State-by-State AFLW Draft Watch: May
ON Monday night, Rookie Me Central released its second 2022 AFL Women’s Draft Power Rankings for the year. It featured 30 detailed profiles, with 10 additional names included. Though there were 40 players named there, with expansion here, there will be an additional 120-plus players making their way on AFL Women’s lists for 2023 (or perhaps later this year).
In this article, we will follow up from the Power Rankings and discuss some more names across the country who are impressing, including a focus on mature-age talent that clubs may look to, in order to provide immediate relief to certain positions. We will sort it state-by-state and who is standing out.
South Australia further illustrated why the SANFL Women’s is the strongest state league in the country, triumphing at the AFLW Under 18 Championships. In the May Power Rankings we had seven South Australians making the Top 40, all of whom were from that carnival side.
The next highest ranked player who could well fit into that group is Glenelg’s Ella Boag. The running winger showcased her ability off half-back in the absence of highly touted teammate Sarah Goodwin, and she has plenty of upside for the future. Though she started in the Development League this year, Boag had a memorable debut and held her spot in the Bays’ lineup, then earned a last round Breakthrough Player of the Year nomination from her weekend’s performance. She has terrific speed and endurance, and can use the football well with time and space.
Aside from Boag, the two other state representatives who could be ones to watch at this stage are forward Tahlia Walker and tough midfielder Cher Waters. Walker has proven to be a clever leading forward with good hands, whilst Waters has a nice attack on the ball and is a neat user on the inside. Inside midfielder/forward Ella Little is a readymade option with good hands and strength on the inside, whilst Charlie Scutchings and Dakota Williams played all three championship games and have some eye-catching athletic traits.
Looking to the mature-age options in the SANFLW, one who was on the verge of making it into the Top 40 was Norwood’s Jade Halfpenny. The athletic forward-turned-midfielder has enjoyed a fantastic season, was close to making it onto an AFLW list last year, and has plenty of potential to take the next step given her clean hands and versatility. Her Redlegs teammate Tesharna Maher had a ripping finish to the SANFLW and would inject pace around the stoppages and has high upside. A couple of forwards who has improved this season are Grace Mulvahil and Alana Lishmund. Mulvahil represented the Allies and can play on any line, whilst Lishmund won the SANFLW leading goalkicker award, has a long left boot and good hands.
North Adelaide finished the season as minor premiers and exciting forward Jade De Melo did her chances of a recall no harm, showing her class and could be an immediate inclusion to a new side like Port Adelaide. As previously mentioned in this piece, Kristi Harvey is the best full-back outside the AFLW, and though she is turning 34 later this year, could be someone who could easily step into a role at the top level. The Roosters also have a couple of wingers to remember, with Erica Greet and former Eagles runner Katelyn Pope both more than capable of making the jump up. Another former listed AFLW player in Jaimi Tabb also had a strong season.
Glenelg has a lot of mature-age talents who have had great seasons, with Jessica Bates leading the competition in kicks, handballs, tackles and clearances to do everything in her power to suggest she could step up with ease. Her midfield partner-in-crime and captain Ellie Kellock would be another great choice, with another consistent season and someone who can hit the scoreboard as well as dominate the clearances. If Port Adelaide is looking for a readymade forward then Caitlyn Swanson is a dangerous option inside 50.
Sturt reigning best and fairest winner Isobel Kuiper is a readymade inside midfielder who is still young and plays the role to perfection, whilst rebounding defender Alex Ballard has some of the safest hands going around. She, along with former state teammate Georgia Swan have both had superb seasons, whilst Ellie Lynch is one of a number of Sturt midfielders, but catches the eye with her decision making and kicking.
One of the higher ranked South Australians would be Gypsy Schirmer who was one of the most unlucky to miss out last year, having been a member of the AFLW Academy. She has become a reliable defender in 2022, and would be a monty to be considered, whilst versatile speedster Tahlita Buethke is another who earned a Draft Combine invite last year. Newcomers to the Panthers outfit, Jess Waterhouse and Senna Gulden have played some impressive footy at times, with Waterhouse possessing an elite kick and great forward craft, whilst Gulden’s late season move from Sydney has seen her step up without any issues.
Central District captain Shelby Smith could not have done much more this year and deserves a chance at the top level, with another ridiculously consistent season. Turning 31 later this year, Smith has been getting better with age, so could easily impact for a few seasons yet. Of the younger brigade, Madison Lane is the pick of the bunch, with fantastic skills and neat rebounding skills, she is one who is very comfortable behind the ball. Lauren Breguet is another Bulldogs youngster who can be very damaging inside 50 on her day.
