Tag: Sandringham Dragons

2021 NAB League team preview: Sandringham Dragons

POWERHOUSE NAB League region, Sandringham Dragons produced a handful of AFL draftees in 2020, but looks set to build on that strong crop through its formidable 2021 squad. The Dragons have essentially retained their full 19th-year list, only adding to some of the nation’s most exciting 18th-year talents at their disposal.

There are three AFL Academy members in the Sandringham squad, along with a ridiculous amount of depth and some previously unheralded names who will look to rise onto the draft radar. The Dragons could well end up producing a trio of top 10 selections as those academy prospects – Josh Sinn, Campbell Chesser, and Blake Howes – have all already built on their strong reputations in preseason.

Sinn, who recently began his studies at Monash University, is a line-breaking half-back with elite decision making and execution by foot. A versatile type, expect to also see him roll up to a wing and even get on the inside as he continues to learn his best position. He will co-captain the side with top-ager Darby Hipwell, a strong inside midfielder who will also ply his trade for the Sandringham Zebras VFL team.

During a preseason intraclub scrap, Sinn lined up against Chesser on the wing and the two were arguably the best players afield for either team. Chesser is a similar type, able to play off half-back or through midfield with a strong athletic profile and plenty of explosiveness. His running capacity and balance between contested and uncontested ball winning is outstanding.

Howes, the third AFL Academy talent, impressed in that same intraclub match and has massive upside as an athletic forward with sticky hands and elite speed. He will likely share the forwardline with Lachlan Benton, another dangerous type, while St Kilda Next Generation Academy (NGA) and Scotch College prospect Angus McLennan proves his aerial worth at half-back. The defender has terrific footy IQ and reads the play well from behind the ball.

Saints fans will likely also have their eye on fellow NGA product Jack Peris, the son of Olympic champion Nova Peris. He hails from a national athletics background and along with his famous mother, has been mentored by the likes of Ben Long as he grew up alongside a host of famous footballing families in the Northern Territory. Relatively new to the Dragons’ program, Peris will look to provide run-and-carry and tackling pressure along the wing.

In terms of other 18th-year prospects to watch, the Dragons will likely be book-ended by Dante Visentini and Caleb Lewis, while there are strong wraps on the likes of Lachlan Brooks and Finn Callaghan in midfield. Luke Nankervis is another to watch, with the forward already garnering some attention ahead of season proper.

Looking at the 19th-year returnees, 2020 National Draft Combine invitees Luke Cleary (defender), Max Heath (ruck), and Lachlan Carrigan (half-back/wing) are all listed, with the latter currently spending some time on the sidelines. Heath should have some solid competition for his ruck spot, with Jacob Edwards emerging as a top talent of late. Both players provide a physical presence and strong follow-up work at the contest.

In midfield, Claremont junior Logan Young has made the move from Western Australia and already looks at home in Sandringham’s engine room. The big-bodied 19-year-old is the son of player agent, Colin Young. He will likely play plenty of minutes on the inside along with Charlie McKay, a Carlton father-son prospect who competes fiercely and has been touted as one to watch by his teammates.

There are also some over-agers eligible for the squad, with 2001-births Felix Flockart and Jesse Castan set to be available should Sandringham VFL duties not come knocking. The former is a raw ruckman who flourished during the 2019 APS Football season, while the latter is a strong, but athletic tall defender with good upside.

Sandringham’s first assignment in the new NAB League season comes against Oakleigh Chargers, the Dragons’ closest rival and the competition’s reigning premiers. That game bounces down at 2:00pm at RSEA Park on Monday April 5, bringing a massive number of high-level draftable talent to the one place. It looms as a must-watch.

Image Credit: Quinn Rooney/AFL Photos

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week: Round 5

SANDRINGHAM Dragons’ bottom-ager Sofia Hurley has become the fourth Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week for 2021, and the third 2022 draft-eligible player to be nominated this season. Looking at just the three Round 5 matches, Hurley was the standout performer in her side’s big win over Gippsland Power to win the nomination, with the likes of Oakleigh duo Charlie Rowbottom and Stella Reid, and Tasmania duo Claire Ransom and Perri King also among the top players in their respective games, but Hurley was the one who stood alone in a remarkable effort.

The midfielder racked up 28 disposals, one mark, two tackles, three inside 50s and four rebounds in the Dragons’ victory, seemingly everywhere on the ground and the stats proved that with eight more touches than any other player on the field. Winning the ball at stoppages, Hurley would have the smooth-moving ability to exit the congestion and kick forward or keep the ball moving in transition to aid the Dragons in the 12.6 (78) to 3.2 (20) victory over the Power.

In season 2021, Hurley is averaging 16.3 disposals, 1.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s and 1.7 rebounds, and is a kick-first player. She turned 17 in January and is one of the midfield prospects to watch next year, having played all of team’s six games between 2020-21 thus far.

NAB League Girls Player of the Week:

Round 1: Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
Round 3: Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
Round 4: Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
Round 5: Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

 

>> Sandringham Dragons 2021 season preview

>> Sofia Hurley player page

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS AT THE COMBINE INTERVIEWS:

Dragons starting to fire ahead of NAB League Girls season

THE SANDRINGHAM Dragons are gaining confidence out on the track as their preseason hots up, less than a week out from the beginning of season proper. New talent pathways coach Jackson Kornberg is now overseeing both the boys and girls program having been a long-time assistant, and says his troops are in a “good position” in terms of fitness, skill, and cohesion ahead of Round 1.

“We’ve had our two intraclub games and we’ve settled on a final list,” Kornberg said. “I think off the back of our intraclub last (Wednesday) night, it gives me great confidence that the girls are in a good position fitness-wise. “I think that’ll come throughout the year, you get fitter every time you play and every NAB League club’s been in the same boat.

“I’ve been quite impressed from a skill point of view and from a team cohesion point of view as well. “I think it comes back to what the (coaching) team did last year in getting the group together and buying into Dragons footy.

