spark inside 50 and energy around a group of younger players, not to mention a key forward target.

Also inside 50, expect to see top-age AFL Women’s Academy key forward Maddison Levi alongside Perkins. With strong hands and a powerful kick, she represents a bargain at Pick 50, in the first of six selections by the Suns that were uninterrupted by their Queensland rivals, Brisbane.

Up the other end, is former Southern Saints defender Elizabeth Keaney. The 28-year-old will play off half-back and provide some drive for the Suns, while providing crucial experience from her time at the Saints and Melbourne University over the past few years.

A midfielder who has been known to role through defence, teenager Lucy Single hails from New Zealand having tried a number of sports including rugby sevens. An elite athlete, Single is readymade to come into the line-up after a huge season with Bond University in 2020.

The third and final AFL Women’s Academy member selected by the Suns is elite runner, Daisy D’Arcy. Capable of reaching the elite level in any sport she put her mind to, the midfielder can play in attack or defence as well. Whilst small in stature, D’Arcy could outrun and outwork just about any opponent with her ridiculous fitness base.

Janet Baird is a mature-age prospect who has been in draft calculations for a few years, but after some consistent form in the NTFL Women’s competition, has earned a place on the Suns’ list. She has clean hands at ground level or in the air, and some tricks up her sleeve making her a tricky player to contain whether it be through midfield, attack or defence.

Finally the eighth selection in the draft was Mackay’s Wallis Randell who has come through the Suns’ Academy. Another defender possessing great speed and neat decision making, Randell has transitioned from basketball to football. An over-ager who represented Bond University, she has come on quickly in a couple of years.

Overall the Suns picked up a bit of everything and will have even better depth coming into the 2021 AFL Women’s season.

Picture: Tertius Pickard/Gold Coast Bulletin

2020 AFLW Draft review: Geelong Cats

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 Geelong, a side that despite the region being removed as a choice for draftees, still managed to pick up four Geelong Falcons as they added five more teenagers to their list.

Geelong:

#10 – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#20 – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#21 – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
#27 – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)
#39 – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Geelong targeted more youth for its ascent up the AFL Women’s ladder after losing Mel Hickey over the off-season and just missing out on finals. Three Vic Country representatives, a Central Allies representative and an elite junior basketballer earned spots on the Cats’ list as they stuck close to home with their selections.

Darcy Moloney provides some outside class and ball-winning abilities with her superb vision and neat foot skills a highlight of her game. She was the first chosen at Pick 10, and rightly so with an impressive junior career to-date. She will likely play at half-forward where she did in her bottom and middle-age years for the Falcons before becoming a damaging wing or inside-outside midfielder.

Laura Gardiner is your quintessential inside midfielder who is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She loves digging in and finds a truckload of the ball, averaging more than 30 touches a game from her two matches in 2020 including 38 in Round 1. She will feed the ball out to the runners and be a consistent force on the inside, pretty much ready from early on. Like Moloney she played off a flank and even on a wing over the first couple of years, so is capable of pulling off other positions.

Geelong picked up the steal of the draft by selecting Olivia Barber at Pick 21, there is no two ways about it. The key position forward is terrific overhead, a great lead and able to play the role of a small forward when the ball hits the ground. She is a tall who can come in and make an immediate impact, and also comes from a basketball background. As an exciting key forward, Barber is one to watch over the next decade.

Speaking of basketball background, Carly Remmos was picked up with the Cats’ final pick of the draft at 39. She only took up the football pathway over the off-season last year and managed a couple of games before the season was called off. A real unknown coming into the season having been ready to pull on the Geelong Supercats’ top in the NBL1, Remmos showed great progress in a short amount of time as an inside midfielder.

Finally one of the feel-good stories of the draft, with Northern Territory’s Stephanie Williams getting picked up by the Cats. She hoped to remain in Geelong due to her university studies, and she achieved just that when the Cats called out her name at Pick 27. Expect her to develop over time to be a really dangerous forward with good hands, and is a smooth mover.

