Tag: Tyanna Smith

Opinion: Could the AFL Women’s 2021 season be the most competitive yet?

IT is still just over two months until the first bounce of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, but the excitement is growing. The abrupt end to the 2020 season – with no premiership awarded and indeed no last two weeks of finals – left a mixture of disappointment and wondering of what could have been in many minds of AFL Women’s fans. Once the initial disappointment was over, clubs got to work on either re-signing, trading or heading to the draft in what has set up a more even competition next year.

The top sides will contend again, and whilst Fremantle and North Melbourne showed that they arguably deserved to be in the 2020 decider, they were pushed by opponents at times, and those opponents will be battling for a spot. The young pups at the Western Bulldogs and talented bunch at St Kilda will also improve, and even the cellar dwellers in Richmond and West Coast have made net gains over the off-season. Realistically the only club likely to fall next season – through design in many ways – is Melbourne, as the Dees play the long-term game as we have seen with the Dogs who are now building back up the ladder. Here are the contenders, outside chances and rebuilders:

CONTENDERS:

Fremantle

At the top of the list is the side that went unbeaten in 2020 and have no reason not go go there again. They have a really strong defensive unit, and consistent midfield, as well as an attacking front six that were able to regularly hit the scoreboard. Throw in another year of Roxy Roux and the X-factor of Mikayla Morrison and Sarah Verrier, and despite being one of the teams to beat, the West Australian team remain as one of the best in the competition.

North Melbourne:

Similarly to Fremantle, the main loss over the off-season was Jess Trend, though the Roos just continue to stock up on incredibly talented players. They went to the draft and someone like Bella Eddey will slot into an already potent forward line, which was hard to contain. The Roos were pushed by the Magpies in the elimination final, which will give them extra motivation to improve. It is hard not seeing North Melbourne up there at the pointy end of the season.

Adelaide:

The resurgence of the Crows will be swift. They might not have had the year they wanted, but it was no wonder with their two best players out on long-term injuries and a number of others having delayed preseasons. They have added readymade talents in Teah Charlton, Ashleigh Woodland and Rachelle Martin who will compete for spots from Round 1. It would not be unreasonable to think with all the inclusions and returnees, the Crows are favourites again.

Carlton:

A Grand Final two seasons ago and finals last season, the Blues were the only team to knock off North Melbourne last season. You cannot help but feel they are within touching distance of the premiership cup, and have an abundance of youth to go with their talent. Do not forget they added someone called Elise O’Dea over the off-season, and if that elite talent was not enough, they stocked up on captains in Mimi Hill and Winnie Laing from the NAB League who will stop at nothing for success.

OUTSIDE CHANCES:

Collingwood:

It seemed not that long ago that there was a mass exodus at the Pies and people were wondering what the future held. In 12 months the Pies managed to turn it around and surprise with a good 2020 season to almost stun North Melbourne in the elimination final. The loss of Sarah D’Arcy among others will hurt, but they have picked up some versatile players in the draft, and with Tarni Brown joining her brothers at the Magpies, it will be an exciting time for Magpies fans who need something to cheer for next year.

Western Bulldogs:

This might seem like a surprise, but trust me when this group has enough development, they will go through the roof. The amount of sheer X-factor, upside and versatility in the team that added to its stocks at the draft table again, the Dogs can go deep and if you like an outside chance winning the flag, the Dogs could be that bet. They added Jess Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig and Isabelle Pritchard to the ever-growing list of former Vic Metro stars, and they will push for spots early on. Expect them to be the most exciting team running around.

Geelong

On paper the Cats have the cattle to compete against the best sides, and added some unbelievable talents in the AFL Women’s Draft, such as Darcy Moloney and Olivia Barber. They have not lost a great deal over the off-season with Mel Hickey of course retiring with big shoes to fill in the captain’s absence. The Cats have a well-balanced list and honestly there is no reason they should not be an outside chance for the flag. Their young talents might need another year, but feel they have the jump on the other expansion sides thanks to that extra season.

Brisbane:

A little more outside than the others, but have enough talent to contend if they all click. It will be a competitive group wherever the Lions land as they will be placed with Gold Coast Suns and both should be fairly even. Zimmorlei Farquharson is the draftee to watch next season with her high-flying ability and ground level work, but let us not forget that Lily Postlethwaite, Isabel Dawes and co. will have another year of experience and ready to take the Lions back to the decider.