“The great thing with this group is that we brought back essentially the list that we had last year and we and we brought in a couple of girls from outside who we identified through a relationship with local clubs and schools as well… (former coach) Tam Hyett and the coaching staff did a tremendous job with the girls last year from a coaching and development point of view.”

A gradual build-up during preseason sees the Dragons now ready to face true opposition for the first time in almost a year. While a short schedule ahead of the 2021 season meant no practice matches were played, match simulation and intraclub hitouts eventually took over from pure craft development.

Kornberg says there is still more learning to do throughout the year, but players and staff alike are just looking forward to getting back into competitive games.

“Pre-Christmas we primarily did a lot more individual base-craft stuff and a lot more skill development work,” he said. “As a new coaching staff we had to get to know the girls and know where they’re at. “I think it’s important as a NAB League (club) anyway to push that development, which we do a heap of.

“We’ve ramped into intraclubs over the last two training sessions and then into some match-sim next week, but we’ve gradually built it up so that throughout the season, we can just drip feed and add things as opposed to loading them all up before Round 1 and hoping for the best. “I think it’s really important with such a small amount of time to prioritize and then add value-add throughout the year.”

“We’re all just looking forward to getting a game in, the girls got the three games in (last year) but it’s still been nearly 12 months since they played a competitive game. “The coaches mentioned after training other day, when we have a look at the team we’re just really excited to see how we go because I think it’s an unknown at this point.”

An even spread across the age groups is a facet of Sandringham’s squad that has Kornberg pleased about the potential for progress in years to come. The incoming senior coach was also glowing in his detailing of the girls’ willingness to learn and implement what they are being coached at training. With the strength of the squad lying in its skill and ability to transition the ball, Kornberg says his troops have been playing to those assets thus far.

“For me (our strengths) fall back on the skill component,” he said. “We’re not going to be overly tall side, which I don’t mind – if you’re a well skilled team and you can run the ball, I don’t think it really matters when you’ve got a versatility across all lines.

“When we translate to games, our ability to move the ball from back 50 to forward 50… from that we’ll hopefully see a lot more ball on the outside to try and use that use that skill, use that speed, use that endurance a lot of our girls have, and then their foot skills to the move the ball.”

“I think the beauty about us is that we’ve got a real split across the ages. “We’re not heavily concentrated in one certain area, whether it be age 19, 18, or 17.  “We’ve currently got three 19-year-olds on our list and then we’ve got that core group of 18 and 17-year-olds which will be fantastic moving into 2021, but then also into 2022.”

A few standouts have already emerged too, with 2020 form and preseason shape ultimately the two factors to go off. Kornberg ran through a core of names who will put their hands up for draft contention this year and in 2022.

Kiana Lynch, her training throughout the preseason has been really solid as that draft age player,” he said. “It’s likely we’ll see her sort of playing those running midfield/winger sort of positions throughout the year. “She’s got a lovely kick, her running is really solid and I think she’ll really impact in that front half.”

Charlotte Ryan is someone who’s really sort of jumped out this year. “Going into the intraclubs we liked her speed and she’s able to get the ball and take ground. “She she really challenges the tackler and challenges the defence to chase her.”

“Another one who has really excited us in the intraclubs as well is Pia Staltari. “She’s played a number of different positions, but I think her role we’ve settled on is that that high half-back. “She reads the ball well and is probably one of the better sort of anticipators in our team, she’s got a really long nice penetrating kick as well.

“As far as from a from a draft age position they’re they the girls I’ve been really impressed with over preseason. A number of other girls I suppose as well are going to jump out throughout the year, but from the preseason we’re really happy with them.

“Then from a 17-year-old point of view, we’ve got some we’ve got some girls who have really been exciting through our preseason too. “Bridie Hipwell is one who, from a training point of view, her professionalism is terrific. We’re lucky enough to have Bridie in our girls program and then Darby, her older brother who’s in the boys program as well… but mostly playing through the midfield, she’s got a lovely kick, her speed and agility really are strong too.

Sophia Hurley will be another one as well as a 17-year-old. Her pace and her ability to keep the ball as one of the better kicks in our team is impressive. She has that ability to brake lines and really move, she’s probably one of pur better runners as well.”

The Dragons are set to take on Calder Cannons at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Sunday February 7, making for a tough opening fixture. The nine-round NAB League Girls season is set to bounce down a day earlier, with three of the six first-round fixtures taking place from 12pm, onwards.

2020 AFL Draft recap: Melbourne Demons

MELBOURNE’S rollercoaster 2020 season ended in a ninth place finish and the lingering feeling of disappointment, but a sense of assuredness was somewhat restored as the Demons managed to gain two first round picks in this year’s draft. The move to trade back up the order and bring in a trio of top 35 talents marked a job well done, as a couple of classy smalls were joined by a developable tall prospect in what was an all-local draft haul. With a couple of spots potentially remaining open on the outside and in Melbourne’s front half, these players may well get a senior chance in their debut seasons.

MELBOURNE

National Draft:
#21 Jake Bowey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#34 Fraser Rosman (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Rookies:
Nil.

Consecutive first round picks opened the show for Melbourne, who looked to have had running machine, Max Holmes snatched from under their noses by Geelong immediately beforehand. Nonetheless, his former Sandringham Dragons teammate Jake Bowey marked a great first selection followed by a slight slider in Bailey Laurie, who was linked to GWS’ picks in the teens.

Bowey is a tough 175cm prospect with clean skills and great speed and agility. He can play a number of roles but made the wing his own as a bottom-ager and also has the potential to develop as a small forward. Laurie is similarly brilliant skill-wise, particularly by foot, known to carve up the opposition with his baulks and forward carry. The 179cm Oakleigh Chargers graduate achieved premiership success with the side in 2019 and along with Bowey, should have fans quickly warm to him.

