AFTER falling one win short of an AFL Women’s premiership, grand finalists Melbourne headed into the off-season looking to maintain their place in the premiership race. The Demons lost a chunk of their depth, but also picked up some readymade replacements for another assault on the AFLW flag. Melbourne was always going to end up with lower picks, losing their first rounder after not accumulating enough points through expansion, but heading into the draft with an extra second rounder and then a couple of late selections. Of the four picks, three ended up being players with AFLW-list experience, as well as a surprise packet out of cricket who has been looking to cross into Australian rules football at the elite level.
Readymade experience. The Demons are right in their premiership window so it was no surprise to look straight to players who can come in from Round 1 if required and have an impact. They picked up two players from their VFLW program, in former Demon Chaplin – who had a brilliant VFLW finals series – and former Saint Johnson, both of whom are more than capable of slotting straight in at the top level, before also having the wildcard in the packet in natural goalkicker Duffy who can also play through the midfield. Gall was the surprise packet, named on the Murray Bushrangers list, but also playing for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League, making her a relative unknown, but also giving the Dees a long-term prospect to work with in the future.
WHERE THEY FIT:
Chaplin showed she can step up and play inside midfield, being a dominance clearance winner as she was at the Northern Knights. Though also capable of playing off half-back, Chaplin thrives at the coalface and after a strong NAB League Girls career and season in the red and blue without making her debut, she is primed to change that in Season 7. It was clear when the Demons let her go, they were keen to get her back on the list, and then they also added Johnson. The former Saint will provided great depth for the Demons, which is only a good thing for an already strong group.
Gall was the surprise packet and it will be a bit unknown where they develop her, but with so many cross-coders coming into the AFLW, there will be few surprised she can adapt to the level. The choice of Duffy is one with high upside, having lead Fremantle’s goalkicking twice. She is a goalsneak who has been playing midfield for Peel Thunder, and though she has spent that season out of the elite level, once she gets back to full fitness, she can be an incredibly damaging player.
Melbourne did not have the best hand in terms of draft placement, so naturally went for players who have experience in the system. Picking up three players who at the very least can compete for a Round 1 spot will only enhance the strength of the club, and Gall is the speculative pick they can develop for the future.