Overall the Cats really did well out of the draft, with a couple of predictable – but worthy – selections, as well as the steal of the draft, and a couple of raw talents who could really surprise with great development.

Picture: Geelong Cats Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Fremantle Dockers

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 Fremantle, a team that went undefeated in 2020 and were able to add a couple of classy teenagers and a former Docker back on their list.

Fremantle:

#14 – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
#30 – Mikayla Morrison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#46 – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

Fremantle went into the draft with the luxury of being able to pick best available after not losing a game in 2020. With their three selections the Dockers were able to add two of the most talented kids in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, as well as running defender, Tiah Haynes. All three have different traits and provide some exciting capabilities at the top level.

Haynes is a former Fremantle player, drafted way back in the inaugural 2016 AFL Women’s Draft with Pick 36. She played six games across two seasons before being unfortunately delisted at the end of 2018. She went back to the WAFL Women’s competition where she was able to ply her trade and become a standout for runners-up Subiaco, and now the 27-year-old gets a second crack at the elite level.

Verrier has been long touted as a top West Australian prospect. The balanced midfielder has clean skills but can play inside or outside, and even off a flank if required. Her ability to win the ball is superb, and whilst she had some setbacks through injury in 2020, she was still a key member of Peel Thunder in their remarkable premiership year. She was raised as the Dockers’ first pick for some time given the link through their Academy, and once she was left on the table by the Eagles, it was an easy choice.

Morrison has been building for a couple of years now not only at WAFL Women’s level, but through the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships too. The East Perth product went to Swan Districts this season in order to play League with the Royals just having an Under 18s side. There she showed enough to suggest it will not be long before she breaks through in the AFL Women’s, with velcro-like hands at ground level or in the air, and hardly impacted on wet days.

As a whole, the Dockers were able to bring in three players that fitness providing, will push for a spot in the best side, but as a tough team to crack into, they will be made to work for it. Expect the Dockers to again challenge for a flag in 2021.

Picture: Fremantle FC

2020 AFL Women’s Draft preview: The next crop of young stars to find homes tonight

TONIGHT up to 61 players will live out their AFL Women’s dreams when the 14 clubs select the players to fill out the 2021 lists at the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Like most years, the AFL Women’s Draft still has state-based selections with Adelaide (South Australia) and GWS GIANTS (New South Wales) having sole priority to players that nominate that state. In Queensland (Brisbane and Gold Coast) and Western Australia (Fremantle and West Coast) the teams will split the players, whilst the remaining 10 teams will fight over the Victorian pool. The one major change is that there is only a Victorian pool, not split into Metropolitan and Geelong, so the Cats do not have priority on those from the region.

Richmond holds the all-important first pick in the draft which is expected to kick off from 7pm. There are a number of players the Tigers could select, but the frontrunner is Northern Knights’ star Ellie McKenzie, an inside midfielder who can play just about anywhere on the field and has been a proven talent for a number of years now.

[ … Ellie McKenzie feature … ]

Western Bulldogs traded up from Pick 3 to Pick 2 to ensure they could nab the second best player in the draft, with Tyanna Smith high up there in contention. The Dandenong Stingrays’ star has very few flaws in her game and has elite acceleration and a match-winning ability. The other one in contention if the Dogs opt to go tall could be another Northern Knights’ star in Alyssa Bannan as another forward option, as she can play tall or small and even push up into the midfield.

[ … Tyanna Smith feature … ] | [ … Alyssa Bannan feature … ]

Also in the mix for the top Victorian picks are Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, a rebounding defender who could fill the need at Melbourne with Pick 5. Whichever player is left of the trio, expect the Saints to pounce on with Pick 6 in what showcases the elite top-end talent of this year’s group. Another possibility for the pick could be Northern Knights’ Jess Fitzgerald if the Saints choose to add extra midfield class to their side.

