“Phenomenal” Claremont talents eye Overage Draft

A DEDICATED ruck and overage defender are more than capable of stepping up from the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition into the AFL Women’s according to Claremont coach Jack Schwarze.

Matilda Dyke – who turns 21 in 12 days – and 19-year-old Mackenzie Webb, as well as ex-Docker Jasmin Stewart are three players who Schwarze believes should be playing in the AFL Women’s next season.

Stewart played four seasons with the Dockers after being the fourth selection in the 2018 AFL Women’s Draft, going on to manage 22 games at the elite level. Returning to Claremont for the second half of the season, Stewart would be significant in the Tigers’ push for the flag, averaging 21.1 disposals, 3.9 marks and 3.9 tackles playing as a hard-running midfielder. Her crescendo came in the 2022 WAFL Women’s Grand Final, winning the best on ground medal for her efforts.

While Schwarze said Stewart was “pretty keen” to return to the elite level, her talent in that competition was well known, however Dyke and Webb had shown enough in the second tier to suggest they could make the move up. The Claremont coach said the Tigers clash with Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s enabled the pair to get some football in prior to the draft.

“They’re both phenomenal for us, but one of the biggest reasons we wanted to go up to Darwin was to give them a chance to be seen,” Schwarze said. “Probably a little bit more for Matilda Dyke, having been overlooked in the previous draft, whereas Mac Webb wasn’t necessarily overlooked, she was just coming through and she’s obviously been a train-on for Freo during their AFLW season and even got to the point of being an emergency, so she’s on their radar.”

The Overage Draft was initially touted to be in either February or March, but has been pushed back until April due to the ongoing AFL Women’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). It means both Dyke and Webb will have the chance to show their wares in the WAFL Women’s competition for the first month of the season, which kicks off on Saturday, March 11.

“Matilda Dyke had a bit of a cross to her name with her kicking and she’s absolutely gone to work over the off-season and made a ton of progression, but it’s really hard for the clubs to know where her kicking’s at because she hasn’t played any games by the time that this draft’s come along,” Schwarze said.

“This Darwin game was really important for them to see that she has made a mountain of progress with her kicking and that just complements the fact that she’s a six-foot athlete who can run sub-eight minutes in a 2k and now has a kicking skills up to par, she’s brilliant in traffic, she’s really clean with her hands, and her follow-up work, which is why we’ve decided to put her in the ruck.”

Schwarze said in the past Dyke has suited up as a key defender, but began to move into the ruck out of necessity for the club. Everything seemed to clicked for the key position tall, and the Tigers coaching staff have opted to make the move permanent.

“She’s played majority as a key back, played a little bit of time in the ruck last year when we needed her and we just thought, even if she’s not going to be a dominant AFLW ruck, she’s 181cm, if she can compete, she’ll outrun them all and actually be an extra midfielder, which is what she plays for us at the moment,” Schwarze said. “I think she would complement the next team greatly.”

As for Webb, she is only one year out of her top-age season, with the 2004-born tall showing signs in 2022, but was looking to be more consistent across the course of the season. Made a train-on for the Dockers, Schwarze believes she has much more to give in the future.

“Mac Webb is developing as a really solid key defender, very strong, very hard to beat in a one-on-one and I think she’s got a lot of upside potential as well,” Schwarze said.

Claremont opens its season against East Fremantle on March 11, before taking on Peel Thunder eight days later. Aspiring AFLW players from Western Australia hoping to get picked up in the Overage Draft will get to play between four to six WAFL Women’s matches depending on the confirmation of the draft date.

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