Woodville-West Eagles has a mix of previously experienced AFLW talents and future ones, and if looking to make the step up to the next level, then Abbey Dowrick is easily AFLW standard and would slot into a lineup having now excelled in two states in the same year. She will be looking to joining sister McKenzie on an AFLW list, whilst another sister – that of Mikayla Hyde – in Brianna Hyde has stepped up since moving into the midfield for the Eagles. Ex-Bendigo Pioneers forward Chantelle Mitchell has a lot of upside and might be one for future years with continued development.
West Adelaide had a down season, but there are some names to keep in mind for the future, with inside midfielders Zoe Venning and Jess Macolino both in consideration. Venning should earn a call-up having been close last season, and remained a consistent ball-winner for the Bloods in 2022. Macolino is 29-years-old, but would be an immediate midfield option who racks up the ball. As an out of the box option, remember the name Lily Johnston. She might need another season at the level, but the 23-year-old Tasmanian has some serious upside, with good hands, a lovely kick and great decision making as a high half-forward.
Western Australia does not have an expansion side coming in, so the options within the state are less, but some might consider moving interstate should neither Fremantle nor West Coast look to select them. From Monday’s Power Rankings, three West Australians were picked up, though a fourth from the State Academy – the silky Emily Elkington was just outside that range. Possessing potentially the best kick in the AFLW Draft crop, what Elkington might lack in size, she makes up for in sheer footballing ability, and she can play inside, outside or up forward.
Having already played a game for the Dockers, Claremont’s Mikayla Western is the first name to keep in mind. She has enjoyed a strong season for the Tigers thus far, has elite speed and knows her way around goals. Claremont has no shortage of potential draft options, with fellow forward Tessa Doumanis also having attracted interest. Their captain Ella Smith was crowned the best player in the league last year, and she has followed that up with a strong season either side of injury and should be considered once again.
East Fremantle’s Julia Teakle has had a breakout debut season in the WAFLW since coming down from Northampton. Though not always consistent, she has a good pair of hands and can hit the scoreboard well, being athletic enough to hurt opposition teams in a number of ways. Her teammate Anjelique Raison played State Under 18s this year, and has managed to play as a tall defender, tall forward and ruck. An out of the box option might be winger Abbey Amaranti who has impressed with her work on the outside and getting it inside 50.
Swan Districts have the state’s third prospect in Abbygail Bushby who made it into the Power Rankings on Monday, but always have a few names to remember. Over-age defender Isabella Edgley is having a good season this year, with nice reading of the play and a long, reliable kick. Tara Stribley is currently injured but has had some big games this year as a winger and possesses nice upside, whilst captain Jessica Cox (elite kick, good strength) and Mel Hardy (nice skills, athletic) are two other names among a plethora of potential players.
Peel Thunder might have slipped down the ladder a bit on last year, but will earn the state’s top pick this year in Ella Roberts. A top-age option who has pieced together some nice moments and has some exciting traits is Aisha Wright, whilst booming left-footer Jade Briggs and speedy winger Jaide Britton are other mature-age talents who should be considered by AFLW clubs. Competition leading goalkicker Kate Bartlett is easily good enough to return to the top level if given a chance. State Under 18s captain Bella Mann also had a really impressive Under 18s carnival.
Of the bottom three sides, Subiaco captain Tarnica Golisano is a readymade option to step up to the top level for a midfield that needs her, whilst Madison Dodd is a running half-back and Hayley Corlett has potential as a utility. South Fremantle forward Poppy Stockwell has high upside if a club can harness her as a forward, whilst Kiara Templeman is running defender with some upside. West Perth has not had a great debut season, but could be one with a few draftees over the coming years.
In the Sunshine State, there were six state representatives named in the Power Rankings, but a number of other possibilities who might be a focus. Brisbane Lions talented forward Kadie Fletcher is one who has high upside, whilst the exciting twins of Litonya Cockatoo-Motlap and Laquoiya Cockatoo-Motlap are over-agers who have developed well this year. Ella Calleja is inconsistent but could be anything with future development given her athletic traits, whilst Kiara Hillier and Ava Seton have been ultra consistent players this year.
With the QAFLW still in early days, a greater focus on the mature-age prospects will come with time, but Aspley’s Abby Hewett is a former Queensland representative and a natural footballer and a name to keep in mind from those overlooked last year.
In terms of the Northern Territory prospects, AFLW Academy member J’Noemi Anderson made her way into the Power Rankings after a strong national championships. In 2022 there are not a lot of top-age potential players, with Erini Gikas the pick of the 2004-born talents having impressed on the outside for the Allies this year. Over-age prospect Cassie McWilliams played as a ruck for the Allies and Under 23s side against the AFLW Academy last week, and is another name to remember. A mature-age option is North Adelaide small forward Doreena Hansen who has some impressive upside.