The selection of Fraser Rosman, another Sandringham product, proved Melbourne’s final point of call at the draft and was a more prospective pick than the previous two. At 194cm, Rosman is an athletic marvel with great speed, endurance, and vertical ability which translates to his versatility. His size suggests he can own the forward 50 arc in future, but Rosman is also capable of rolling further afield. He has had little exposure with only two NAB League appearances last year, with his draft bolt coming on the back of promising preseason performances.

Melbourne was one of the rare sides not to make any rookie selections, meaning its three-pronged National Draft haul were the only fresh faces taken in after trade period. With Bowey and Laurie, the Demons have added some much-needed class going forward in support of 2019 draftee Kysaiah Pickett, while Rosman could become a fearsome key forward in the long-term, but has great flexibility otherwise.

Featured Image: Melbourne’s fresh faces from the 2020 AFL Draft | Credit: (Retrieved from) @melbournefc via Twitter

Your questions answered – Draft Central’s pre-draft Q&A

YESTERDAY we asked you to send in all your last-minute questions ahead of the 2020 AFL Draft to be answered on our YouTube channel, with those initial enquiries touched on during the Q&A session which you can find here, and linked below. The questions spilled over after the time of recording but not to worry, AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro is on hand to get to all of your pressing questions ahead of draft day.

Q&A:

Q: Do you think it’s worth Fremantle trying to move up the draft order and chase a key position forward? Maybe trade Pick 12 and a future first rounder to try and get a Logan McDonald, or that kind of talent? – From Christopher on Facebook
A: Hi Christopher, there was certainly plenty of early talk surrounding whether Fremantle would look to trade up and snare McDonald in particular. That has cooled of late and it is difficult to see the Dockers having enough to trade up into the top three-to-five picks while also keeping their current NGA talents in mind. A key position player could well still come into consideration with Pick 12 nonetheless.

Q: Is Noah Gadsby a chance of going? – From Zac on Instagram
A: There are plenty of Geelong Falcons products in draft contention, Noah Gadsby being one of them. He missed out on a draft combine invite but will be known to clubs having been part of the Vic Country state academy hub and blitzed preseason testing.

Q: Is Tahj Abberley any hope of being drafted? – From Nathan on Instagram
A: Hi Nathan, Tahj is a player the Draft Central team has rated highly for a long time. He seems to have done all he could this year in terms of performance, but this year’s draft presents a tough squeeze at the back-end. His form at each level and nice blend of traits should have him in the mix, even for other clubs should Brisbane opt against taking him on.

Q: Where will Fraser Rosman be selected? – From @8phila on Instagram
A: Fraser Rosman looms as quite a prospective pick out of this year’s crop, but has all the raw athletic traits which clubs will love. He looks like a later pick or ideal rookie option given how few runs he has been able to put on the board, but his upside and potential may see a club jump early at the tall forward/wingman.

Q: How are Clayton Gay and Will Bravo looking in the draft? – From Zac on Instagram
A: These are arguably Dandenong’s best prospects in 2020 and both shape as players with nice traits to develop at the next level. Clayton is a versatile type who can play up either end and is more of a natural footballer in the way he goes about it, good smarts and footy IQ. Will has greater athletic traits, but is still developing other areas of his game. They are both different players, but expect them to be in the mix in the late stages of the draft or rookie draft.

Q: What pick is Tanner Bruhn going? – From Harris on Instagram
A: Bruhn is poised among such an interesting bunch at the top-end, and his final placing could change drastically depending on which clubs jump on midfielders within the top 10. He could potentially land between picks six and 10, or even slide into the teens – but unlikely any further.

Q: Who is the best ruck prospect and where will they go? – From Arjun on Twitter
A: Riley Thilthorpe could be considered the best ruck prospect, but sees himself as more of a key forward and second ruck option. He has been linked with Adelaide’s first pick and the overall top 10. Elsewhere, West Australian Shannon Neale is a second round chance with nice upside as a lean ruck/forward, while Max Heath could bustle his way into contention after showing massive preseason improvement.

Q: Are rumours of Will Phillips wanting to stay in Victoria going to push him down to Essendon’s picks? – Arjun on Twitter
A: There are plenty of rumours which fly around at this time of year. There is not too much to suggest Phillips poses a massive flight risk, which is often attached to Vic Metro prospects. He could join former Oakleigh teammates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson at Gold Coast, and is certainly a top five talent.

>> Watch the video Q&A below

Lachlan Carrigan – The dashing Dragon no longer flying under the radar

LACHLAN Carrigan has enjoyed a steep rise in draft stocks this year, and he hasn’t even registered an official game of footy. The Sandringham Dragons speedster is a prospect billed with the increasingly popular buzzword, ‘upside’. A December birth, Carrigan is one of the youngest top-agers available in this year’s draft pool and has seen his rate of development climb rapidly since making his NAB League debut in Round 11, last year.

The most promising part? He still has plenty of growing and improvement left.

“I guess just the potential that I have with my body being a December birth, the upside of me growing (is a trait recruiters value),” Carrigan told Draft Central. “My grandfather is 6’6″ and my uncle’s 6’4″ so I’ve got a lot of growing left in me and I’ll fill out obviously.”

While his growth has hardly been stunted, Carrigan’s on-field feats were limited to a couple of big preseason performances which built upon the promise shown in five outings for Sandringham in 2019. The 17-year-old not only grew to 189cm, but was also able to showcase his expanded athletic base with outstanding preseason testing results.

His speed-endurance mix was on full show; registering a 2.91-second 20-metre sprint, 21.6 score on the yo-yo test, and even running vertical jumps of over 80cm off either foot. It meant on top of his eye-catching returns on-field, recruiters also had some data which jumped off the page, keeping Carrigan’s name fresh in their minds.

While he had hoped to really press his case to be drafted in 2020, Carrigan says he had not been particularly “fazed” by garnering perhaps a little less attention than some of his highly-touted teammates, at least coming into the year.

