SANFLW 23 Under 23 in 2023: #1 Lauren Young

AS PART of a new countdown series leading into the 2023 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season, we will name 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 SANFL Women’s senior match and have never been on an AFL Women’s list. Today we conclude the countdown with our top pick in West Adelaide star Lauren Young.

#1 Lauren Young (West Adelaide)

DOB: 16/09/2005
Height: 177cm
Position: Tall Utility
Local club: Goodwood Saints

It is rare that a player who has missed an entire football season due to injury could be the most highly anticipated youngster in the competition, but that just shows the talent of West Adelaide rising star Lauren Young.

The devastating news of the tall talent tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) over preseason in 2021 was a setback, but one that would not slow her as she worked on other areas of her game knowledge. Though she missed the entire 2022 season, she got 100 per cent right and is set to attack 2023 on the perfect note.

To rewind back to 2021, Young – who was 15 at the time – scooped up the SANFL Women’s league best and fairest, Team of the Year and Rising Star awards all in one go.

If that did not fill her cabinet enough, the sole 15-year-old at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – who Talent Manager Robbie Neill had to get sign-off to play at the carnival – made plenty of opponents up to four years her senior, look silly. She won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for her state, and earned All-Australian honours despite being the clearly youngest player at the carnival.

Though more than 12 months have passed since Young achieved those feats, few could doubt that she is the best player in the country for her age.

Her contested marking, ability to play on all three lines, and effectively do just about anything with a game of football, makes her one of the unique prospects out there. Add into the fact she measured in at 177cm at the recent SANFL Women’s Preseason Testing Day, and she has the frame to matchup against more experienced opponents.

In that memorable SANFL Women’s season, Young averaged 18.7 dispsoals, 4.3 marks, 5.6 tackles, 2.6 clearances, 3.3 inside 50s and 2.1 rebound 50s, while also booting the seven goals in 12 games as the Westies reached the grand final.

Her loss was felt at the club, but she still provided support at training and games, ahead of her return this season. Now back at training and fully fit to hit the ground running, there is no limit on what Young could achieve.

She might be a touch rusty with all that time off, but given her natural talent and her ability to just find a way to impress, expect her to shine back in the red and black.

A South Australian midfield of the top three ranked players in this countdown – Young, Shineah Goody and Molly Brooksby – will also be a delight for spectators and a danger for opposition teams at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.

It looks like a huge year for Young, who will undoubtedly try to help get her West Adelaide side back into SANFL Women’s finals.

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