[ … Sarah Hartwig feature … ] | [ … Jess Fitzgerald One to Watch  … ]

West Coast and Adelaide also have top five picks coming in at picks three and four, with the Eagles having a decision to make whether they go high-flying Shanae Davison from their own aligned-Academy or if they look at someone like Sarah Verrier, a Peel Thunder talent with a great blend of inside-outside traits or Bella Lewis a hardened midfielder who has been sensational this year. The Crows are expected to be a little more predictable, with Teah Charlton the standout prospect, though given they have a monopoly on the South Australian nominees, they can select anyone in any order.

[ … Shanae Davison feature … ] | [ … Sarah Verrier feature … ] | [… Bella Lewis … ] | [ … Teah Charlton feature … ]

Gold Coast becomes the first Queensland team into the draft at Pick 7, and with players still able to nominate the Gold Coast and Brisbane zones, a Suns Academy member such as Annise Bradfield, Daisy D’Arcy, Maddison Levi or Beth Pinchin could be among those in consideration. For the Lions a pick later, Zimmorlei Farquharson looms as the standout youngster in the group.

[ … Annise Bradfield … ] | [ … Daisy D’Arcy feature … ] | [ … Maddison Levi feature … ] | [ … Zimmorlei Farquharson feature … ]

The final pick inside the top 10 is Geelong and they have the most interesting selection with the top group likely off the board, it is an even balance of players they could choose from. If they opt to go local – knowing they do not have priority – then perhaps the skill and class of Falcons’ Darcy Moloney could be an option. If they want to go a little taller, then Isabelle Pritchard could head down the highway from the Western Jets and provide a strong inside presence, or they could look to a proven big-game performer in Northern Knights’ Fitzgerald.

[ … Darcy Moloney feature … ] | [ … Isabelle Pritchard feature … ]

Western Bulldogs become the first team to make their second selection at Pick 11, which is effectively Pick 6 from the Victorian draft. If they went Smith in the first selection, they could look to go taller here and look to someone like Bulldogs’ supporter Pritchard or perhaps consider Murray Bushrangers’ key forward Olivia Barber. If they went for Bannan with their second selection, perhaps Fitzgerald is one to join the ranks as yet another Knight, whilst the likes of classy forward Bella Eddey or outside mover Mimi Hill could come into consideration through the first round.

[ … Olivia Barber feature … ] | [ … Bella Eddey feature … ] | [ … Mimi Hill feature … ]

Carlton enter the draft at Pick 12, and the names already raised in Fitzgerald, Hill and Eddey could be around the mark, though if they want to add an inside midfielder, then perhaps Falcons’ Laura Gardiner could be a suggestion. North Melbourne are next up and will also be keen to add another midfielder to the ranks, and try and predict what Melbourne (Picks 15 and 17) and Western Bulldogs (Pick 16) are going to do. If the Dees did not end up with Hartwig, then they could look at Dandenong Stingrays’ Zoe Hill with a selection, or if Pritchard has somehow slid, she is another defensive option.

[ … Laura Gardiner feature … ] | [ … Zoe Hill feature … ]

The West Australian teams squeeze in between the Victorian ones, with Fremantle likely to grab one of Verrier or Bella Lewis at the pick. Both are Fremantle-aligned and the Dockers know they can have an immediate impact in last year’s unbeaten side. The Eagles could look to Davison – if not already taken – or the classy Mikayla Morrison with this selection, or go for the ready-made Nyra Anderson at Pick 18.

[ … Bella Lewis feature … ] | [ … Mikayla Morrison feature … ] | [ … Nyra Anderson feature … ]

The last team to enter the draft is Collingwood with Pick 19 the Magpies’ first selection. Expect that to be Tarni Brown because on talent alone she is a top 10 pick, so the black and white army will gladly use their first pick on the Eastern Ranges’ jet. They will look to add some more midfield options, and she adds some extra speed and class to the team. Expect Alice Burke to be read out at the Saints’ Pick 24 – again great value – otherwise anything else is a bargain.

