Barwick’s busted knee unlocks coaching door

HEADLINING developments in the AFLW Draft space this week is the unfortunate news that Tasmanian midfielder Brooke Barwick has suffered a serious knee injury.

The star top-ager ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while playing a local touch footy match with friends, less than a month out from the start of the Coates Talent League season.

The 17-year-old will now sit out her entire top-age campaign in a playing capacity, having been touted as a potential top 10 prospect in the 2023 draft class.

Though, not all is lost for the AFLW Academy member. She will step into an improvised assistant coaching role, as revealed by new Devils’ mentor Jodie Clifford.

“We’re really excited to give Brooke a bit of a different education model and that is to get in the coaching box and learn from observing,” Clifford said.

“We’ve had some conversations and we’ll get her into our midfield line coaching as a bit of an assistant to our assistant coach, and I think that’ll be really good for her development. While she obviously can’t be out there, there’s still opportunity for her to learn and grow her own brand of footy as well.

“Brooke’s a great player and she’s a great leader… It’s a huge loss for us but I think what’s our loss may be somebody else’s gain, and it gives another young girl a bit of an opportunity to come in and maybe do what Brooke has been able to in the last couple of years.

Brooke Barwick on the ball for Tasmania in 2022 | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Barwick broke the news to AFLW club recruiters at the Tasmania Devils’ preseason testing event in Launceston on Sunday, and was in an optimistic frame of mind all things considered. She says she’s had her time to process the news and is seeking to become the “best version” of herself this year.

“It’s definitely a setback but I’ve had my time to grieve and I can move forward and focus on the positives,” she said.

“There’s many positives that I can look at like being more educated about the game and helping coach and support the (Tasmania Devils) girls in striving to be the best that they can.

“I also think it’s important that I can build up my mental strength and make myself be the best version I can be… and physically get stronger in the gym so I’m ready to move into next year bigger, better and stronger.”

Brooke Barwick turned out in last year’s U17 Futures showcase | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Having already taken on the new role at training, Barwick admits she has plenty to learn before imparting knowledge on her teammates, but has a strong support network to help guide her through the year ahead.

“I helped with the training a little bit last week and it was fun to see the girls,” Barwick said. “I think I still have a long way to go in trying to educate them but being in ‘Jez’ (Jeromey Webberley) and Jodie’s shadow will be great.

“I’m very privileged to have a lot of people who are willing to support me and give me their dedicated time. My family, my mum and dad and sister are always there for me and say the right things when I’m feeling upset and get me back into reality… I’m very grateful for my family.”

Barwick recently partook in the AFLW Academy preseason camp in Victoria, and was looking forward to locking down a role in midfield as she has done over the last two seasons with Tasmania. As will now be compounded by her knee injury, endurance was a key area she was looking to work on.

“I just love winning the hard contested ball and competing with the opposition, that would’ve been my strength going into this year,” Barwick said. “I just find myself needing to take a breather but if I could just hold my endurance and get to that next contest, it’d really improve my game.”

With a long way to go yet until the AFLW Draft, Barwick says being selected by an AFLW club remains the “ultimate goal”, with the Carlton supporter hoping to “feel comfortable” at the right club before doing “everything right” to kickstart her career.

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