ENTERING the third month of the year, a number of 2022 AFL Women’s Draft prospects have already staked their claims with impressive early-season form. The Victorian and Tasmanian prospects – as well as a sprinkling of NSW-ACT talents – have had the most runs on the board in terms of games thanks to the NAB League about to enter Round 7, whilst South Australian talents (four rounds) and West Australian prospects (two) have gotten their seasons underway as well. We take a look at some names who have caught the eye, and those having impressive starts across the country.
The NAB League has played the most football thus far of any league, and the greatest understanding of form from the Victorian prospects is able to be established.
Coming into the year, Jasmine Fleming was the name touted as taking over the new top Victorian pick from ex-teammate Charlie Rowbottom, with a number of other highly rated talents. Among those, the likes of Montana Ham, Charlotte Baskaran and Amber Clarke among the top ranked talents. Others who showed signs in their bottom-age year included leading goalkicker at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, Paige Scott, and smooth midfielders, Sofia Hurley and Claire Ransom.
Most have remained among the top prospects in the Victorian pool, with Zarlie Goldsworthy (who could equally be NSW/ACT pool being from Albury and a member of the GIANTS Academy) being the draft bolter this year. Another couple of names who could feature after consistent years include Eastern Ranges’ Mia Busch and Dandenong Stingrays’ Charley Ryan. With Mackenzie Eardley the top Victorian tall, the Stingrays are likely to have three or possibly even four players among the top Victorian prospects.
A few other names from a later perspective to keep in mind include Eastern Ranges tall Mia Austin, Dandenong Stingrays winger Taylah Gatt, Northern Knights’ Rylie Wilcox, Murray Bushrangers talent Madison Gray and Greater Western Victoria Rebels defender Jamie-Lee Speakman. It is an even Victorian crop this year, with plenty of opportunity for others to stand up.
South Australia has produced more future talent than any other state across the country with a jaw-dropping 2024 AFLW Draft crop that surpasses the rest. Looking at this year, there are three talents who stand out, headlined by leading talent Hannah Ewings. The North Adelaide midfielder/forward has had a sensational SANFLW season thus far, bouncing back from an ankle injury that put a line through the majority of her 2021 season.
Looming as first round talents on abilities, fellow AFLW Academy member Keeley Kustermann has been such a balanced player over the past few years, and racked up a round-high 31 disposals a couple of weeks back for the Bloods in their loss to Central District. The South Australian bolter has been Sarah Goodwin who has caught the eye with her skills and run off half-back to be one of the more prolific ball-winners.
The other South Australians who have pieced together some great starts to the season include Norwood’s Lana Schwerdt and Sachi Syme, with South Adelaide ruck Jemma Ellis and North Adelaide defender Amelie Borg able to hold down key roles.
After scooping up the Most Valuable Player (MVP) last year, Peel Thunder’s Ella Roberts is still a few weeks away from returning after breaking her ankle during a basketball match in the off-season. When she does she will no doubt catch attention again ahead of the AFLW Under 19 Championships.
In her absence, Lauren Wakfer has been the most dominant junior in the WAFL Women’s competition, having standout back-to-back games for South Fremantle. Starting ruck and then rotating forward, Wakfer has hit the scoreboard in both games, and managed to get involved across the ground. Her Bulldogs teammate Ashleigh Reidy is the other AFLW Academy member in the squad, and though she missed Round 2 due to a family bereavement, she lit up Round 1 against West Perth and could have had more given she booted four behinds to go with her three goals, 16 disposals and five marks.
Western Australia does not quite have the same depth at the top-age level it has in past years, with an even split across the board after the AFLW Academy members. Swan Districts Tara Stribley and Claremont’s Emily Elkington are among the next group to impress, with Abbygail Bushby one with good upside as well. Given the evenness of the group, Western Australia looms as the best place to find mature-age talent this year.
After a big year for the Brisbane Lions Academy last year, the Gold Coast Suns Academy seems to have the chocolates in terms of higher ranked prospects in 2022. Alana Gee is the classiest of the group, and has a great blend of skill and athleticism to make her the most damaging Queensland prospect, and one who in a national pool, would be bordering around the Top 10 mark.
Athletic Suns ruck Fleur Davies is another who has been ultra-impressive over the past six months, and certainly the standout tall from the northern states. She and Brisbane Lions hard nut Ella Smith are the other AFLW Academy members, but Queensland has some nice depth outside the trio.
Gold Coast midfield duo Imogen Evans and Jasmyn Smith are an impressive one-two combination of inside and outside along with the balanced Gee, whilst Ella Calleja is a high-upside forward. Brisbane’s Charlotte Mullins is a versatile type who is equally as hard on the inside as classy as she can be on the outside, whilst Ava Seton just continues to put up mind-boggling numbers as an inside midfielder in the Academy games.
Sandringham Dragons midfielder/forward J’Noemi Anderson is the Northern Territory’s AFLW Academy member and therefore linked to the Suns through the Gold Coast Academy. She is yet to feature at NAB League level in 2022.
Though yet to kick off their respective leagues across the states, the two AFLW Academy members in Cynthia Hamilton and Dakota Mason are the front runners for their respective Academies. Hamilton is a far more known quantity, having won the Allies’ MVP last year as a bottom-ager at the AFLW Under 19 Championships and being a ferocious player between midfield and forward. Mason is a little less known having played at Under 17s level for the Swans last year, but is one regarded highly for her potential upside having impressed at that level.
Given Goldsworthy is Albury-based and therefore NSW-ACT, she is the top player from the region, with Bushrangers teammate Zara Hamilton and dangerous forward Olivia Cicolini among the more recognised GIANTS Academy players. Unfortunately, the latter was assisted off the ground in her latest NAB League outing.