With NSW/ACT’s top two AFLW Draft prospects either nominating Victoria or considering nominating Victoria, the Swans and GIANTS will be looking to see what value there is available, with Zara Hamilton (in Power Rankings) potentially the top pick. AFLW Academy member Dakota Mason is the pick of the Sydney Swans Academy, with over-agers April Devine and Madeline Convery some potential talents. Asha Turner Funk is another Swans-listed talent who looked good for NSW-ACT, whilst GIANTS tall Georgie Jaques impressed up forward.
Murray Bushrangers small forward India Lehman might be the pick of the smalls with Olivia Cicolini also having a good year, whilst Grace Painting has some good upside having gained experience through AFL Sydney. Her Pennant Hills teammate Ella Morris is another name to remember, with a focus on NSW/ACT talent to come in the following weeks given the competitions will take centre stage alongside the QAFLW in June.
As always, the options in Victoria and the Apple Isle are plentiful, with the depth superb,. First looking at Tasmania, Claire Ransom was the sole one picked in the Top 40, but just outside that is over-ager Meghan Gaffney who pieced together some fantastic football. She had a really strong NAB League Girls campaign and looked good for the Allies. Another couple of Tasmanian names to remember include rebounding defender Courtney Hingston, and inside midfielder Candice Belbin.
From Victoria it will be easier to look position-by-position. In defence, there are a number of tall options who have been rebounding players, who also have defensive traits. It includes Murray Bushrangers’ Grace Hay, Sandringham Dragons’ Georgia Foran and Oakleigh Chargers’ Erin Woodford. All three are often intercept markers who drive the ball down the field, whilst the athletic Emily Everist has been a late developer for the Pioneers, earned Vic Country representation and held her own there pushing up the ground from defence. Versatile Geelong Falcons utility and over-ager Elizabeth Dowling started her career in defence before going forward and moving into the midfield. Northern Knights’ Brooke Plummer had a good championships to showcase her balance of offensive and defensive traits.
Two running talents who have spent time in defence as well as midfield are Gippsland Power’s Yasmin Duursma, – who will look to join her brother Xavier at Port Adelaide by nominating South Australia – and Calder Cannons’ Abbey McDonald. Dandenong Stingrays duo Brooke Smith and Sarah Hosking are also utilised as running half-backs who can play further afield. Geelong Falcons’ Mia Van Dyke is an ultimate utility playing in all three lines, but has spent the most time in defence.
Looking up the other end, key forward Tegan Williams has made the transition from back to forward, is a strong mark and a terrific kick of the football. She is a rare key forward option in Victoria, with the Pioneers tall alongside the likes of Geelong over-ager Analea McKee, and Oakleigh Chargers’ Amelie Smith. Calder Cannons athletic medium forward Heidi Woodley earned a Vic Metro spot as well and could be considered.
Though rare, a couple of rucks who have put their hands up this season after strong NAB League Girls campaigns are Western Jets’ Krystal Russell and Geelong Falcons’ Keeley Hardingham. Russell is a tap out exponent and is rarely beaten at the stoppages, whilst Hardingham is more known for her around the ground work to amass plenty of touches and provide a marking target.
Clearly there will be no shortage of midfielders available in the AFLW Draft from the NAB League, with a few who were amongst the extended list of the Top 40 including Western Jets’ Stephanie Asciak, as well as the in-form ones coming off strong carnivals in Reese Sutton and Charlotte Simpson. All three are high-level tackling machines, as is another Falcon who has had her fair share of injury time off this year in Ashleigh Van Loon. Another inside midfielder would be Felicity Crank, whilst smooth-moving Stingrays midfielders Olivia Robinson and Charlotte Blair would be in the mix.
Able to provide run and play outside is Murray Bushrangers wing/defender Tayissa Gray, whilst players going from defence to midfield this year are GWV Rebels ‘Molly Walton and Oakleigh Chargers’ Lily Hart. Western Jets’ Trinity Skenderis was another name who attracted over-age interest.
From the VFLW, Casey Demons’ Tahlia Fellows did her AFLW Draft chances no harm with a terrific outing for the Under 23s side against Vic Country, whilst ex-Pios ruck now Dogs tall Madeline Marks has also developed this year. Expect a number of state league talents to be looked at closely particularly with expansion, and some readymade Geelong midfielders are Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard. Bulldogs defender Eliza Vale and Collingwood running talent Nyakoat Dojiok, as well as Williamstown tall Sophia McCarthy all played in the Under 23s game.
Plenty more are yet to be pre-signed or looked at, with the Draft Combine still to come, and a number of NAB League Girls filtering into the VFLW programs.