LAST night Rookie Me Central‘s AFL Women’s Draft experts took up the challenge of the club recruiters in the first Phantom Draft. In a special episode of Game Sense podcast, Rookie Me Central Chief Editor Peter Williams, AFLW Draft Editor Michael Alvaro and AFLW Draft analyst Declan Reeve, took over multiple sides without knowing what the other recruiters were doing.
The Rookie Me Central team completed a full AFL Women’s Draft, with the Top 30 put to audio to listen below. Each hypothetical recruiter had the following teams:
Peter Williams: Adelaide, Brisbane, Collingwood, Fremantle, Port Adelaide, West Coast
Michael Alvaro: Carlton, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Richmond, Western Bulldogs
Declan Reeve: GWS GIANTS, Melbourne, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Sydney
Here’s how the Top 30 picks went down, including explanations as to why.
Pick #1 | Sydney – Montana Ham (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
The Western Jets star is an outstanding choice for the top pick in this year’s AFLW Draft. It was a no-brainer since Ham opted to go north, and the Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) and equal Western Jets best and fairest winner will have an immediate impact. She is just as capable through the midfield as she is up forward, showing strength overhead and through the stoppage with her powerful burst allowing her to break free and kick more than 50m to put pressure on opposition defence.
Pick #2 | Hawthorn – Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
Much like with Pick 1, this was a relatively straightforward choice. Lifelong Hawthorn fan, Fleming ends up in the brown and gold and is a prospect whose nature off-field has helped her thrive on-field. A talented all-round sportsperson with elite pedigree, the Oakleigh Chargers product can play on all three lines but is best suited to the midfield. She’s a burst player who hunts with repeat efforts and can stream away from congestion, also possessing a deadly right foot. Hawks fans will love watching her as much as she’ll enjoy representing the club.
Pick #3 | Port Adelaide – Hannah Ewings (North Adelaide/South Australia)
There was no ifs, buts or maybes for this selection, with Ewings being the standout prospect from South Australia this year. Starring for the Roosters in the SANFLW and having a full season after an ankle injury put a line through her year in 2021, Ewings earned All-Australian honours, booted the most goals at the AFLW Under 18 Championships, and could easily lineup in the Power’s starting midfield in 2022. One who can dominate wherever she plays with a booming, elite kick and strong hands both in the air, and at ground level.
Pick #4 | Essendon – Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
It is not an easy decision for the Bombers here at Pick 4, with the eventual selection going to the standout key position player in the AFLW Draft. Knowing the Hawks would be keen to snap her up with the next selection, the Bombers can sure up their future defence with a tall who can intercept and use the ball with outstanding skill rare for a tall. She can play anywhere on the field, but is best suited to behind the ball where she can read the play and impact the game in transition. One who is a natural leader, having co-captained the Dandenong Stingrays this season.
Pick #5 | Sydney – Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
Another straightforward choice for the Swans, with the Vic Metro representative and back-to-back Sandringham Dragons best and fairest winner choosing NSW-ACT as her state nomination. Having built an illustrious junior career, Hurley will complement Ham in the Swans’ side as an inside midfielder with great evasion and nice hands. She can also breakaway from the stoppages and impact going forward, with her at her most damaging when given time and space to use the ball.
Pick #6 | Hawthorn – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
Pick #7 | Port Adelaide – Sarah Goodwin (Glenelg/South Australia)
After playing in a variety of roles for Glenelg in her bottom-age year, Goodwin stepped up to become one of the premier half-backs in the SANFL Women’s competition in 2022. She has elite skills, great decision making and moves well through traffic, pinpointing passes and being one of the most eye-catching outside players. It will be no surprise whatsoever to hear her named called out at this selection, having had an outstanding AFLW Under 18s carnival as well, where she earned All-Australian honours for the Croweaters. Goodwin joins Ewings at Alberton and is another readymade prospect for Round 1.
Pick #8 | Essendon – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
When it comes to natural leaders, few could reach the heights that Baskaran has since bursting onto the NAB League Girls scene as a 14-year-old. Having been trialled in a variety of positions across the field, Baskaran is best as a midfielder, with clean hands, slick foot skills and outstanding decision making. She has won best and fairests, captained club and representative sides, and is arguably the most consummate professional to come through the junior pathways. A perfect addition for an expansion side, Baskaran is the type of player who will do well learning off experienced Bombers teammates and seems a future AFLW captain.
