ONE of four fresh faces in the AFL Women’s landscape, Essendon has already made a splash since being announced as an expansion team. Recruiting a plethora of talented, readymade options from other clubs, the red and black side has its sights set on being competitive from day one. With a former league best and fairest winner headlining the recruits, the Bombers also picked up a number of VFLW talent past and present to round out a strong foundation list heading into the 2022 AFLW Draft.
AFLW DRAFT PICKS: 4, 8, 32, 35, 47, 64, 82, 100 | VIC DRAFT POOL: 2, 4, 17, 19, 25, 35, 43, 53
Essendon could be the latest ‘villain’ in the AFL Women’s, taking over the role from North Melbourne who made a similarly imposing statement when the Kangaroos entered the league. The Bombers wasted no time announcing two of its biggest signings via rival Carlton with Madison Prespakis and Georgia Gee donning the sash. They were joined by fellow childhood Bombers in ex-Pie Sophie Alexander and ex-Bulldog Bonnie Toogood, whilst Essendon also acquired signatures of Geelong’s Sophie Van De Heuvel, Fremantle’s Stephanie Cain, among a host of others who will have immediate impact at the club. Naturally VFLW captain and ex-Roo Georgia Nanscawen earned the title of inaugural signing.
The Bombers received their first two picks inside the top eight at four and eighth, judged the strongest of the expansion sides heading into trade period. Few disagreed with that assumption, but given Hawthorn is the only other Victorian expansion club, it meant the Bombers have two picks in the top four. The Hawks have the first say, but with Oakleigh Chargers’ Jasmine Fleming a childhood Hawks fan, she may well be given the honour of the first pick. The other standout option is of course Western Jets Montana Ham. The tall inside midfielder/forward won the Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) and best on ground in the AFLW Academy game, and is one who will play from Round 1. She trained with the Bombers over the summer, so a combination of her and close friend Jets captain, Charlotte Baskaran makes sense. Hawthorn of course might have a say with the pick in between given they have the third selection, with Dandenong Stingrays duo Amber Clarke and Mackenzie Eardley another potential pairing.
Essendon next come in with Pick 17 in the Victorian draft pool, with only Geelong in between their third and fourth selections. The Bombers may well look to rebounding defender Laura Elliott with one of their later selections, creating a real Western Jets feel at the club. Krystal Russell is arguably the pick of the rucks and could be a good backup to Jorja Borg, whilst the Bombers could eye off some project tall talents, particularly down the defensive end in Mia Van Dyke or Emily Everist. Essendon has long been associated with the Calder Cannons, and the versatile Abbey McDonald and tackling machine Reese Sutton among the top prospects out of the Cannons program. Tegan Williams would be a good switch option for the Bombers, capable of playing up either end and taking contested marks. Northern Territory talent and inside midfielder/forward J’Noemi Anderson could also be a solid chance late whilst she completes her schooling in Melbourne.
Essendon has already built a really strong foundation from which to hit the ground running in the AFL Women’s competition. The Bombers have a nice balance across the board, but look particularly potent through the middle, and that is where games are won and loss. No doubt looking to add some future stars to the list in multiple positions around the ground, the Bombers have plenty of choices, starting with two top four picks.