“It’s something you get used to, just going under the radar,” he said. “Unfortunately I couldn’t play this year, I was really excited to showcase what I can do (and earn) the team success we thought we could achieve. But always going under the radar hasn’t really fazed me, I’ve put in the hard work that needs to be done and achieved things.”

Lachlan Carrigan on the move for Sandringham | Source: Supplied

Carrigan’s motivation is far from waning either, even in the face of Melbourne’s Covid-19 restrictions. The Hampton Rovers junior was able to set up a home gym with equipment from his former club, while also doing touch work and running throughout the week. With Year 12 studies at St. Bede’s College also thrown in the mix, there is plenty on Carrigan’s plate, though he says life has been “pretty cruisy” of late.

“I’m pretty much kicking every day, just with mates doing whatever we can do,” he said. “On top of that I’ll also be out (at the) gym four to five times a week and then just running as well. But it’s pretty cruisy, lots of study too.

“Dad works at Hampton Rovers so we went in and got a lot of their gym equipment. We set them all up in the backyard and in the lounge room so that’s been really good. And then just using the facilities around in the 5km (radius) I guess.

“The motivation is always there for me when it comes to footy. Maybe not as much with school but definitely for footy. Training, whether it’s in the weight room, running or just doing the extras, I think the motivation comes easily.”

The AFL hopeful has also been in contact with around a dozen clubs throughout the year and is beginning to gauge how the next few months, or even year may pan out. A Carlton fan, Carrigan hasn’t spoken to the Blues just yet but is planning for multiple outcomes by the end of 2020. With the NAB League extended to an Under 19 competition, the chance to prove himself at that level remains should he be overlooked in this year’s draft.

“(Discussions with clubs) have been really mixed,” Carrigan said. “I don’t think many clubs have delved into the talks about where they’d pick me up. We get a few, but it has been a mix of ‘we’ll pick you up in the late rounds and take a punt’ or ‘we want to see you play more footy’.

“I’m pretty academic… after school, I’m still deciding if I go back to the Dragons. I just want to put in all my effort there and maybe if I’ve got enough free time around halfway through the year I’ll pick up a (university) course. The courses I’m looking at are probably accounting or commerce, and also sports management.”

The running wingman also does a fair bit of footballing study, moulding his game on the likes of Hugh McCluggage for his inside and outside balance, as well as Josh Kelly and Isaac Smith.

“I love footy so I watch a lot of it,” he said. “I think I’m very versatile (but) my favourite position is probably the wing, just because I’ve played there the most and I know how to play it.

“I’ve been working hard on a lot of areas. I think my main areas over the summer, this preseason, were just my contested work and my ability to hit the scoreboard. You can get better at everything I guess.”

While much of his journey, especially of late, has been carried out among the unknown, Carrigan says he has had “a lot of great coaches and mentors” to lean on throughout the experience.

“(Sandringham assistant) Jackson Kornberg‘s been really good this year, Simon McPhee and (Mark) ‘Bomber’ Reilly too,” he said.

Carrigan’s next point of call will be at the Vic Metro Draft Combine on Saturday, though he will not participate in the testing. Draft day looms on the week of December 7.

Moloney hopes to follow in father’s footsteps

ABBI Moloney might have first realised she could make the elite level when she made her local interleague side, but Australian rules football has always been in her blood. Moloney’s father Troy played 36 games for Footscray between 1987-1992 and now it is his daughter’s turn to see if she can reach the top level.

Having feared she might not get that opportunity in 2020 when the season was postponed and then called off, Moloney said receiving an AFL Women’s Draft Combine was just what she needed.

“It was definitely some good news after a pretty crappy 2020,” Moloney said. “I just never expected I would be good enough to be in the position I’m in now. It’s definitely increased my motivation to be so much more, just to be the best that I can. “That was my main thing and I guess I also was really happy because I was making dad proud. “He stuck with me throughout my entire journey and with him playing footy for Doggies back in the day, I was like it would be pretty cool if I was playing and I was pretty proud of myself and I never expected to be in this position because we weren’t playing this year, my skills could have decreased and all that. “But it just pushed me to want to keep going and developing.”

Indeed Moloney has been particularly working on her fitness over the break having only had a quick taste of the 2020 NAB League Girls season, but having an impact by booting eight goals in three games, and averaging 10.3 disposals and 3.3 marks in that time. Determined to reach the next level, Moloney has been focused on improving herself in any way she could.

“Knowing that the combine was coming up I wanted to – we had to do a 2k – I didn’t have to be the best out of the 2k, but do the best I could possibly do, set a PB (personal best) for myself and I did that and I was really happy with the effort I put in.”

Over the break, Moloney has been able to lean on her Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing with the pair providing company and support for one another during what was a tough time for top-age AFL Women’s draft prospects.

“We were doing heaps of kms per week with just hard fought effort just wanting to get our fitness up even though we weren’t playing football this year,” Moloney said. “It puts a bit of a strain on your when you have to go out and go for a run, you can’t see your teammates, it makes you a bit demotivated, but having Winnie there we pushed each other and I just wanted to get to the fittest that I could have been and I definitely still have a lot to do but I’m not stopping now.”

Having learned a lot of what she knows from her father, Moloney started her football career from a young age, signing up with her local East Malvern Knights.

“I just loved it from the very start and dad was also my coach so throughout my local footy journey, which finished last year, dad had been my coach so dad’s been a big part of that,” Moloney said. “I never really thought much about it while I was playing local that I wanted to play in the big leagues so I didn’t think about it that much.

“Once I decided to go to interleague and then that was where I was like ‘okay I’m not bad, this could be something I do for a while’ and I guess it went from interleague as that first step up from local to interleague more so than just playing for a bit of fun, that’s where it got a bit more competitive for me. “Then it went from there and then I went to Dragons, started Dragons at the end of Year 10 with preseason and now we’re here.”

Indeed her rise through the pathway has been impressive, with Moloney also juggling her footy with basketball that she played for “most of her life”. She also tried her hand at netball, tennis, gymnastics, cheerleading and lifesaving, or as Moloney said “a bit of everything”. But it was football that called to her because she loved every part of it, even the training.