[ … Tarni Brown feature … ] | [ … Alice Burke feature … ]

The draft crop becomes so even outside of that top 20, with so many talented players fighting for spots on AFL Women’s lists. Ash Woodland and Georgia Nanscawen are readymade prospects who can impact immediately at AFL Women’s level, whilst Alana Barba, Shanara Notman, Nikia Webber, Amber Ward and Mattea Breed are all talls who have an extra year of experience as over-agers. Not holding a Draft Combine invite per say, South Australian duo Rachelle Martin and Matilda Zander would be a couple of others on clubs radars as ones who can make an immediate impact.

Some former basketballers who have crossed to football in the last 12-18 months are Amelia Velardo, Annabel Strahan and Carly Remmos, whilst Jess Matin (cricket) and Charlie Vandenberg (hockey) are among others who have forced high-level careers in other sports. Queenslanders, Christine Okesene, Brooke Spence, Laura Blue and Lucy Single are others who have transferred from various codes over the years.

From a Victorian perspective, among other names in various midfield positions are outside midfielder, Abbey Jordan and Joanna Lin, inside midfielders, Brooke Hards, Olivia Meagher and Winnie Laing, balanced midfielders Eliza McNamara, Megan Fitzsimon and Maeve Chaplin. Meanwhile the standout ruck is Maggie Caris.

Up forward, Renee Saulitis is the most dangerous small forward, whilst Isabella Simmons is a taller option, and Abbi Moloney a rapidly improving player. In defence, Ash Snow has great speed, while the likes of Jemma Finning, Mietta Kendall and Amber Micallef have all produced great seasons. As some raw talents, Alice O’Loughlin and Alice Astbury have had glimpses in the few games they have played, whilst Grace McRae and Daisy Walker have been valuable across multiple positions though predominantly in the middle.

From South Australia, Indy Tahau is the other star top-ager who is likely to join her South Adelaide teammate Charlton at the Crows, whilst for NSW/ACT,  Murray Bushrangers’ Abby Favell, midfielder-defender Emily Pease and surprise packet Kiara Beesley were among the Draft Combine invites. From the Northern Territory, top-ager Stephanie Williams leads the charge and has nominated Victoria, while Freda Puruntatameri – who played some games for Calder Cannons – and mature-ager Janet Baird have all caught the eye.

Out west, mature-agers Sarah Wielstra (25 years-old) and 20-year-olds, Ella Smith, Rosie Walsh and Jess Low all earned combine invites. Meanwhile from the top-age group, twins Brianna and Mikayla Hyde have impressed moving into the midfield this season, while leading forward Maggie MacLachlan is another player in contention to be drafted.

[ … FOR FULL FEATURES ON MORE THAN 80 PLAYERS HEAD TO OUR AFLW FEATURES PAGE … ]

TEAM-BY-TEAM PICKS:

Adelaide: 4, 45, 47
Brisbane: 8, 37, 38
Carlton: 12, 28, 36
Collingwood: 19, 25, 26, 31, 33
Fremantle: 14, 30, 46
Geelong: 10, 20, 21, 27, 39
Gold Coast: 7, 23, 50, 54, 57, 58, 60, 61
GWS: 9, 29, 42
Melbourne: 5, 15, 17, 35, 41, 48
North Melbourne: 13, 22, 44, 49, 55
Richmond: 1, 43, 52
St Kilda: 6, 24, 34, 40, 51
West Coast: 3, 18, 32, 53, 56, 59
Western Bulldogs: 2, 11, 16

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Melbourne & Western Bulldogs

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 inaugural sides from Victoria, in Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.

Melbourne – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 5 (3), 15 (9), 17 (11), 35 (24), 40 (27), 47 (30)

Off-season summary:

With somewhat of an ageing list and the premiership window closing, Melbourne seemed to recognise both factors during the sign and trade period. As one of the busier clubs, the Dees enacted a big turnover of established players, allowing them to bolster their draft hand to make the most of a bumper crop and regenerate ahead of the 2021 season.

