AFLW Academy Rays eye off role changes

DANDENONG Stingrays duo Mikayla Williamson and Bianca Lyne have played very different roles in years gone by, but both could cross paths at the stoppages this season. The AFL Women’s Academy members mostly played wing and ruck respectively, but after chatting to the duo at the Coates Talent League Preseason Testing Day, the pair highlighted potential stints as inside midfielders.

“I’ve played most of my football in the ruck, but this year Stingrays we’re not really sure where I’m going to play yet, but we’re thinking inside mid or centre half-back but I’m open to anywhere,” Lyne said.

“All my games with NAB League I’ve played wing, but this year Josh (Moore, Stingrays head coach) thinks I’m ready to show what I can do in other spots,” Williamson said. “I’ve been working on the inside mids and forwards, but I’m kind of ready to play anywhere, just see how it goes.”

Both might be very different players crossing paths, but the duo have impressive athleticism, with Lyne’s leap – able to defy her 176cm height in the ruck – alongside Williamson’s speed, make them a damaging pair of players.

Similarly, both players said their execution, particularly by foot, was a key area of improvement.

“My athleticism, my running and jumping, power is pretty good,” Lyne said. “That’s definitely my strength, but I think I need to work on my kicking. That’s the main thing I need to get right.”

“My execution so kicking on my run (is an improvement),” Williamson said. “If I’m going to do the run it needs to hit the target.”

The comparisons between the Stingrays talents do not stop there, with the duo both supporting Richmond at the elite level, and will look to nominate Victoria when the 2023 AFL Women’s Draft rolls around.

In terms of mentors, Williamson looked at both a recently drafted teammate, as well as a club captain who switched allegiances over the off-season as players she looked up to.

“It was Taylah Gatt, we played a similar role and I always looked up to her the way she ran and carried the ball,” she said. “I like Steph Chiocci, she’s a wing too but her moments when she gets the ball on the run and she always takes her steps before she kicks, it makes her look good.”

As for Lyne, she stuck with the yellow and black, instead opting for a powerfully-built Tiger with terrific explosiveness to mould her game on.

“I love watching Ellie McKenzie,” Lyne said. “She’s an awesome player, I see some similarities between me and her, like her power and how she goes at it, so love watching her.”

Both Lyne and Williamson said they learnt so much from both the Stingrays and AFLW Academy to hold them in good stead for the 2023 season.

“It’s pretty amazing, very privileged,” Lyne said of making the AFLW Academy. “Just been in an elite program, training with girls the best of the best. It’s so special.”

As for looking ahead, Williamson was keen to keep a sport-social balance intact to ensure both her physical and mental health were well looked after throughout a vital year.

“(My main goal is to) pass Year 12, have a balance,” she said. “That’s one of my main things between footy and also just spending time with family, getting out and about. Little holiday trips I like, just weekend getaways, just having a balance. It improves my footy too, just mentally.”

Dandenong Stingrays kick off their 2023 Coates Talent League campaign with a clash against Sydney Swans Academy at Kilsyth on Saturday.

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