IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number five with Brisbane’s Nat Grider.
The Lions’ young gun is the second Brisbane player in the list, following on from Jade Ellenger at number 10. Grider has played the maximum games to qualify for the 10 under 10, with nine matches in her two seasons. Playing off half-back and through the midfield, the 171cm prospect made her debut back in Round 4, 2019 against the Western Bulldogs after being selected with Pick 22 in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft.
Grider entered the league as an All-Australian representative and Queensland state captain. After two games in her debut season, Grider really stepped up in 2020, playing all seven matches and becoming a mainstay in a Lions outfit brimming with great young talent. She has quite the junior accolades having won the Rising Star Award and Team of the Year in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition in 2018, and earned back-to-back Team of the Year honours the following season.
In her seven games, Grider averaged 8.1 disposals, 1.0 marks, 2.9 tackles and crucially, 4.9 intercept possessions. She became a crucial cog in the Lions’ back six, ranking second overall in that statistic behind All-Australian star full-back, Kate Lutkins. Grider’s impact was profound for her side, joining Lutkins and Emily Bates as her side’s top valued players, nominated for the 2020 AFL Women’s Players’ Association MVP Award.
While unlike many on the list that might have not had as many chances as they would have liked to-date, Grider has taken her chances but will look to go even further in 2021. Able to still make this list, expect Grider to be one of the first picked to start the new season, and provide plenty of run out of defence. She is a reliable player with natural leadership traits, and a special talent who will continue to improve.
The Lions might still be building towards something special as a young unit, but development is key and the likes of Grider will drive the next generation as they look to go one better than their efforts in 2017 and 2018.
Picture: Brisbane Women’s