GWS GIANTS

Arguably the hardest team to place, because they are always competitive, but just off the pace of the top teams. With another year into the younger players such as Alyce Parker, and then adding in Tarni Evans amongst the top teenagers coming in, they should do enough to put themselves in a position to compete against anyone. Whether or not they have enough top-end talent to knock off a Fremantle or North Melbourne, it is yet to be seen, but they make it into this group.

ANOTHER YEAR NEEDED:

St Kilda

Without a doubt the Saints will be in the next bracket in 2022, but for 2021, they will be in a similar position to the Dogs last season. They might not get the wins on the board that they deserve all the time, but they have more than enough talent to worry any side on their day. Once their young guns develop – adding the likes of Tyanna Smith, Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis to an already talented list – they will be a scary proposition. They will fast-track their development in the AFL Women’s too.

Gold Coast

The other expansion team from last year that showed promising signs and made finals, the Suns might be somewhat unlucky not to be in the next bracket up, but depending on the pool they land in, and the finals structure, they still might need the extra year. They have the talent to step up again, with Annise Bradfield coming in and Sarah Perkins providing experience through the draft. It would not be a shock to see them push sides for a finals spot, but willing to give them an extra year to do it.

REBUILDERS:

Melbourne

For the first time since the start of the AFL Women’s, the Demons are in full rebuild mode. They were always thereabouts in terms of competing for a flag, but just could not get it done. Going down this route is the right avenue, particularly with the drafts always getting stronger. The Demons have added some great youth through the draft, led by Alyssa Bannan, and might suffer a few more losses next season than past years, but will reap the benefits long-term.

Richmond

The winless Tigers added some much needed experience to help Monique Conti through the midfield over the break, then grabbed Ellie McKenzie with the top pick in the draft. The Tigers opted for an immediate experience boost, and seem to have everything in place to be more competitive in 2021. In saying that, the other teams are still ahead of them, but the Tigers will not be the easy-beats of 2020 with the trio of Sarah‘s in Hosking, D’Arcy and Dargan among the inclusions next year.

West Coast

The team out west will step up next season to be more competitive in 2021, but have not been able to add as much experience as the Tigers. Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison are a couple of young guns who will have an immediate impact if given the chance, and add to the growing list of young talents like Mikayla Bowen. They are still firmly in the rebuilding phase, but the Eagles should show further signs of development in 2021 and will be one to watch in the future.

2020 AFLW Draft review: St Kilda Saints

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

St Kilda:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: St Kilda Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Club-by-club picks

THE dust has settled on the exciting 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Over the next week we will be delving into each club’s selections and detailing more information about those players who earned places at the elite level. Below we have listed each club’s selections from last night’s draft if you are waking up to check out who your newest stars are.

Adelaide:

#4 – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#45 – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)
#47 – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

Brisbane:

#8 – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)
#37 – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#38 – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

Carlton:

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

Collingwood:

#19 – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#25 – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
#26 – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#31 – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 – Pass

Fremantle:

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

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)

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)

GWS GIANTS:

#9 – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)
#29 – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies)
#42 – Libby Graham (Manly Warringah Wolves)

Melbourne:

#5 – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#15 – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#17 – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#35 – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#41 – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#48 – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

North Melbourne:

#13 – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#44 – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)
#49 – Brooke Brown (Launceston)
#55 – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

Richmond:

#1 – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#43 – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)
#52 – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

St Kilda:

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

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)
#56 – Pass
#59 – Pass

Western Bulldogs:

#2 – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#11 – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#16 – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

2020 AFL Women’s Draft: Full Order

A MASSIVE year both on and off the footy field has culminated in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, with a huge amount of talent set to pull on the gear next season. Here are all 61 picks, with the predicted number one selection Ellie McKenzie getting the nod as expected.

