2023 AFLW Over-age Draft: Top-agers to watch
FOLLOWING news of an Over-Age Draft in 2023, Rookie Me Central has compiled some of the names to keep in mind for said intake, set to take place in February or March. In this article, we take a look at the top-agers available (those born in 2004), and will have a second article to look at some mature-agers to keep an eye on (born prior to 2004).
ROOKIE ME CENTRAL TOP 40 TALENTS:
Octavia Di Donato
Medium Utility | Bendigo Pioneers
23/02/2004 | 172cm
Deployed in all thirds of the ground, Di Donato was the sole Top 30 player (17th) in our Power Rankings that was overlooked. The Bendigo Pioneers talent does not have one elite trait, but is instead above average across the board, with few flaws in her game. She is impressive by hand or foot, covers the ground and can impact the game in multiple ways. Her decision making is generally sound, and she just pops up when needed. Perhaps the knock of not knowing Di Donato’s best position at the top level, along with the fact she is not a contested ball-winner might have been the reason behind the Vic Country utility being overlooked.
Balanced Midfielder | Norwood (31)
09/11/2004 | 164cm
The next highest rated player in our Power Rankings was Norwood’s Schwerdt, who was eligible as a father-daughter selection to the Crows. With Adelaide having certain priorities to fill, Schwerdt was overlooked for that nomination and the draft, but deserves a chance. A natural contested ball-winner with an aggressive nature, Schwerdt is just as capable of playing off a wing thanks to her ability to cover the ground. What stands out about Schwerdt is her balance of defensive and offensive attributes, with her stoppage work and decision making impressive. The difference between Schwerdt and perhaps other players taken by the South Australian sides, is speed. Her ground coverage is terrific, she just lacks that explosiveness, and her kicking technique is sound, but just the consistency on the execution could improve.
Small Defender | GWV Rebels (35)
05/06/2004 | 162cm
The third and final member of our Power Rankings to miss out and be considered unlucky was GWV Rebels defender, Speakman. A “natural footballer” in every sense, Speakman is clean, clever and strong, with terrific skills and strong overhead marking, often able to out-position far taller opponents. She is one who on natural ability clearly deserved a spot on a list, but perhaps was left off given the lean towards higher athletic talents. Her improvements are more from her athletic profile, with her speed and endurance areas that could pick up, but much like Vic Country MVP Jaide Anthony 12 months later, an extra preseason can do wonders. More than capable of playing a role effectively at the top level.
NEXT IN LINE:
Also in the Rookie Me Central expanded Top 50 that missed out were a host of Vic Country talents. Among them was key forward Tegan Williams who poses as a contested marking threat. Though not overly athletic, like Speakman, the tall is a consistent forward – who has also played a key defensive post – and reads the ball well in the air. In an era where contested marks are gold, Williams is one worth taking a chance on.
Along with Williams, midfielder/forward Emily Shepherd is a talent who has a lot of potential if it can all click. While her composure going inside 50 was a key area to improve, she has game-winning abilities both inside 50 and on-ball. Speaking of the Stingrays, teammate Olivia Robinson is another player to consider, as a classy midfielder/forward who can hit targets and has high levels of creativity in the forward half.
An interesting one may be Geelong Falcons’ Grace Purcell, the sister of Melbourne’s Olivia. Purcell tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during the NAB League Girls season yet still earned a National Draft Combine invite. Perhaps on upside – given her lack of elite junior level exposure compared to her sister – Purcell could be highly sought after, and it will be no surprise to see that her strengths include competitiveness, stoppage work and work rate.
An even more fascinating case may be that of Grace Hay. The dual-code athlete who also plays netball for North East Blaze in the Victorian Netball League, opted not to nominate for the 2022 AFLW Draft. Had she done so, her long kicking and intercept marking would have interested a number of clubs – as revealed by her National Draft Combine invite – and if she chooses to nominate for the Over-age Draft, she could be a great value option.
Other Victorian prospects are Shepparton twins, Madison Gray and Tayissa Gray with both capable of playing multiple positions, but certainly in the back half and on the outside. Another Stingrays prospect in Brooke Smith missed a fair bit of footy through injury and was a late returnee to the game this season. She has natural footballing ability including superb skills, so with a bigger preseason behind her, might be one who clubs turn to now she is fully fit. From a Metro point of view, Reese Sutton had a good AFLW Under 18 Championships and could be added as a tenacious midfielder who can also play in each third of the ground.
OTHER COMBINE INVITEES:
Among other Victorian players who earned National Draft Combine invites were Geelong eligible father-daughter Charlotte Simpson, GWV Rebels utility Molly Walton, Dandenong Stingrays captain Felicity Crank and leading NAB League ruck Krystal Russell. Sandringham Dragons’ Maddison Torpey and Oakleigh Chargers utility Amelie Smith, Tasmanian Candice Belbin, NSW-ACT forward Olivia Cicolini and Northern Knights’ Lulu Beatty were the other top-agers to earn invites.
Outside Victoria, a lot of the National Draft Combine invitees were selected, but from the top-agers, NSW-ACT trio Freya Taylor, Asha Turner Funk and Dakota Mason were left on the board, as was South Australia’s Jemma Ellis, and Queensland duo Kadie Fletcher and Christine Watson