“I think when I realised it came naturally to me and I understood the game really well and I think it was fun,” Moloney said. “I enjoyed the happiness from getting a goal, no other sport I would really be like if I had to go to training for basketball I was like ‘ohh great’ but I guess footy I could never get enough of it. “I wanted to be doing it 24/7 and it was just so much fun to me. “It was something that I really enjoyed. “With my footy my friends have just been a big part of it, they’ve been my main motivator and have helped me enjoy it as much as I do.”

The marking forward said her ability to take big grabs, or bring the ball to ground, and crash packs were among her top strengths. She has improved her kicking over time for it to be a key factor of her game, and she was not afraid of contact. Moloney said she hoped to improve on her opposite side – left foot – kicking, but also further developing her decision making and footy smarts. Whilst being a natural forward, Moloney said she could play anywhere if required.

“I’ve played all around the ground so I kind of know around the ground what is required of you,” she said. “But I guess when they did move me down to forward a few years ago, I think it was just like my ability to run towards, not facing the goal, running towards the ball and going for those marks and turning around and kicking the goals, that just came more natural to me and that’s where I play my best footy, creating those leads and those set shots. “But as well I enjoy playing wing, playing mid, but the forward is where I showcase my skills the most.”

Now with the AFL Women’s Draft just a sleep away, Moloney said it was hard not to focus on her football career and just how much it meant to her should her name be read out tomorrow.

“It would mean the world to me, like I’m going through studying for exams right now and as much as they say Year 12’s your whole priority, well I am thinking about this is for me, this is hopefully one of my biggest careers,” Moloney said. “I would just be so proud of myself that I’m in this position, I’m getting drafted, this is from my hard work. “It would just be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I think I’d just be extremely happy, extremely proud and ready to take on any challenges that come about.”

Knighted: Burke follows famous father and becomes a Saint

THERE are few certainties when it comes to the AFL Women’s Draft, but one of three players who already know their destinations net week is Alice Burke. The newest Saint will follow in the footsteps of her famous father Nathan, who amassed more than 300 game in the red, white and black. While her father is now somewhat ironically coaching an opposition side – Western Bulldogs – Burke said the family ties are strong regardless of the colours they wear.

“I’m sure there will be a little bit of trash talking at home, but I don’t reckon it would wouldn’t change anything,” Burke said of a potential St Kilda-Western Bulldogs clash. “The rest of that home environment honestly is when we do come home, we’re all pretty easily able to just swap into our normal home life. “We’re good at separating just being a family. “I don’t see it impacting anything too much, but it would definitely be interesting to see who the rest of the family, would support.”

For Saints fans it would be a great relief to see another Burke at Moorabbin, and it is no surprise to hear that the newest addition has always had it in her veins.

“Yeah our whole family has always gone for St Kilda from the start so I do have a soft spot for them, especially with the father-daughter,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of functions there for the father-daughters, father-sons, events. “I also did work experience at Saints. “I know the the venues pretty well, and all of that, but ultimately my goal in the end is just to be the best player I can and get as far as I can.”

For such a passionate Aussie rules supporting family, you would expect she would be a lifelong player. Except the truth is, she only took up the game three years ago, instead preferring the round ball game.

“I’ve definitely got that connection with dad easily, but for about the first eight or so years, I was playing soccer with my sisters,” Burke said. “I didn’t actually start footy till I think it was, 2017. “I played for school and, that was really the first ever time I’ve done anything with a football, and it was just like a little AFL 9s game, and I just remember going out there and thinking, ‘Oh, this is kind of really fun, this is really new’ and it was pretty much from that I just kind of like I was playing proper at the time.”

At that point in her life, Burke was succeeding in soccer, pulling on the green and gold for the national Under 19s in the United Kingdom. Despite making it to international level, Burke admits her feelings towards the game had begun to wane.

“I was pretty invested in soccer at that point, but because I’ve been playing for so long, I think the kind of love of the game, had worn off,” Burke said. “So when I did start footy, it was something new. “I’m one of those people who really enjoys learning new skills and just like getting into new routines.”

Burke began to forge out a stellar junior career, as it escalated from something that was new and fascinating into an atmosphere and environment that she loved.

“I was pretty bad at kicking and all of the skills and the tactics and all of that (when I first started),” Burke said. “I remember that having Tam (Hyett, head coach) as my first coach, and she’s just pretty much staying back after trainings to help me learn to kick and all of that. “I just fell in love with just having all these new things to try and all these new things to do. “I like the games like having that bit of uncertainty. “Like in soccer you’re pretty set about your role and everything. “In footy, it’s a lot more chaotic, and all of that uncertainty makes it a lot more enjoyable for me, it’s a lot more exciting to play.”

A question on many people’s lips might be, when your father is a 300-game AFL player, how have you not at least played some junior footy before?

“Yeah at the time there was no one around, no girls that I knew that played it,” Alice said of women’s football “It wasn’t really an option, most people just played netball or soccer. “I think my oldest sister – I’ve got two older sisters – and they got into soccer first. “I was one of those siblings where if my older siblings are doing it, or if they were trying something, I had to do it with them. “I just got into that through following them.”

Having reached the international stage and having a promising soccer career in front of her, making the choice to cross to Australian rules football was far from straightforward, but Burke felt it was the right one.

“Yeah at the start (it was a hard decision),” Burke said. “Just because I had been doing it for so long. “Does that mean I’ve wasted seven, eight years to doing the wrong sport or something? “Once I actually I went down to the open day for Dragons and I loved it so much. “That was massive turning point for me that I was just full set on. “Soon as I got my first taste of an actual team, it was pretty easy for me to be like, this is a lot more enjoyable and it’s probably got more of a future in it then soccer did for me and plus, having Dad’s background, he was able to like go outside and teach me, and we’re spending a lot of time outside of it from that point on as well, just practising the skills and everything.”