Elise O’Dea was the biggest loss, as she was packaged up and sent to the Blues alongside Maddy Guerin, while defender Harriet Cordner was shipped to Richmond, Aliesha Newman to Collingwood, Bianca Jakobsson to St Kilda, and Katherine Smith to GWS. A strong, established core remains, but that’s a big loss in starting-21 players. Coming the other way, though is a third Irishwoman on the Dees’ list in Lauren Magee, a star of the Gaelic code.

A draft look:

This is as important a draft as ever for Melbourne, with a lot riding on its first pick and the value lying in its remaining hand. The Dees also boast the equal-most selections available with six, ensuring they’ll be able to cover each loss at the least.

With pick five, the third in the Victorian pool, Melbourne will likely look to bolster its defensive stocks. Sandringham Dragons tall Sarah Hartwig seems a good fit to plug a key position gap, while Western’s Isabelle Pritchard is a versatile option who can also move through midfield. Should the Bulldogs (see below) opt to overlook Northern key forward Alyssa Bannan, she could well land at Demonland.

The Demons’ remaining hand should see them further boost that defensive line with depth of all sizes, while potentially targeting another key position forward depending on what happens with pick five. Youth should be the priority, though mature-age recruits have payed off for many clubs throughout the draft, especially last year.

Western Bulldogs – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 2 (2), 11 (6), 16 (10)

Off-season summary: 

The Bulldogs have been gutted of some serious senior talent over the expansion years, so a quieter sign and trade period would have been a refreshing change for their fans. Still, Aisling McCarthy leaves a gap in midfield as she departs for West Coast, while Hannah Munyard has returned home to Adelaide, and Nicole Callinan is the sole retiree. 20-year-old key forward Katie Lynch was their only recruit, and may well help predict what the Dogs will do with their first pick in the draft. Having traded well to land three top-end selections, the Bulldogs’ rebuild is in decent shape.

A draft look:

Familiar themes could well arise from what the Bulldogs decide to do with picks two, 11, and 16 – the second, sixth, and 10th choices in the Victorian pool. After taking in a bunch of Vic Metro based talent last year, all familiar to coach Nathan Burke, the Bulldogs will likely again revert to the deep Northern Knights well of talent. While the recruit of Lynch fills a massive key position forward requirement, don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs opt for another in Alyssa Bannan with pick two. Otherwise, Olivia Barber could be the key forward they’re after with one of the two later selections.

Should they feel that area is covered, midfield support for Ellie Blackburn is another important area of improvement. Ellie McKenzie could then become the second Northern Knights captain to land at the kennel in as many years, joining Gabby Newton, while Dandenong’s Tyanna Smith is the other likely number one pick who could get a look-in. Both are damaging midfielders who should be ready to set the competition alight from Round 1. Keeping with the Knights’ theme, Jessica Fitzgerald would be a handy choice with either of the two remaining selections, a balanced midfielder who co-captained her side with McKenzie.

Featured Image: Jess Fitzgerald and Gabby Newton at this year’s NAB League Girls launch | Credit: AFL Photos

Shanara Notman – Grasping opportunity through adversity

GIPPSLAND Power prospect Shanara Notman is somewhat of a coach’s dream; versatile, raw, hard-working, and made of leadership material. The 19-year-old narrowly missed out on being drafted last year, and had pegged her 2020 campaign as one which would help garner the experience and game sense required to make the step-up to an AFL Women’s list.

Setbacks have come thick and fast for Notman and her fellow draft hopefuls in a rollercoaster year, but the talented tall has formed a habit of making good on each opportunity to arise across her young footballing career.

She hyperextended her knee five minutes into last year’s NAB League season, but recovered in time to warrant selection in the Vic Country Under 18 squad. It was during the weeklong carnival in Queensland where Notman thrust her name into draft contention, swinging up forward and even through the ruck after cutting her teeth off half-back for Gippsland.

Being overlooked from those dizzying heights would have put many AFLW hopefuls on the back foot, but not Notman.

