WAFLW 23 Under 23 in 2023: #14 Jess Roper
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 #14 in running West Perth defender Jess Roper.
#14 Jess Roper (West Perth)
Position: Medium Defender
Local club: Joondalup Kinross
Joining younger sister Kaitlyn in our 23 Under 23 countdown is over-age defender Jess Roper. The West Perth runner had a breakout season in the Falcons’ first season, gaining more confidence as the season went on to earn a place in our WAFL Women’s Team of the Year. In a season where West Perth struggled against more experienced teams, the Falcons defender was one of a number of shining lights, finding her fair share of the ball in the back 50, often mopping up forward forays.
In season 2022, Roper averaged 15.1 disposals, 1.8 marks, 4.2 tackles and in a fun fact for trivia nights, kicked the Falcons’ first ever goal in club history. Though not often getting forward given the defence was under siege, Roper maintained her balance and consistency to even have the odd stint in midfield. Her defensive pressure and determination to move the ball in transition was great, and though she has areas to work on, certainly caught the eye.
Roper’s speed and ability to take grass is a pillar of her game, and though she is predominantly right-footed, she showcases enough evasion to get onto her preferred side. During the WAFL Women’s season, Roper showed enough to suggest to Fremantle coach Trent Cooper that she had enough to step up to the top level, earning a train-on spot with the Dockers. She then was named as an emergency with the growing injury list opening up spots. While ultimately she did not play an AFL Women’s match, it showed she was on the precipice of selection.
Heading into 2023, Roper is considered a valuable player for West Perth, and while she might only have turned 18 in December, is one of the more experienced Falcons players in the defensive half. The recruitment of Emily Bennett will aid in her development, taking off some of the transitional running load from her shoulders, and add that extra experience in there. Given her train-on status, it is clear Roper is thereabouts in terms of draftability, and with a good season in the red and blue, could be reconsidered by the Dockers or another AFL Women’s club.