Burke started her career off half-back, a position she was familiar with through soccer. While her technical ability was still adjusting, it was obvious from the start that she was dual-sided. It was not long before she soon caught up to the rest and was thrown in the midfield, a challenge the teenager thrived on.

“It was pretty new that having that different perspective, where you actually have to be aware of what’s around you,” she said. “Have that whole 360-degree perspective compared to just 180 when you’re in defence. “Having all those new perspectives and the multiple things to focus on in the game just made it all the more enjoyable for me. “And playing in midfield was definitely was the first time I’ve done it and straight away it was just really fun.”

Burke defines her ability to use both sides of her body, and her repetition of the techincal side further enhanced her ability. Through soccer she became familiar with running down the left side of the pitch despite being a right footer, and when caught on that left side, she naturally used the left foot.

“I was still in that habit from soccer is always using my left foot,” Burke said. “And from that I kind of learned, ‘alright If I can’t train myself not to use my left, well I’m going to have to learn to use it well, because I could be using it either way. “I’ve been pestering dad doing a lot of practise on that, and I reckon that’s definitely paid off this year.”

Burke recognised how lucky she was to have a father who had reached the elite level, but more so one who was always happy to aide in her development and assist in any way that he could, just being a father as much as a coach.

“It’s definitely been like it’s really important to me keeping on top of my skills and everything because, dad’s been working at home and everything now during lockdown,” Burke said. “It’s been pretty easy for us to just go down to the Trevor Barker Oval it’s a couple of blocks away. “We’ve been going down there a lot, and he has a really good input of he’ll teach you how to pick up your own mistakes, because in a game, he knows that you’re not gonna be able to have someone tell you what’s going wrong or not.

“One of our pet peeves has always been if you make a mistake, it’s okay. “But what matters is whether you make it again or if you fix it. “So being able to pick up those environmental cues yourself and realise what’s going wrong and then how to fix it. “That’s been something he has really diligently taught me and I reckon that helped me improve a lot in the game.”

Burke said she would love to build the knowledge of her inside midfield game. Whilst he has no problems attacking the contest and then using it once in possession, she wants to improve her decision making, as well as reading the play and at the stoppages off hands. What she calls her gameplay intelligence.

Her development as a player in a short space of time came to the fore after winning the 2018 best and fairest, an accolade she backed up in her middle-age year last year. Burke describes it as a “real shock” but said she loved how footy rewarded hard work over results.

“If you’re shepherding someone you might not necessarily be impacting the play, but you are still playing a vital role in the game,” Burke said. “That’s why that’s something that I’ve always tried to work really hard on in the games, is putting in those extra one per cent efforts. “I reckon it was definitely a shock for me when I got that first best and fairest, because it really it was good to know that I’m in a sport that values those kind of things.”

Burke progressed through the Vic Metro program and went up to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships. She loved the increased standard and said it was amazing playing alongside so many talented players all in one team and across the competition. What made it a little different to most is that her father coached the team, though she said you would hardly know they were related on game day, and they are able to switch back into family mode once home.

“During the day he’d be my coach and we wouldn’t have any talk at home (about it),” Burke said. “There’d be a few inside jokes of of ‘don’t pass Alice the ball’ or something, but I remember one night I snuck into his room and we watched Bachelor together and then we woke up next morning and he is the coach again. “He’s really good at swapping between putting the coach hat on and the dad hat, and we’ve never had any issues with that.”

While her father has undoubtedly been an inspiration over the journey, a former Dragon has also had a huge influence on Burke’s career. Jemma Owen was Burke’s first captain at the Dragons, and crossing from another sport it was daunting at first, but Owen helped her fit right in.

“I was pretty like scared to come into a brand new team by any sport, I didn’t know anyone or how to do anything,” Burke said. “Jemma … was fantastic, straight away was so nice and welcoming to everybody. “She was really good at being that leader, but also kind of demanding the best out of everybody on the field. “She was never afraid to talk, you know, let somebody know they need to be doing something. “One thing that I really liked too was she didn’t ask anything of the team that she didn’t do herself. “I found that she was someone that I could really respect as a player. “And, you know, her dedication through the game was really admirable.”

Now she is officially an AFL Women’s player – with her selection to be confirmed on Tuesday – Burke is ready to hit the ground running and knows her career goals.

“The reason I loved footy was I did play for fun, and I wanna make sure to improve and get better at the game and everything, but ultimately I just want to enjoy it, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “I’m going put everything in, I just hope that I do just keep enjoying the game because I love it, and it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done. “I hope that definitely stays with me.”

Determined McNamara follows footy pathway

COMING from a basketball background, Sandringham Dragons midfielder Eliza McNamara has dealt with her fair share of setbacks over the years. A concussion last season ruled her out of some matches at NAB League level, and she missed out on playing at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships second round on the Gold Coast, but it has not slowed her desire to be the best possible player and achieve her dream of landing on an AFL Women’s list.

“I used to play a lot of basketball and then we got told to check out the local footy team because they were starting to grow the girls culture there,” McNamara said of her first taste of football. “So I joined halfway through my Year 8 season, just at Ashburton footy club and then it was quite big at school but obviously you can’t play until Year 9. I really loved it when I was old enough to play in Year 9 because I was playing with a couple of girls who are in the AFLW Academy and in the AFLW now like Liv Vesely and Abbie McKay.

“From there I played at Sandy and moved to East Malvern footy club which was so fun. “There’s like five girls in that team who were also in the Sandy squad, so we kind of learnt each other’s dynamics in club and Sandy, which kind has made the core of our top-agers quite strong is because we’ve played against each other in club and we’ve also played with each other.”

The familiarity with each other’s games is a key reason why the Dragons have improved from year to year and have a record amount of AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites.