Pick #9 | Hawthorn – Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
Running with the theme of flexibility, the first of back-to-back picks for Hawthorn will likely be Hipwell. The Sandringham Dragons gun is a terrific athlete with enormous upside, able to add a touch of class in midfield or some dynamism up forward. Though injury interrupted the back-end of her season, she has been a proven quantity for many years as a junior, and is a talent whose scope will excite the Hawks. With their first three picks in this draft, Hawthorn has exciting positional depth, with all three able to impact in different roles before inevitably taking the midfield by storm.
Pick #10 | Hawthorn – Rylie Wilcox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
Speaking of excitement, Wilcox brings plenty of it with her style of play. Compared all year to new Essendon recruit Georgia Gee, the Northern Knights standout operates just as well on the wing as she does as a small forward. Though still quite slight, Wilcox works as hard as anyone going both ways and is a difference maker with her sound decision making. Add the ability to hit the scoreboard, and she is a prospect whose list of desirable traits is long. A team of 22 Wilcox’s wouldn’t work, but every team needs at least one. Hawthorn may well do so.
Pick #11 | Sydney – Cynthia Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers/NSW-ACT)
The inside midfielder/forward has been the standout NSW-ACT prospect over the past two years, with her hardness at the contest, strong tackling and ability to compete with much bigger opponents on show. She earned the Allies’ MVP at the 2021 AFLW Under 19 Championships, and made back-to-back All-Australians. Though a member of the GIANTS Academy, Hamilton is a Swans fan and will rejoice in being able to not only join her childhood club, but also alongside her sister, Lexi.
Pick #12 | Sydney (Committed) – Montana Beruldsen (Hawthorn VFLW)
Pick #13 | Sydney (Committed) – Alice Mitchell (Gunnedah)
Pick #14 | West Coast – Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
The standout player in the 2022 AFL Women’s Draft crop, West Coast will be thrilled to have the generational talent join the club. Roberts is incredible both in the air and at ground level, having put together three outstanding years between Peel Thunder and Western Australia representation. Winning the AFLW Under 19 Championships Most Valuable Player (MVP) last year, as well as back-to-back WA MVPs and All-Australian honours. The Eagles will not be able to read her name out fast enough such is her talent.
Pick #15 | West Coast – Abbygail Bushby (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
Though leading up to the draft this selection was locked in as Lauren Wakfer, Bushby has earned the right to compete for one of the Eagles first three selections. It could well still be Wakfer even though the ruck has injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but if the Eagles believe Fremantle will not carry the AFLW Academy member, then Bushby would be the selection here. The talented mid/forward has athletic traits that catch the eye, and she gains metres and can hit the scoreboard when forward. She lifted her overall production numbers this year and would be in the sights of both sides. If the Eagles pick Wakfer, expect Bushby to potentially end up in purple with the Dockers’ first selection.
Pick #16 | St Kilda – Taylah Gatt (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
A prominent winger, Gatt has speed to burn and is a high impact-per-possession player. Having a breakout year for the Dandenong Stingrays in 2022, Gatt earned Vic Country honours where she starred against Vic Metro at Ballarat. Though not a huge accumulator, she uses the ball so well, and nearly every touch results in an inside 50, quite often in a scoring opportunity for whatever side she is running out for at any level.
Pick #17 | Carlton – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
A dual state MVP, Skepper is exactly the kind of character Carlton needs. She provides consistent effort and is the type of enthusiastic teammate others love to have on their side. With the likes of Mimi Hill, Maddy Guerin, and Keeley Sherar likely to roll inside after an off-season exodus, Skepper can provide that fold on the outer while she develops, and perhaps even plug a hole in Carlton’s typically tall defence. Her weapon of a left-foot kick and versatility should see her impact early on.
Pick #18 | Carlton – Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
It is no secret that Carlton loves selecting childhood Bluebaggers, and Taylor fits that bill. The Blues have also regularly dipped into the Oakleigh Chargers talent pool – another tick for Taylor. Much like Skepper, she’s a player whose effort and contested acumen suits the Blues’ needs, and her ability to double as a tall forward may be another factor which suits Carlton’s plans. Also capable of winning her own ball in midfield, she covers a lot of gaps, is physically readymade for senior football, and a ripping character to boot.
