Brooksby keen for on-ball role in 2023

NORWOOD midfielder Molly Brooksby admitted she was a “bit awkward at times” on the wing last season, but few could hardly tell, as the bottom-age talent had a breakout year for the Redlegs. Her form in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition cemented her place in the Croweaters’ side for the 2022 AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, where she got to compete against the best of her peers from across the country.

A former soccer player, Brooksby started her football journey by playing both codes, taking up the challenge at Golden Grove. Progressing through the pathway, she found her way into Norwood in 2020, and while she was still too young to take to the field in a SANFL Women’s match, she trained throughout the season, giving herself an early taste into what was to come. By 2021, Brooskby had gone all-in with football and now has her sights set on forging a career in the AFL Women’s.

“I reckon just build on from what I established last year,” Brooksby said of her 2023 aims. “Last year I was on the wing, hopefully a bit in the middle up against bigger, better bodies and just seeing how I compare and just showing others what I can do.”

Brooksby started her football career as an onballer, but was thrown onto a wing at Norwood, a role where she flourished. Though it looked seamless from the outside, the Norwood runner conceded it was not the easiest role to pick up.

“Ever since I was younger I’ve been playing on the ball, so wing is a new thing, so I’m still getting used to, it’s a different position,” Brooksby said. “It was a bit awkward at times, but I love that Futures game getting that opportunity to play in the middle, but hopefully I’m looking at playing a bit in the middle for Norwood this year, see what happens. Get my skill up a bit more and get that physicality into me, and be about there.”

That Under 17s Futures game was another step towards the elite level, with Brooksby recognised among the Top 40 players in her cohort, and was soon included in the AFL Women’s Academy. It came as no surprise to many who have watched her, with her kicking skills and balance among her strengths.

“One of my main strengths is my kicking accuracy,” Brooksby said. “I’ve got a pretty good kick, I can kick about 40 and 45 metres and on the run, I’m able to hit up a good lead, a good 20m kick. A good dart for a full-forward. But also I’m able to kick on my left well which is something I’ve been working on for a few years. I’m efficient and accurate on my left as well, being able to snap out of contests and on the run.”

Describing her experience at the AFL Women’s under 18 Championships as a “crazy” one, she is already keen for more, joining a stacked South Australian midfield likely to feature the past two state Most Valuable Player (MVP) winners in Lauren Young and Shineah Goody.

“Ideally I’d like to play on the ball more, I feel more confident on the ball,” Brooksby said. “I definitely do like on the ball a bit more, it’s just about getting used to playing on the ball at this level rather than local which is what I used to be used to. It’s developing through preseason, but I’m enjoying that a lot more.”

Though Brooksby is one of the leading midfielders in this year’s AFL Women’s draft crop, she recognises the importance to improve, and said her contest work is one area where she can develop further.

“I guess just having the confidence in myself to go in and go up against bigger bodies, just use my physicality,” Brooksby said. “But also my overhead marking, that is something I hadn’t really implemented into my game last year at Norwood.

“Towards the end of the season I was trying to focus on it a bit, and I was able to get a few more contested marks which I was proud about. But I think it’s more about confidence, being able to realise that I can do it, and having confidence to be able to go up for that.”

Standing at a handy 171cm for a winger, Brooksby still loves playing on the outside, but is looking forward to returning back inside to showcase her ball-winning abilities. Averaging 11.8 disposals, 1.1 marks, 4.4 tackles, 2.0 clearances and 2.4 inside 50s for the Redlegs this season, the Norwood talent was incredibly dangerous with a deadly 82 per cent disposal efficiency.

When it comes to her rise through the development pathways and crossing from the round ball code to the oblong-shaped one, Brooksby credits her father, who was the first to suggest the sport to her, and has never wavered in his support of her career.

“He was the one who got me into footy, he said ‘oh look they’re having a team, sign up’ so I signed up but he just always gives me feedback, and it’s the feedback that I need,” Brooksby said. “It’s not all positive, he gives me feedback that helps me grow.

“He finds my weaknesses and shows me ways I can improve and also helps me like during preseason when we have nothing on. Pre-pre-season I guess, he’ll be down the park, he’ll be making me run, killing me, but it’s great. He really pushes me and wants the best for me which I really love.”

The season is just a few weeks away from starting, and Brooksby is one of many talented youngsters to watch in the SANFL Women’s. She hopes Norwood can get back into the finals series after missing the post-season for the first in the women’s club history. from an individual standpoint, Brooksby is determined to improve herself, and ultimately, land on an AFL Women’s list.

“Getting drafted would be my number one goal, but at the same time it’s just playing the footy that I enjoy,” Brooksby said. “I love it at Norwood, I enjoy it so much. I want to improve as a footballer myself and work on my weaknesses, but also my strengths as well, just getting even better and reaching a different level of my game that I haven’t reached yet. I’m just realising my full potential and building on my strengths and weaknesses.”

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