Round 1

1 Richmond – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

2 Western Bulldogs – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

3 West Coast Eagles – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)

4 Adelaide Crows – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)

5 Melbourne – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

6 St Kilda – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

7 Gold Coast SUNS – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)

8 Brisbane Lions – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)

9 GWS GIANTS – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)

10 Geelong – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

11 Western Bulldogs – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

12 Carlton – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

13 North Melbourne – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

14 Fremantle – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

15 Melbourne – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

16 Western Bulldogs – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

 

Round 2

17 Melbourne – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

18 West Coast Eagles – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)

19 Collingwood – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

20 Geelong Cats – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

21 Geelong Cats – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

22 North Melbourne – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

23 Gold Coast SUNS – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)

24 St Kilda – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

25 Collingwood – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

26 Collingwood – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

27 Geelong – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)

28 Carlton – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

29 GWS GIANTS – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies) 

30 Fremantle – Mikayla Morrison (Central Districts/Western Australia)

 

Round 3

31 Collingwood – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

32 West Coast Eagles – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)

33 Collingwood – PASS

34 St Kilda – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

35 Melbourne – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

36 Carlton – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

37 Brisbane Lions – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)

38 Brisbane Lions – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

39 Geelong – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

40 St Kilda – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)

41 Melbourne – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

42 GWS GIANTS – Libby Graham 

43 Richmond – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)

 

Round 4

44 North Melbourne – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)

45 Adelaide – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)

46 Fremantle – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

47 Adelaide – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

48 Melbourne – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

49 North Melbourne – Brooke Brown (Launceston)

50 Gold Coast Suns – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

51 St Kilda – PASS

 

Round 5

52 Richmond – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

53 West Coast Eagles – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)

54 Gold Coast Suns – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)

55 North Melbourne – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

56 West Coast Eagles – PASS

57 Gold Coast Suns – Lucy Single (Bond University)

58 Gold Coast Suns – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)

59 West Coast Eagles – PASS

60 Gold Coast Suns – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)

61 Gold Coast Suns – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

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: Richmond & St Kilda

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

Richmond – Victorian Pool

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

Off-season summary:

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

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

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

A draft look:

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

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

St Kilda – Victorian Pool

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

Off-season summary:

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

A draft look:

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

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

Positive Jordan goes above and beyond in search of AFLW dream

WHEN you set your mind to achieving a goal, you promise to do everything you can do to do it. Many might not live up to it, but for Dandenong Stingrays’ captain Abbey Jordan, it is fair to say she is not leaving one stone unturned in her pursuit of playing AFL Women’s.

Naturally a positive person, Jordan experienced the highs and lows of 2020 like any other person, but has never lost the faith in terms of what she is capable of, and what she believes she can achieve with her football.

“I was pretty heartbroken to start off with obviously because I thought I’ve been in this team for five years and my last year is getting cut short,” Jordan said. “I was pretty devastated to start off with, but I thought the season was still going to come back so I was just training really hard and I was trying to get around to all the girls and ensure they were still feeling alright and they were still getting out on the field. “But then when I heard it was cancelled, I was really heartbroken.

“(I thought) I don’t know if they’ve had a proper look at it or how the draft’s going to go, but I’ve been training really hard. “I sort of took my emotions onto the training field and I would just run really hard and really just try and better playing for myself not for anyone because when I heard when the draft was going ahead and I had been chosen for it (combine), I was like ‘oh my god my hard work has finally been paid off’ I’m so happy I still have a shot at this.”

Indeed the news that Jordan had been invited to the AFL Women’s National Draft Combine was a huge boost, but it came after receiving what was a mood-altering text in class during the lockdown period.

“I was in English class homeschooling on my laptop and then I got a text and that was before I found out I made the draft combine, I had an interview first,” Jordan said. So I got a text and I was like ‘oh it’s just a spam number or something and I checked it and it was like ‘hi this is the [person] from the [AFLW club], we’d love to have an interview with you’ and I was like ‘oh my god’ and I started cheering up in the middle of class.

“I had to turn my camera off because I was so excited and I was like “Mum I just got a text from [AFLW team] footy club!” and I was so excited, all the joy just got put back into my life and I just started thinking all about footy again and I was like “omg I can’t believe this has happened”. “It was pretty good news for that day.”

From that moment on, it was just the extra boost the Stingrays’ captain needed to have the faith that her AFL Women’s dream was not yet over.

“I started doing a lot more research and watching all the AFLW teams and I had a whiteboard next to my desk and it was supposed to be for my school goals and I just changed it for my footy goals,” Jordan said. “Then I really started hammering down my left and right foot back up, even though I was training I wanted it perfect again. “I was going down to the footy oval pretty much every night and working every night. “I was trying to train for the combine until that was cancelled, it has been ups and downs, but it’s still been a positive journey for me.”