“Straight after the draft I quickly contacted Chelsea Caple, our talent manager at (Gippsland) Power,” Notman said. “Less than an hour after the draft, my permit for the 2020 season had been approved for Power, so I was going to go in as a 19-year-old. We had an awesome preseason this year and I put in so much effort to get there.”

The effort looked to be paying off, as Notman, with VFLW and representative experience under her belt, returned a couple of outstanding performances at the start of this year’s NAB League competition. But with that season, along with every other league across Victoria written off in due course, Notman found herself facing yet another hurdle.

“We got two games in this year, we had an awesome camp run by our coach, Scotty (Armour)… but since the news about not playing anymore, then hopefully playing later in the year, which obviously got cancelled too, it’s been a bit heartbreaking,” she said.

Notman (left) in action for Vic Country during the 2019 AFLW Under 18 National Championships

Notman is a talented multi-sport athlete, though the art of hurdling has become more of a mental battle in such “chaotic” times.

“To stay motivated, it’s been full of ups and down this year,” she said. “I’ve been fully committed to going to the gym or going for a kick with a few mates who are local and play VFL with us (in line with COVID-19 lockdown regulations of the time). “But it’s an incredibly difficult time, especially because you’ve got to rely on yourself, not your teammates and coaching staff to keep you motivated.”

With lockdown restrictions eased in regional Victoria in mid-September, Notman says she “can’t wait” to get back to some form of normality and group training as soon as possible.

“I find it easier to train with a group of girls than to train by myself, it just keeps you more motivated,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to have one of my best mates, Breanna Pratt, she plays with me at VFL and she lives really close-by so I can go for a kick with her. I’ve got a home gym set up just to keep fit, too.”

“I’m a really social person… I always chat to the Power girls, just helping out the younger ones. “I’m looking forward even in the future to going back down to Power, helping out there and doing whatever I can to help the girls out.”

As the second-eldest member of Gippsland Power’s current squad, Notman has naturally become a leader among the group – despite only featuring in the elite footballing pathway for two years. Having leant on the likes of Daisy Pearce and Gippsland Power graduate, Tyla Hanks during her time at the Casey Demons, the youngster was especially driven to set an example at the start of her over-age NAB League campaign. Earning the vice-captain tag only made it official.

“I was lucky enough to be named the vice-captain of Power this year alongside Grace McRae, who was our captain,” she said. “I was really putting in with that leadership role as I was (one of) the oldest girls on the team – me and Leyla Berry were the over-agers. I was putting in the effort to lead the girls because we’ve got some 15-year-olds and a pretty young group. It was a really exciting time.”

“Girls like Tyla Hanks from the Power, she’s awesome… I trained with the Melbourne girls at the start of the year, with Daisy Pearce and that. They’re great leaders and they help all the NAB League girls come through. They’re just amazing.”

Shanara Notman in action for Gippsland Power. Source: AFL Media

Given Casey’s ties to Melbourne’s AFLW side, Notman has jumped on the Demons’ bandwagon in support of her VFLW teammates, as her beloved Hawthorn does not yet lay claim to a women’s team. But it’s not just players who have mentored Notman throughout her path less travelled by, as the aforementioned Caple, Armour, and former Gippsland Power stalwart, Peter Francis have also played big roles in seeing her through to this point.

“I’m always in contact with Chelsea Caple and Scotty Armour,” she said. “They’re really good mentors for me, they’ve always been there for the last two years and they’ve really encouraged me to be my best… staff like Peter Francis really helped me get into footy, he was a big help at (Gippsland) Power.”

“At Casey I’ve got our assistant coach Troy Hemming, he’s from Warragul so I’m always giving him a call to go for a kick here and there and just catch up.”

As for the ideal path forward, Notman is looking to harness her versatility and play as high a level of football as possible. There lies somewhat of a Plan B as well, as the 19-year-old plies her trade full-time as a support trainee at Drouin Secondary College in the PE and sport and recreation realms.