Pick #19 | Gold Coast – Alana Gee (Southport/Queensland)
Pick #20 | GWS GIANTS – Zarlie Goldsworthy (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
The Albury-based prospect ended up picking NSW-ACT after weighing up her options, and few could match Goldsworthy in terms of her pure production numbers in 2022. The Murray Bushrangers midfielder/forward was incredible all year at NAB League Girls level, kicking a goal in every game, and racking up the ball with ease. She laid plenty of tackles and stuffed the stat sheet, and will be an immediate starter for the GIANTS who will love welcoming one of their zoned athletes into the team.
Pick #21 | Western Bulldogs – Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)
The Western Bulldogs have gone down the Bendigo Pioneers route before at draft time, and could do it again should a talent like Di Donato be available. Versatile as anyone else in the Victorian crop, the medium-sized utility can play at either end of the ground to compliment her work in midfield. Her standout trait is her composure, with the right amount of smarts and skill to use the ball effectively under pressure. Having lost a lot of talent, Di Donato is a prospect the Bulldogs can mould however they see fit.
Pick #22 | Hawthorn – Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
Having effectively nabbed a quartet of midfielder-forwards with their first four picks, Busch is the defensive cover in this range. A product of the Eastern Ranges, the talent region linked to Hawthorn, there is the obvious connection there for Busch to potentially end up in brown and gold. A tenacious competitor who runs hard all day, she’ll likely slot into a role down back but keep sight of rolling up to a wing or even into midfield as her career progresses.
Pick #23 | Port Adelaide – Amelie Borg (North Adelaide/South Australia)
The reliable North Adelaide defender is a point of difference in the South Australian pool this year, with her one-on-one ability amongst the best in the draft. She can lock down on senior forwards and play her role each and every week, with her competitiveness and balance between offensive and defensive traits good. Though more predominantly a lockdown defender, Borg’s aerial marking and positioning allows her to play the odd offensive role, and has the accountability to do it. Grabbing a long-term tall defender is crucial for an expansion side, so expect Port Adelaide to pounce.
Pick #24 | West Coast – Jaide Britton (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
Pick #25 | Hawthorn – Mia Austin (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
Another Hawthorn selection, and a second Ranges talent snapped up in quick time. Austin may well be off the board by this stage, especially with Carlton and the Western Bulldogs seeking forward depth, and Austin’s upside is truly undeniable at Pick 25. She shot to prominence early in this year’s NAB League season, displaying terrific athleticism and a steady set shot routine in her role as a ruck-forward. She could be a handy forward partner for Sarah Perkins to help tutor on the job.
Pick #26 | Hawthorn – Jamie-Lee Speakman (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
Pick #27 | Fremantle – Mikayla Western (Claremont/Western Australia)
Fremantle’s only selection before West Coast finishes off the AFLW Draft, the Dockers have a number of options at this selection. Chances are Lauren Wakfer will be off the board in the real thing, in which case this pick could be Bushby, or even Madeleine Scanlon. In this draft we threw up a player that the Dockers would be keen to see more of, and that is Claremont’s Western who played a game against Melbourne as a top-up player, and has had plenty of promise. Expect her to be among those player Fremantle selects at some stage in the draft, be it here or at the end, but if West Coast was keen to add the outside winger/forward, then the Dockers would have to pounce here.
Pick #28 | North Melbourne – Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
Though suffering an ACL injury at the AFLW Under 18 Championships this year, Ryan is just too good to be left off the board. In the Phantom Draft, North Melbourne pounced on the Dandenong Stingrays’ prospect knowing that most draftees will find it difficult to crack into the Kangaroos’ starting lineup. Therefore, though Ryan will miss Season 7, she is still a valuable prospect and one who will impact once she returns from injury, with high level skill and versatility both midfield and forward.
Pick #29 | Western Bulldogs – Tegan Williams (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
Pick #30 | Collingwood – Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
REST OF THE DRAFT – CLUB-BY-CLUB:
With Adelaide’s first selection at Pick 40, the Crows selected Sturt’s Kiera Mueller, who will provide the run off half-back and is a readymade option for the Crows to compete for a Round 1 spot. Mueller has a terrific left boot and is that year older than most of her State Academy teammates, and was ever-consistent for the Double Blues this season. For the final two selections, Adelaide picked up Glenelg duo Ella Boag and Jessica Bates, with Boag providing the outside run and drive, and Bates being an inside ball-winner who can play forward, having won the league best and fairest this year.