Jordan’s road to the draft started some time ago when she decided to head to Rye with her sister where the pair would begin their football journeys. Originally a dancer, Jordan gave footy “a shot” and then the siblings came first and second in both their club and the league best and fairests, with Abbey coming out on top in both.

“We were like ‘oh we’re sorta kind of good at this’ and then I went to a couple of interleague teams and then I made Dandenong Stingrays when I was about 15,” Jordan said. It was a big jump to start off with just because it wasn’t really step by step for the Peninsula girls. It was sort of like local, rep and into the TAC Cup or the NAB League.

“It was a pretty big jump but I was just so excited for everything,” she said. “I remember all the coaches saying all the time all that the other girls are so stern when they play, but when you’re (Jordan) running around the field you have the biggest smile on your face, you’re like the bubbly player out on the field. “Everything was just so exciting for me when I first started and it still is.”

Jordan possesses some terrific athletic traits such as her speed, as well as her strength overhead which makes her a perfect outside option. She has been gradually improving her clean hands at ground level, and building her composure with ball-in-hand.

“Although I have my speed, sometimes I don’t slow down in the last couple of steps so I might fumble the kick or something so I really need to work on composing myself in the last couple of steps and hitting up the target,” Jordan said.

The word ‘composure’ is one that has been in her vocabulary for many years, even if it took her a while to remember it. It was hard to forget when Stingrays’ captain turned AFL Women’s Magpie, Jordyn Allen – who Jordan named as one of her inspirations alongside Georgia Walker and Brooke Vernon – kept reminding her each training session.

“I remember I think it was (the 2018) Stingrays season Jordie said this word but I could never remember what word it was, and every single training I’d be like ‘what was that word you told me?’ and so the word she told me to practice in my games was composure,” Jordan said. “I’d always forget it, but it’s still been a big thing for my footy because she’s helped me out a long the way.”

Now it is a key focus for Jordan, who hopes to join the trio of Allen, Vernon and Walker in the AFL Women’s, with the quartet all hailing from the Rye Football Club.

“We’re all Rye girls, we’ve all played together at Rye and it was sort of like Georgia Walker got drafted and then Jordie then got drafted and then Brooke got drafted and then hopefully I’ll be next in line,” Jordan said. “But I remember us girls used to talk about it and we’d dream about it if maybe we’d all get drafted to the same team, like we all come from Rye and we’d all been through Stingrays and imagine if we all ended up on the same AFLW team. “It’s good and we all play very versatile roles in football.”

Leading into the 2020 season, Jordan was confident of having a strong season. Her 2019 one was “pretty good” and from a team perspective, she considered it “really good” but concedes there is one thing she wished she could change.

“The only thing is I took it for granted in hindsight now,” Jordan said. “I didn’t realise it would be my last full season of Stingrays, because I remember all the top-age girls and how well they came together this year and how much of a improvement they had made and stuff, and I had played with them in the last game as well. “I think I took it for granted a bit, I was thinking I would play a whole top-age season, so I didn’t take it as well as I should in hindsight.”

Over the off-season the winger was determined to do everything she could at being the best player she could be. As a top-ager and one of the most promising players in the side, Jordan was hoping, but not expecting to get the captaincy. Then, a pre-season camp and an early morning announcement changed her season.

“It was really overwhelming to start with because I didn’t think I was going to get it,” Jordan said. “I thought T (Tyanna Smith) was going to get it and I thought ‘there’s no way I’ve got this’ and so we had a camp day, we got there at about 5am in the morning and right in the middle of the day they brought everyone into the clubrooms and we had a big meeting and they were like ‘oh we’d like to announce Abbey Jordan as the captain of Stingrays’ and I was like ‘oh my gosh is this real? Like did they get the names mixed up?’. “I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face that day. “I feel like I really support the team really well and I was so happy and it was one of the big goals I wanted to achieve so I was so grateful that day.”

From a team perspective, Dandenong started strongly winning two of their first three games before the season was called off, which was disappointing for Jordan and her teammates as she believed they had what it took to go deep in 2020.

