WAFLW 23 Under 23 in 2023: #20 Bella Mann

AS PART of a new series leading into the 2023 Western Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s season, we count down 23 players to watch who are under 23. We are only looking at those players who were born January 1, 2000 or later, have played a WAFL Women’s senior match and have never been on an AFL Women’s list. Today we continue our countdown at number #20 with Peel Thunder utility, Bella Mann.

#20 Bella Mann (Peel Thunder)

DOB: 16/08/2003
Height: 171cm
Position: Defender/Midfielder
Local club: Baldivis

Entering the Top 20 of our countdown is reigning West Australian State Under 18s skipper Bella Mann, who continued to make strides both at national and state level. Mann stepped up to have another strong carnival for the Sandgropers, and even earned herself an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite. Though the only player not to land on a list from that group, it proved she was on the cusp of earning a call-up to the top level.

In the past, Mann has a good all-round game, able to tick a lot of boxes, without having any one dominant trait. She has proven to be a capable defender, playing on talls or smalls, and then being able to go inside and use her strong frame to crack in and win the hardball. Her leadership – as shown through receiving the State Under 18s captaincy as an overager – is not under question, and she remains an important part of Peel Thunder’s side.

In 2022, Mann averaged 10.7 disposals, 1.6 marks, 2.1 tackles and 1.1 inside 50s playing for the Thunder in the WAFL Women’s competition. She then stepped up to State where she picked up to average 11.3 disposals, 2.7 marks, 3.0 tackles and 3.0 rebound 50s, very similar numbers to her top-age national carnival in 2021. Though the numbers do not jump off the page, she showed enough promise to earn that AFLW Draft Combine invite and test among the best talents in the state.

Perhaps the main areas holding Mann back compared to peers is that lower athletic profile – mainly explosiveness – compared to some of the players who were taken – as well as her production. She was one of the better contested ball winners and a strong and fierce competitor, as well as been as versatile as they come. In 2023, if Mann can continue to work on building that athletic profile and using her smarts to get to the right spots and execute offensively consistently, then AFLW clubs will no doubt consider her once again.

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