“I think as bottom-agers you end to respect the older kids and because we were all able to grow together from bottom-agers to the older kids, we kind of just grew off each other’s talents and brain-picked each other for how they do X and Y in a game and learn off them in a training session as well as on the field and we kind of got a sense of how each other plays,” McNamara said. “How to complement each other in our footy which is quite an asset to our team.”

She might not have played in the week-long carnival on the Gold Coast, but McNamara pulled on the ‘Big V’ from an early age, representing Metro at Under 16s level.

“That’s one really good thing about playing through NAB League is that you do get recognised and your name gets out there so it kind of, when it starts to pick up momentum, it provides a lot of opportunities,” McNamara said. “Obviously I was lucky enough to play in that Vic team, and then from there you play with girls who you inadvertently play again in the NAB League which you learn off their strengths but also you’re able to identify what each team’s got going for them.

“Like obviously Northern Knights have quite a high representation in Vic so when you come up against them, you know they’ve got quite a strong midfield and forward, so we’re going to have to be really switched on this game. “But opportunity and confidence which then adds to your footy skills through that.”

A natural inside midfielder, McNamara’s willingness to win the hardball came at a cost last year when she copped a concussion and was forced to the sidelines. While hungry to run out on the field, the Dragons middle-ager did take positives from the experience.

“It was frustrating just because I then had to miss a couple of games but it was also a bit fortunate I think we had the Easter weekend so we didn’t have a game anyway,” McNamara said. “I only missed one less game than I should have as well so, you just kind of learn from not being able to play you realise how much you want to be on the field, when you’re watching the games you don’t get nearly as much fun as when you’re playing it.”

“But then it was another blessing that I was able to see this is where our team struggles, so when I am able to play again this is how we’re going to improve, and this is how I can get myself involved,” she said. “When you take a step back and watch, you see how midfields or wingers get lost on the ground, as an observer of that, you’re able to recognise where they could be, and then implement it into your own game which is a good thing.”

The concussion has not stopped the small tenacious midfielder from fiercely attacking the contest. But it has opened up other opportunities for her to increase her versatility and work on other aspects of her game.

“I love kind of going through the midfield which was one blessing for this year, because I got taken out of the inside mid just because the coaches wanted to protect my head because I got a concussion last year,” McNamara said. “Which meant I was able to be thrown around and learn different positions like the wing, high-forward, and like kind of how to involve myself in the game in a midfield sense and still remain an attacking and defensive player, but also nailing some running patterns and getting a better sense of the roles other than inside mid.”

“That’s like helpful one, in terms of confidence that I can play those roles, but also two, if I was to be in the inside mid, then I know how to involve the wings because I’ve played that role, I know the patterns and then I’m able to become an inside mid’s perspective. “The wings sometimes gets a bit neglected because no-one really knows how to incorporate them in girls footy, but I think that is growing with opportunities with NAB, they drill in the importance of each position.”

It is no surprise that her regards her attack on the ball as one of her strengths, showing no fear going into the coalface and winning it for her side. But she also has a sense of undoing any wrongs, such as fixing her own mistakes.

“If I turn it over then I’m adamant that I have to go get that ball and get it back to our team,” McNamara said. “I think I’ve got a sense of just want to fix things on the field so my efforts are all repeated and have a lot of drive and intent in them.”

The talented small is working on polishing her kicking and having greater consistency and variety in the action, which is something she has been looking at over the off-season. Having set small goals each week – such as improving each quarter of each game – McNamara has a big goal coming up, and has been working hard during the lockdown period to achieve it.

“I mean I’m in the middle of three ovals, so I’m quite lucky where I’ve been locked down and we’ve got cricket nets on one of the ovals, so Tam‘s (Hyett, senior coach) made me drill the ball into the cricket nets and just be able to get a penetrating kick between the nets and not miss it,” McNamara said. “Obviously there’s frustrations of the ball getting stuck on top, but that’s a bit of a motive to concentrate and fix my kicking. “That’s probably been my biggest goal this season.”

At first being told the season had been called off was a bit of a shock, with a number of players upset and McNamara described it as “demoralising” and “such a waste of a season”. But then she took a look at the “silver linings”.

“Our coach Tam lives near me so when the state rules had gone through, we’d gone for a couple of kicks,” McNamara said. “I’ve got three brothers so i’ve always got a kicking buddy at home, but yeah initially it just sucked. “There’s nothing better than team sports. “Even though you’re training at home, it doesn’t replicate the sense of passion and fun you get when you’re playing in the team.”

Indeed the sense of team at the Dragons is strong with McNamara acknowledging not only Hyett’s work with her over the journey, but some of the fitness staff as well who have contributed to her progression through the Sandringham program.

“The coaches at Sandy deserve such a big wrap, especially Tam and the fitness coaches Danny (Byrne) and Fraser (Cameron), everyone we’ve had them since for the past three years,” McNamara said. “They’ve been our foundation of coaches and they’ve never waived in their support or given us a half, they’ve always been fully committed to us so I think the coaches at Sandy definitely deserve a major wrap.”

Despite missing out on the championships last year – given the difficulty of squeezing into the side as a middle-ager – and then not getting to play out her own top-age championships this year, McNamara took confidence from her performances at NAB League level.

I think confidence naturally comes when one, your team wins, but also even training sessions are quite good for confidence,” McNamara said. “I found playing club in between last season and this season was such a good re-establishment that if you are able to play really good footy then you kind of learn to train further into a bit more of a competitive level at NAB League. “The main thing with confidence I find is till having enjoyment and playing your own game.

“Even though you have a prescribed role in the team, there’s a way to individualise it a little bit and as long as you don’t lose that individuality in your role, you just naturally succeed a bit better and I guess that’s what reaffirms your confidence and your player is succeeding in the role you’re given.”

Her dream of earning a spot on an AFL Women’s list could be less than a week away, and McNamara hoped to follow idols such as Daisy Pearce and former Melbourne Girls’ graduate Bonnie Toogood into the elite level. While she knows next week is not the last opportunity to play in the AFL Women’s, she know exactly what it would mean to her.