“I remember the year before I made Stingrays we went down and watched the grand final they played at Frankston Oval and I was like ‘oh my god I can’t wait to do that one day’ and unfortunately for the last couple of years we haven’t been able to make it, but this year with the bottom-agers coming up and the middle-agers we had and I’d been working with the top-agers for so many years,” Jordan said. “I was like ‘oh I feel like we can definitely have a crack at making the granny this year’.

“The start of our season started off so strong, having two wins out of three and the third one being pretty close. “I felt like our team this year really moulded together well. “I feel like this team if we made it all the way through I reckon we would have had a really good shot of the grand final.”

As an Under 16s Vic Country representative, a three-time league best and fairest and four-time club best and fairest for Rye, Jordan has had her fair share of accolades at junior level. She captained the interleague team in 2016 and vice-captained the V/Line side a year late. Constantly involved in leadership roles, it was no surprise to see her dedicated to her craft during the time off, focusing on her skills and sprint work.

Jordan has her own personal goals that she sets each time she trains, indicating the work ethic she has. It could be as simple as hitting 20 targets on her opposite left foot before going into her standard training, and then build to bigger goals. Now there is one goal that is less than a week away and there is little doubt in how much it would mean to Jordan if her name was to be called out at next week’s AFL Women’s Draft.

“It would actually be my dream, and one I think about every single day when I’m going to sleep at night and I’m thinking ‘oh there’s only 10 days left, nine days left’,” Jordan said. “It would mean the world to me, it’s what I’ve been training for ever since I started footy and just making it up the ranks and finally making it and knowing all my hard work has actually paid off. “Because every day after school, people are like ‘oh what are you up to?’ and I’m like ‘oh I’ve got training and training again’ but it would just be like the biggest achievement I’ve ever made. “I’ll probably cry on the night if I get drafted but it would be incredible.”

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

Dual-sport Matin keen to find right balance

AS a talented cricketer and footballer, Dandenong Stingrays’ Jess Matin is eyeing off a way to juggle both sports into the future. Having already represented Victoria at the cricket Under 18 National Championships as recent as this year, the Stingrays small forward earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite after impressing in the few NAB League Girls games this season.

“Ideally I would love to juggle both,” Matin said. “Even when I was playing local footy, it was still a big part of my life and vice versa. “You manage to split between the two sports whenever you play the other one in a way. “Ideally I would like to continue both, because … cricket’s played a big part in who I am and all that. “If I do take footy as it is, I’d still want cricket there because it’s a part of me.”

Having spent considerable time in the forward pocket for the Stingrays in 2020, Matin kicked four goals in three games and looked lively in her first proper season at NAB League level. That is not to say she had not come form a successful footballing background, winning five premierships with Beaconsfield, as well as three best and fairests in a side that featured current AFL Women’s talents Tyla Hanks and Georgia Gee, as well as Vic Country’s top prospect this year, Tyanna Smith.

“I’ve always played footy, that has never changed,” Matin said. “I’ve played since I was under 9s with the youngest age group, I’ve played my whole life. “Then I started playing cricket afterwards and that took up a lot of time because I made the under-age Vic squads. “Then with the footy I put it off I guess because I would have cricket in the winter and the summer, and the footy went for a little bit of the summer. “I guess I didn’t feel I could the manage the load for both all-year round so I didn’t pursue the Rays’ stuff.”

That changed as she soon changed as Matin decided to give Australian rules a crack at trying to get to the elite level, enjoying the toughness and fast-past nature of the sport. She was also overwhelmed with the support from her Stingrays’ teammates as she entered the program as a top-ager.

“Yeah it was good,” Matin said. “I only knew like a couple of people so I had to get to know people and they were really welcoming all the top-agers and all the girls. “They were really supportive and all welcoming. “They made me feel like I belonged.”

While Matin played small forward for the Stingrays, she ran through the midfield with the Eagles, citing her ability to read the game quickly, and use the ball well when in possession among her strengths. Having had her only NAB League Girls season cut short, Matin still used the time to work on other areas of her game.

“During this break I’ve worked on my fitness because I knew it was one of my weaknesses,” Matin said. “Not having the running ability I probably should have, so trying to improve that and become a little fitter than I was.”

Aspiring to be an elite sportsperson, Matin said entering 2020 she did not have any particular aims with her football, but wanted to excel however far she got.