“The ideal path will obviously be to start playing footy again next year. But my overall goal will be to one day just play footy at the highest level possible and just enjoy footy,” she said.

“I feel like my best position would be running off half-back. Especially at the Power this year, that really benefitted me… (but) it’s really exciting to be versatile and just play wherever the coach wants you to play.”

“If the draft doesn’t go as I hope this year, hopefully VFL actually goes ahead next year and I’ll just keep playing at Casey because I’m really enjoying that.”

At the time of writing, the 2020 AFLW combine testing and All-Stars game in Victoria were cancelled, leaving the October 6 draft as Notman’s next major point of call.

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

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft.

Next under the microscope is Northern Knights’ Ellie McKenzie, a dynamic midfielder/forward with an incredibly high ceiling.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘big three’s’ take on how the AFLW draft unfolded

GABBY Newton, Lucy McEvoy, and Georgia Patrikios; dubbed pre-draft as the three players vying for the honour of being taken first off the AFL Women’s Draft board.

But ask all three about whether they knew what was to unfold on Tuesday afternoon, and all three almost unanimously insist they had not the slightest clue.

“I wasn’t sure going in,” Bulldogs’ number one pick Newton said. “I knew Lucy and Patrikios were obviously also big contenders but I’m so glad (the Bulldogs) picked me up, I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

“I sort of had no idea coming in so it was just ‘Whatever happens, happens,’ St Kilda’s Patrikios added. “I’m happy to be at the Saints and (I’m) just going to move from there.

“Carlton did say they were keen from the start and I was pretty keen… to get to pick two,” Carlton’s McEvoy told the club’s media team with more conviction. “It’s so good though, so exciting.”

McEvoy was incidentally the one to inadvertently create the ‘big three’ tussle, throwing a spanner in the works as she nominated for the Victorian Metro draft zone. Hailing from Geelong and rising through the Falcons’ junior pathway, it seemed the Cats’ AFLW side was destined to pick up another top-five talent at a cut price after snaring Olivia Purcell with pick 14 last year. That was not to be, with McEvoy’s choice “to get out of (her) comfort zone” planting even more intrigue into the top-end.

“It was pretty much based off my studies next year, I’m hoping to do paramedicine,” she said. “I’ve got my exams coming up so hopefully I can put my best foot forward in that and get the score that I need.”

“I would’ve loved to play at Geelong, I’ve got really good friends there but I think for me to grow, as a person, it would’ve been to tick the Melbourne box.”

In an interesting twist, all three players also had unique ties to pick two holder, Carlton. McEvoy’s father, Phil played 50 reserves games for the Blues during the 1970s and 80s, while Newton played two games this year for their VFLW side and Patrikios is studying sports coaching and development at the club’s College of Sport. Needless to say, they are all still stoked with how it all unfolded nonetheless.

“I just need to pinch myself because I can’t believe it’s actually happening to be honest,” Newton said. “All the girls drafted to the Doggies, Liz (Georgostathis) and Gem (Lagioia) as well and Izzy Grant, they’re all such good friends. “I can’t believe we’re all going in together, it’s so exciting.”

McEvoy, dubbed ‘Big Boy’ as the cousin of Hawthorn ruck Ben, had equal sentiment.

“It’s so exciting… to know that I’m starting at a new club, I get to meet all these new people which I’m so excited about,” she said. “Hopefully I can make a good first impression, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it.”

Going against the suggested unknown order of events heading into the big day, Patrikios came armed with arguably the best line of any draftee on the day.

“It’s going to be great to bring footy back to Moorabbin,” she said, becoming an instant hit with the Saints faithful – and likely the marketing department, too.

“Lucy and Gabby are amazing players and even (more) amazing people. “They deserved it, they’ve worked so hard, they’ve put a lot of work in over the last couple of years and they’ve been amazing. “I can’t wait to see how they go next season,” she added, becoming an even bigger hit with her fellow big three buddies.”