2022 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: Jade De Melo

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2022 AFL Women’s Season 7, Rookie Me Central will look at 10 players to watch this year who have played under 10 games. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around for at least two seasons – or in previous years – but have only managed to play nine games or less. Next up in the series is Port Adelaide pre-listing Jade De Melo.

Jade De Melo is one player on this list that technically spent the one season on an AFLW list, but it has also been four seasons since she last played an elite level match. When De Melo played her last AFLW match, there were eight teams, now there are 18. Adding experience to her side, the now Port player has been able to show she is a class above state level, earning her place back at the top level. Her three goals in the SANFL Women’s Grand Final to help North Adelaide run over the top of Sturt put an exclamation mark on what had been a sensational season for the talented forward.

De Melo’s AFL Women’s journey began when she was drafted to Fremantle at Pick 10 via the 2017 AFLW Rookie Draft. She only managed the two games, debuting against GWS GIANTS in Round 5, then playing the Crows the following week. Though ultimately delisted at the end of the season, De Melo never gave up hope of reaching the top level. A global pandemic made it tough for state and local football around the country, so it took until De Melo paired up with North Adelaide coach Krissie Steen that her second chance became a reality.

Coming into the SANFL Women’s season, coach Steen described De Melo as “on another level” and accurately predicted what was to come.

“I would be very surprised if she isn’t playing at an AFL club next year,” Steen said. “She’s unbelievable. “She’s a forward and will go up forward, which kind of fills a hole for us.”

The now 29-year-old De Melo slotted 16 goals in 13 games, averaging 12.8 disposals and 3.6 marks along the way. A clean and smart user in the forward half, she has the experience at the top level, but has also been a success in the best state league in the country. Expect her to be among the potent forwards starting for the Power, with the 168cm player able to roam out to high half-forward, take those pack marks, or slot incredible goals, such is her role versatility. In Season 7, expect De Melo to be on who can have an immediate impact, and adds polish to an exciting expansion list.

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