“It would mean everything,” McNamara said. “It would be a weight off your shoulders, but also exciting and I don’t even know. “It would be great, a bit of excitement this year when not much has happened. “I think once you’ve been playing at such a level and dedicated so much time and mum and dad driving me X, Y and Z all over Melbourne, and we get the buses to Wangaratta, it’s kind of a nice way to finish junior football stepping into such an elite environment. “You don’t know, boundless opportunities to come from there so it would be very exciting.”

Walker falls in love with football atmosphere

SANDRINGHAM Dragons’ Daisy Walker was a basketball for most of her life. She played for through her schooling journey and reached state level. At the same time, her brother Will was forging a career in Australian rules football. He was over at the Dragons and ended up earning a spot on North Melbourne’s AFL list after being drafted pick 23 in the 2017 National Draft. Fast forward three years and Daisy is now in a similar boat, hoping to hear her name called out at the AFL Women’s Draft next week.

“He (Will) just looked like he was having so much fun while he was playing,” Walker said. “And I was kind of over just basketball and all the politics and all that, and footy just seemed like a fresh start, so I thought I’d give it a go. “I just sort of fell in love with the sport. “I’ve always loved team sports. “Footy was just an even bigger team. “That was just the bonus for me. “It was just something different, something new. “Something that just incorporated everything I love about sports, being able to run, being able to play with my mates. “New skills, I guess. The things I’ve never tried before.”

Walker said plenty of skills from her basketball days came in handy on the footy field such as her clean hands and endurance, which helped her run out entire games of football. She said the work she had put in during her basketball days to build that endurance was a “little on per cent” that helped her wear down opponents on the field. Playing at a club such as Sandringham Dragons was also a huge factor in her remaining in the sport.

“Honestly, it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s such an honour,” Walker said. “Just being able to go out there and just play decent footy like a high standard footy with your mates, it’s just something that most people can only dream of. “We just work so well as a team, especially from the first year, to this is being my third and final year. “Just how close we all became, it’s just made it so much more enjoyable.”

Walker said her athletic ability – mainly endurance and agility – was a key strength in her game, and said her fundamentals such as her ability to hit targets and technical ability had come on in recent years. However she would not stop improving and is keen to build all areas of her game doing forward.

From when she was young, Walker wanted to be the best sportsperson she could be, and was willing to “put in the hard yards”.

“Wherever it takes me, just something I’ve always wanted,” Walker said. “I’ve always wanted to be a professional athlete. “Just something I’ve decided, and one of my whole childhood and even as I grow up it’s still something I want so bad.”

Walker said she also had a couple of past Dragons as her inspirations throughout her journey, with no surprise as to who the first one was.

“I definitely say there’s two people,” she said. “The number one would be my brother. “I just love watching him play. “The way he plays it’s just unreal to me. “It’s something I want to be like. “He’s always out training, putting in the one percenters in his game. “Even in his rehab, he’s always just doing something to improve his game. “Getting back out there. “It’s just something I admire.”

“But also, the second one would probably be Jemma Owen, who was there in my first year at the Dragons, my first year of footy as well,” Walker said. “She was the team captain, she was the person who got me into footy. “She’s the reason I probably still play because I remember rocking up the first training session of the Dragons, not knowing anyone, barely knowing how to play footy, but just barely got in through my athletic ability. “She was just there welcoming, willing to just make you feel so welcome and want to be a part of team. “And I remember my first game as well. “I was in the backline and she came to the backline with me to help me out, and she was just very supporting. “That’s why I continue because I felt so welcome in the team.”

Walker has plenty of fond memories and anecdotes like that one to look back on her career thus far, and has aspirations of taking a specky in front of a “massive” crowd in an AFL Women’s game, something she did in her junior days, though concedes “it wasn’t really a specky, but it felt like one”.

Being late to football, Walker knows that there is still plenty to work on and takes solace from the fact that if next week does not go her way, there are plenty of opportunities to come in the future with mature-agers getting drafted each year.

“Yeah it does help a lot,” Walker said. “It’s just a bit of a relief, because I know watching the boys transition, it’s a lot harder to get picked up late in your later years, but for the girls that’s still new so there’s an opportunity to work on my skills. “Even if I don’t get picked up this year, just maybe going to the VFLW and just work on my skills, work on my game play, hopefully get a bit stronger and potentially get picked up later on.”

Over the break, Walker has worked closely with Dragons’ NAB League Girls High Performance Manager, Sonia De Rose once the season got postponed in March, with the talented teenager receiving a running program and some sessions with Walker twice a week.

“I got a few of the girls on board and there’s a group of us now, they’re still doing it since March,” Walker said. “We do bit of strength work on a Tuesday and Thursday, and then we have running on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then just the weekends sort of like a recovery. “But I’d always go for just a light jog or just get some extra kilometres.

“I’ve also been going down with some of my other Sandy girls Bella Eddey, Alice Burke some younger girls like Lucy Mitchell and Jemma Owen who’s older. Just doing some kicking, I guess getting our ball work up. “Just it’s also a way to catch up with them, and see how they’re going with all of it as well, because you’ve been quite stressful, especially during this time.”

As someone who lives and breathes footy, Walker was “over the moon” when she received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitation.

“I couldn’t believe that someone have interest in me,” Walker said. “I thought I was just sort of in the background. “But it’s just shows that people are watching, they can see what you’re doing and they noticed you. “Even when you don’t think no one’s watching, that’s when it really counts.”

As for what it would mean to hear her name called out next week and follow her brother into the elite level, Walker was resolute.

“It would be like a goal achieved but then again, not because it wouldn’t be achieved because I got in,” Walker said. “I wouldn’t just give up. “It’s something that I’ve worked on my entire life. “Even through my basketball, I wanted to be special basketballer. “But then that dream sort of faded away. “But this is just something that’s always been in my head. “Footy’s just, it’s just a massive goal in my life. And I just mean that my hard work paid off.”