“At the start of the year I didn’t really have any expectations on what I just kind of just joined it because it’s a good opportunity for me and to take the next step with my footy and I guess I never really thought of specific goals per se,” Matin said. “Just take every opportunity and be the best I can be in every situation that presents to me in the future.”

While many have been left in limbo over the season’s cancellation, Matin said the season cancellation allowed her to refocus and take a break, which is something she has seldom had over the years as a dual-sport players.

“Yeah it was kind of a weird feeling because I’m normally busy all year around doing one sport,” Matin said. “Then that got cancelled and the preseason hadn’t started yet and it’s been relaxing because I’ve had a mental refresh because I haven’t had to have my brain on during training and all that. “

So it’s kind of good on the mental front and then just over the break, you know just improving my running and improving my strength and doing anything I can to stay fit, to stay active because that’s the worst thing you can do in a break like this. “Just kind of sit around all day and not get your blood circulating and that.”

Looking back on her football career, Matin was able to pinpoint one particular moment amongst the rest that stood out, and it featured a Stingrays’ teammate at local level.

“I’ve had a few good ones (memories), we’ve been pretty successful as a local team,” Matin said. “We’ve won many flags like that. “One flag a couple of years ago, can’t remember which one. “What Tyanna Smith did, she kicked a goal just before the siren just by the buzzer which was a pretty good feeling because we were up and then they came back and it was just hard-fought from there so just to sneak over the line was such a good feeling.”

Having won the multiple premierships and best and fairests, as well as a few player of the series for different cricket competitions, and being the leading wicket-taker at the Under 15 National Championships for Victoria, it is easy enough to see Matin pulling on the whites as easily as the footy boots. If all goes to plan in the future for the talented teenager, she could be the next Jess Duffin.

Lifelong dream close to realisation for determined Smith

IN a couple of weeks, passionate footy fan Tyanna Smith is set to live out a lifelong dream of reaching the elite level. The talented midfielder who starred for Dandenong Stingrays and Vic Country over the past few years is among the top prospects heading into this year’s 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, but her road to the top was not completely smooth sailing.

The former basketballer had to turn away from football for a period of time due to the lack of options and instead focus on hoops rather than goals. The moment the AFL Women’s pathway opened up, Smith’s dream was alive once again.

“I started playing footy when I was quite young,” Smith said. “I kind of grew up around it when I was younger and then played two years of Auskick and then went on to play one year of Under 9s with the boys. “Then I stopped playing after that, played basketball for about six years and didn’t play any footy.

“Then about four years ago I think I joined our local Beaconsfield team again in the Under 18 girls. “I’ve been playing there for four years and then from then went up in the ranks, playing Stingrays this is my fourth season. “Then I was lucky enough to get chosen for the Under 16s Vic Country team and then Under 18s Vic Country.”

Whilst meeting plenty of friends on the court – some she has also shared the football field with – Smith knew her calling was always Australian rules and she was never going to turn down the opportunity to play at the highest level.

“Obviously I went to play basketball because there wasn’t any opportunities for girls to play AFL at that time,” Smith said. “I kind of aimed to play basketball and then footy opened back up and ever since I was a kid I wanted to play AFL professionally. “I just knew as soon as that opened back up that it was definitely what I wanted to do.”

Juggling multiple sports can often be a challenge for any aspiring athlete, but Smith said there were only a couple of years where the spots crossed paths.

“I think I only played two years when I was playing both,” she said. “I had to give up representative basketball so I just played domestic for a couple of years as well as footy. “That was pretty tough, I’d go from a footy game then I’d go to a basketball game within the same day. “It was definitely full on, but it was really fun. It was definitely worth it.”

Smith said she was thankful for her journey to-date, having travelled through the more traditional pathway once she returned to football. She transitioned from local footy at Beaconsfield to the Stingrays and then Country. While she concedes she is not the loudest player on-field, past leaders at the Stingrays helped her develop more of a voice and guide the younger players.

When you start off young, your’e a bit intimidated by the older girls but we had some great leaders and role models in the team when I was younger and I think that really helped me this year like you said we had a lot of younger girls,” Smith said. “Even though I’m not the loudest or most outspoken person, I still chose to be as much of a leader on the field and a role model for the younger girls as much as I could.”

The journey through the pathway led Smith to represent Country up in Queensland where she starred as a middle-ager for her state on grounds such as Metricon Stadium.