Brisbane was a tricky side to pick for after the first two selections, with standout State Academy members Ella Smith and Charlotte Mullins being the choices. Smith is an inside midfielder who spent more time outside this year, with Mullins also capable of playing in many positions around the ground. The other choices ended up being inside midfielder Ava Seton and a third Aspley prospect in Abby Hewett, though Kadie Fletcher was another high-upside talent considered at the pick/s.
Carlton is in need of goalkickers, particularly of the medium-small variety, meaning a player like Charli Granville was difficult to pass up at pick 48. The Eastern Ranges goalsneak is lively inside 50 and has the kind of speed which will trouble defenders, with this a selection based on upside and trends. Similarly, the Blues’ final pick, Heidi Woodley (67) has plenty of scope for improvement having shown great signs in the back-end of her campaign. She’s another midfielder who can impact up forward with a handy turn of speed.
Collingwood had two remaining selections after Coyne, and opted to go with Dandenong Stingrays’ Olivia Robinson and Amelia Radford. The Magpies might look for a tall in the draft, but in both cases the talls looked at for each pick were taken, so the classy Robinson was selected at Pick 56, and Radford – who is a readymade inside midfielder – was scooped up at Pick 76, to help provide support for the losses of Bri Davey and Britt Bonnici in Season 7.
Essendon had a real mix of players across the board, but sured up roles in the defence, ruck and midfield roles. The Bombers picked up defenders Laura Elliott and Brooke Plummer, midfielder Reese Sutton and ruck Krystal Russell in the draft, as well as inside midfielder/forward J’Noemi Anderson. It means the Bombers have some rebounding types, and extra tall and some hard nuts who will not take a backwards step in Season 7.
Fremantle was a difficult team to pick for given the premiership window contention, and in the end, the Dockers went for a mix of readymade and high-upside talent. The next pick late in the draft was AFLW Draft Combine invite Madeleine Scanlon, before opting for a ‘best available’ scenario with Peel Thunder’s Jade Briggs, and Subiaco duo Tarnica Golisano and Hayley Corlett. Golisano played for Fremantle five years ago, but has enough runs on the board to earn a recall, whilst both Corlett and Wright have had some impressive moments and would flourish in an elite system.
It is usually relatively straightforward selecting for the Cats, though the local and greater Victorian crops are quite even. They came in at pick 34, and in that range it was hard to go past Paige Scott. The GWV Rebels goalkicker is a proven game-winner, and Geelong knows exactly what she is capable of having drafted her into its VFLW side. Next up was Elizabeth Dowling at pick 42, an over-ager who looks primed to step up this year. She shifted forward and played through midfield having cut her teeth as a defender, but still has versatility on her side. Lastly, Kalani Scoullar is a ruck who will likely be in high demand, and potentially a bargain in this range. Like Scott, she is a Rebels product who linked with the Cats’ VFLW side.
After Gee, it made sense for the Suns to snap up their most interstate recent coup – Claire Ransom. The Tasmanian is a classy midfielder who makes great decisions with ball in hand, and while injury curtailed her top-age campaign, she did enough across a variety of roles to showcase her talent. She links with former Devils coach, Cameron Joyce once again. Rounding out the crop are two academy graduates in Jasmyn Smith and Imogen Evans. Smith is arguably the more sure bet, and Evans ticks a lot of boxes so gets our pick in this hypothetical.
Gold Coast Academy ruck Fleur Davies was the next selection and comes in as a ready to go and has a well developed ruck craft with her placement of taps, but also offers a lot in general play as a fierce tackler and athletic tall. AFLW Academy member Dakota Mason and Tasmanian over-ager Madison Brazendale share some similarities with their decision making and evasiveness around the ground. Olivia Cicolini is one that has been a constant in the Murray Bushrangers side over the last two years and adds another natural forward to the list to aid with GWS’s scoring woes. Jemima Wrigley, Jessica Whelan and Emily Eaves are all mature-aged prospects that present as ready to go options should they be required Round 1, all having plied their trade for Southern Power in the AFL Sydney Premier Division.
Speakman was the Hawks’ seventh and final pick in this draft, meaning there was nothing more to add after the 30 picks outlined above. With an exciting bunch of prospects overall, Hawthorn has plenty of positional depth and versatility to work with, bringing in developable athletes who suit the way AFLW is trending.
