IN a ongoing weekly feature on Rookie Me Central, we hone in on those players to remember for the AFLW Draft, present and future. With four new AFLW clubs joining the competition, spots will heat up, and players will be looking to put their best foot forward. For this piece, we have looked at those players who might not be catching the headlines, but are worth both clubs and fans keeping an eye on. Today’s article focuses around the AFLW Academy match and the states leagues.
PRESENT (2022 AFLW Draft)
Demon Fellows steps up for Under 23s
Though Geelong VFLW’s Tamara Smith won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the Under 23s side against the AFLW Academy and was terrific in her own right given her hardness and consistency across four quarters, one player who might have slipped under the radar after that performance was Casey Demons’ Tahlia Fellows. When assessing draftability, you look for someone with eye-catching traits, and Fellows certainly had those. She was quick off the mark, had a nice vertical jump and was able to get to the right spots around the ground.
The midfielder who could also drift forward picked up 16 disposals – second to Smith, and was clean by hand, also sending it inside 50 three times. She was forced to win almost double her possessions under pressure, with 11 of her possessions found in the contest. Fellows’ ability to win the contested ball but burst away and provide run on the outside was key, even chipping in with a clever goal in the first term. Overall, Fellows showcased traits that could be transferred to the elite level.
Wilcox the standout winger
The wing role has become more important in the modern Australian rules football game, and Northern Knights’ Rylie Wilcox is the specialist pick of the bunch. She started her career as a small forward with incredible class, but the 158cm talent has been a really impressive winger in 2022, covering the ground with ease and even getting back into the defensive 50 to be able to take the game on and propel forward. She has great skills, knows where the goals are, and can be incredibly creative when going inside 50, which is why she moved up to twelfth overall in our May Power Rankings.
Boag stands up in Goodwin absence
State Academy talent Ella Boag has shown plenty this year and has put herself right in the frame for AFLW Draft calculations off the back of a strong SANFLW season. Her AFLW Under 18s Championships also shed light on her ability to match it with the best, providing a lot of run off a wing. She has played there for Glenelg in the SANFLW this season, but in the absence of fellow teenager Sarah Goodwin, Boag slotted into half-back and won a Breakthrough Player of the Year nomination in the final round, picking up 18 disposals, two marks, five tackles and five rebound 50s. We have her ranked just outside our Top 40, and the eighth State Academy top-age prospect.
Mature-age options worth a look in WAFLW
Whilst the West Australian youth has some serious talent headlined by top pick Ella Roberts, there is definitely a case for clubs to look at the WAFLW for its mature-agers. Many of the teenagers are more developing talents, whilst clubs – particularly Fremantle and West Coast – can plug gaps or fill needs with readymade options. Claremont trio Mikayla Western (wing/forward), Tessa Doumanis (forward) and Ella Smith (inside midfielder) should be considered, as should Peel Thunder’s two ‘JBs’ in Jaide Britton (wing) and Jade Briggs (forward/midfielder). Subiaco’s Tarnica Golisano as per this piece last week is another immediate option, whilst East Fremantle’s Julia Teakle is a tall chance, but there are plenty more as outlined in our State-by-State AFLW Draft Watch.
>> State-by-State AFLW Draft Watch: May
FUTURE (2023 AFLW Draft and Beyond…)
Claremont’s Claudia catches the eye
One name to note down for a couple of years time is Under 16s talent Claudia Wright. Though the Claremont 15-year-old only won the nine disposals, she was clean, composed and able to impact the contest during the Tigers’ win over Swan Districts playing at half-forward. No doubt someone earmarked for a midfield role in the future, Wright is an eye-catcher with the way she moves and is able to be involved in the transitional drive of her side.
Brooksby the wing to watch
Norwood has a number of AFLW Draft prospects this year both top-age and mature-age, but winger Molly Brooksby is a name to remember. Though she has featured in this piece before, Brooksby spent more time around the stoppages in challenging conditions against South Adelaide, and was able to extract the ball well and burst away at times to really catch the eye. Possessing high-level endurance and nice speed, she has a lovely kicking action and one who has neat skills and ticks a lot of boxes. Another year of development will help her become a versatile midfielder to watch in 2023.