“Yeah that was a really, really good experience,” Smith said. “We had a great bunch of girls and we really bonded as a team up there and it was really cool to play on Metricon and stadiums like the AFL plays on. “It was really professional and a really cool experience.”

Her performance as a 16-year-old in the NAB League and Under 16 Championships led to her being named in in the AFL Women’s National Academy – a feat that “shocked” the teenager – and backed it up by retaining her spot in her top-age year.

“That was really cool actually,” Smith said. “I was in it bottom-age and top-age so think when I was bottom-age I was pretty shocked actually that I made that, but it was really cool to go through that for two years and do that at the highest level and they have the best people there. “It was just a really great bunch of girls aiming towards the same thing.”

Smith is currently juggling a part-time job at Kmart, her Year 12 studies and her footy, of which the latter has been a big part of her life the last few years. She said she finds it “fun” keeping herself busy rather than not doing anything. With big expectations on herself this year, Smith said she takes it all in her stride and uses football as a motivation to get better in every possible way.

“Yeah definitely I would say my life is very footy-orientated,” Smith said. “But I think that I can switch off quite well and pretty easy with that stuff. “It doesn’t stress me out too much and I think other things footy, like watching footy, training those sort of things, it just sort of fuels me in a good way.”

Smith has never been short of on-field and off-field inspirations in her time, with both her family and trailblazers of the women’s game among those she looks up to. Not only has she been a keen observer of the AFL Women’s since its inception in 2017, but has enjoyed watching past Eagles’ teammates rise through the ranks.

“Probably my biggest inspiration are my parents,” Smith said. “I think everything they do for me has just helped get me to where I am today.

“When it (AFL Women’s) first started, I was a massive fan of those pioneer girls so Daisy Pearce, Katie Brennan, those first ones. Also the most recent times probably Monique Conti and there’s been a couple of girls from my local club in Tyla Hanks and Georgia Gee who got drafted so I think that’s really cool to get to play with role models who have been drafted.”

Her local footy and NAB League footy collided a couple of times, playing at Holm Park in Beaconsfield, a ground the Eagles and Stingrays midfielder is very familiar with over the past few years.

“Our (Stingrays) first game was there as our home game which was pretty cool,” Smith said. “That’s my local club’s home ground as well so I know the ground pretty well which helps. “But yeah it was really cool to be able to play Stingrays footy on that ground. “Obviously my family could get to that because it was close, so it was really cool.”

It was on that ground where she kicked a miraculous goal from the pocket in Round 1 this year against Eastern Ranges. With not much angle and pressure all around her, the talented leader got ball to boot and put through a contender for goal of the year. When asked the thought process for kicking a big-time goal like that, Smith said it was “probably mostly instinct”.

“At the end of the day when it’s in the balance and it’s quite tight at that stage,” she said. “I knew that as soon as I had the ball in my hands I just had to make the most of my opportunity and soon as I saw the goals open up I thought that I have to do this for my team and thankfully it paid off.”

Possessing elite speed and footy IQ, Smith has been one of the most consistent players in terms of overall game, with very few weaknesses. But that has not stopped her wanting to improve all aspects of her game, but one area in particular has been a focus.

“I think a big thing for me is contested marking,” Smith said. “I think that’s one thing that can definitely set the game apart with who can take a big contested mark. “I think that’s really valuable so really trying to work on upper body strength and stuff like that to make it happen.”

The COVID-19 break has not been ideal for any Victorian footballers, unable to get out on the park, but for Smith, it has been a chance to work on those areas and still have the chance to build her fundamentals further.

“I think I’ve taken the time we’ve had off to improve those sort of things and doing stuff that I probably wouldn’t get to do at training as a group,” Smith said. “A lot of strength and gym work as well. “Me and dad go down to the footy oval and mum as well, and we do a lot of skill work stuff as well which has really helped.”

Looking forward, the likely high draft pick has her sights set exactly where she has had them for most of her life – the AFL Women’s Draft – but she remains grounded and focused, setting little goals at a time.

“I probably don’t try to look too far into the future, I just try to stay in the moment and set little goals that are achievable with a short amount of time” Smith said. “Then look to the next thing, I don’t try to look too far into the future and set massive goals.”

Watch out for one of the next big stars coming through the ranks after a sensational body of work throughout her junior football career.