Melbourne entered the draft late and picked out Emily Everist, who is an intriguing prospect in this year’s pool, with limited exposure but some promising performances throughout the year. She’s one who could be developed in any position with her mix of height, speed and endurance. Whilst one that will likely take some time to become a top level player, she’s got plenty of traits that will hold her in good stead in the future. Amelie Smith is another tall player with a lot of upside, but arguably has a more developed game than Everist currently. Whilst not a high accumulator, Smith has proven over the last two years she can impact games with few touches, and is at her best when inside forward 50 with her strength and athleticism allowing her to reliably take marks one-on-one. Brooke Smith and Molly Walton are just two natural footballers, with Smith a smart defender with good skills and footy IQ, while Walton has a bit more versatility, having proven herself a natural defender and midfielder over the last two seasons, with solid skills but most impressively a superb work rate both ways.
North Melbourne next picked up Abbey McDonald and she has shown in previous seasons that she is a true utility player, able to impact in any third of the ground, with really good positioning behind the ball and an impressive endeavour to tackle opponents. Analea McKee is an over-aged prospect that improved dramatically this season, switching from a defensive post to being her sides number one forward target. Meghan Gaffney and Candice Belbin are both Tasmanian midfielders that compliment each other’s game styles well, with Gaffney an outside leaning speedster and Belbin a contested beast, they both add some welcomed depth to the Kangaroos stacked on-ball brigade.
Port Adelaide seemingly had a lot of picks coming into the draft, but by the time you got to the end, there was still so much talent on the board. They have the potential to pick up a lot of youth with All-Australians Keeley Kustermann and Sachi Syme as well as Gippsland Power’s Yasmin Duursma all provide some great run and carry, with a toss up at the last selection being Lana Schwerdt, though Gypsy Schirmer was the other pick in contention there.
Richmond came into the fold at pick 38, and in this version of the draft, jumped at the chance to pick up Dandenong Stingrays talent Emily Shepherd. The midfielder-forward has plenty of class and potential, combined with a hint of aggression which perhaps suits the Richmond style. Late in the piece, a pair of Geelong Falcons also land at Punt Road. Having recently traded Ingrid Houtsma, Mia Van Dyke is a relatively like-for-like replacement out of the same region, while Grace Purcell is yet another midfielder in the mix. While unavailable due to a long-term knee injury, the sister of Melbourne’s Olivia has talent which may be too much for clubs to overlook.
St Kilda had three late selections in the AFLW Draft, picking out Geelong Falcons midfielder Ashleigh Van Loon, who is very much your ‘no fuss’ inside midfielder, with her consistent application to the contest and hands in close drawing the eye as traits that will hold her in good stead for the next level, and as a strong clearance winner she’s a selection that will compliment Gatt well in the future. Pia Staltari has proven her versatility at the level as someone that can impact in all thirds of the ground well. Most notably however, she’s really developed her craft as a forward this year and is one that rarely wastes opportunities in front of goal. Caitlin Matthews as a father-daughter selection is a great feel good story, missing out on her draft year in 2021, Matthews returned to the Oakleigh Chargers for 2022 and really stepped up in their defensive half, with her performances earning her a Vic Metro inclusion.
The Swans did not make another selection after the five, with Ham, Hurley, Hamilton, Mitchell and Beruldsen easy choices in this year’s AFLW Draft. Mitchell and Beruldsen were both committed to by the Swans and have already started training, with the expansion side to pick the other three tomorrow night. There should be no surprises by those in the Harbour City.
If she was not already taken (which in the real thing she likely would be) expect the Eagles to welcome Lauren Wakfer and get her ready for 2023. She will take over the ruck division in future years and be a standout prospect, with the Eagles also picking up Tara Stribley, Bella Mann and ex-Docker Sabreena Duffy who is too good to not be playing at the top level. The Eagles could pull a surprise here or there, but are in a great position.
The Bulldogs’ only remaining selection comes all the way down at pick 68, and over-ager Stephanie Asciak is the player who gets a late chance here. Another product of the Western Jets, local to the Bulldogs, Asciak made good on her over-age campaign as a key midfield member of the Jets’ premiership side. She also has notable VFLW experience, and could be in with a shot second time around.