Mentors help Wakfer ruck up a storm

RUCKING requires some of the more specific skills on the Aussie Rules football field, and West Australian tall Lauren Wakfer is learning them from some of the best. The South Fremantle product, and Fremantle Dockers fan, is gunning for this year’s AFLW Draft, hoping to walk in the footsteps of a couple key mentors.

She’s had high level support since picking up footy in 2018, with Western Australia’s Under 18 coach Beau McDonald providing ruck-specific tutelage, while former Bulldog and current Dockers AFLW player Mim Strom is a talent to look up to at the next level.

“Beau’s probably my big (mentor),” Wakfer said. “He’s a ruck himself, so he kind of took me under his wing when I was young and just really pinpointed the nit-picky stuff with me. It was very ruck specific and helped me individually along the way. He’s just been amazing, full credit to him honestly.

“(I look up to) Mim Strom from Freo. I did a Next Generation Academy with them and she was one of my mentors, so I kind of got a few tips and tricks off her.”

The learnings gained from such quality teachers has set Wakfer on a “strategic” path, where her greatest strengths an areas for improvement are clear to see.

“My brand of footy is I’m a jumper, being a ruck,” she said. “I really like taking high grabs and jumping for the hitouts, I get the first hit on the ball. Just being able to dictate the play from there… (I’m working on) more strategic play. With the ruck taps, yeah I can win it, but winning it isn’t always about being able to hit it forward, you have to be able to hit it to a person or to a spot where your teammate is going to get it.”

Wakfer in West Australian colours during last year’s National Championships | Credit: Rookie Me Central

Harnessing her quality along the elite talent pathway, the 18-year-old has earned plenty of plaudits. After representing her state’s Under 19 side in 2021, she made the AFLW Academy cut for 2022, going around in the Black Ducks jumper once more to take out the starting All Australian ruck spot.

With plenty of senior WAFLW experience under her belt too, Wakfer has waxed with top talent across multiple levels and has a perspective on the difference between each competition.

“If I compare this game to WAFL level, everybody is just so elite and everyone is here for the same reason,” she said. “WAFL footy is still really good footy and we get to play with the older and more mature girls who have so much experience, whereas coming to play with girls the same age as you and here for the same purpose as you just gives you a little bit of an extra push.

“Just being able to play against everyone from the different national teams. I don’t think I can pick a favourite, everyone has such a different playing style and being able to adapt and having to get out there and give it a go.”

The competition was steep for Western Australia in this year’s Under 18 carnival, but Wakfer also “gets to brag” that she played alongside the likes of star forward Ella Roberts. She’s come a long way since starting out locally just a few years ago, with only the national combine and draft day left to experience in her junior journey.

Given her allegiance to Fremantle, Wakfer has her “fingers crossed” she can remain in Western Australia and end up in purple.

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