FOUR over-age players returning to the Coates Talent League in 2023 will be looking to impress across the opening few rounds ahead of the 2023 AFLW Over-age Draft, before setting their sights on a third chance at the year’s end all-in draft.
At the recent Preseason Testing Day, we spoke to Dandenong Stingrays duo Felicity Crank and Olivia Robinson, Murray Bushrangers’ Grace Hay and GWV Rebels’ Molly Walton about returning to their Coates Talent League sides in 2023.
RMC Q: How has preseason been and are you looking forward to Round 1?
Felicity Crank: Preseason’s been good, it’s been a growing step. The standard’s definitely a bit higher this year I reckon with a lot of younger girls coming in really ready, really strong and fit. It’s pushing everyone really hard. Myself I’m on the up so coming off an injury doing extra sessions here and there to get the fitness where it needs to be, so hoping to have really good season from Round 1.
Olivia Robinson: I am really keen, I’ve been doing preseason with two teams actually, so at the Southern Saints and at Stingrays. Just managing my own loads so I’m not overdoing it, but very keen, so excited for the season, I feel like it’s been ages. Raring to go.
Grace Hay: It’s been really good, we’ve had quite a new bunch of girls starting this year so it’s great to see them developing over the preseason.
Molly Walton: It’s been pretty good, having a bit of fun. Getting fitter, getting better as a team, so it’s been good.
RMC Q: How have last year’s experiences helped you for 2023?
Felicity Crank: Having the experience of Vic Country and representing in the grand final with a great team that put you in good stead coming off a strong season. I think it really sets you up having those experiences coming in for an extra year for myself. I’m really looking to just shine early to get my face out there and hopefully have someone look at me and put me on an AFLW list eventually.”
Olivia Robinson: I’ve really looked at myself as a footballer, watching previous games and just looking at stuff that I need to improve on. I think I’ve just become more of a confident player and have more belief in myself that I can do this, and I can get to the level that I want to get to, whereas last year I didn’t really believe in myself too much, but this year I’ve really put this together.
RMC Q: What do you need to work on in order to make that next step to AFLW?
Felicity Crank: Fitness. My next step is getting my fitness to a good standard for what position I want to play. That’s really the feedback all clubs are giving me so if I get my fitness there, hopefully I’ll get a look in and that opportunity.
Olivia Robinson: I want to work on my power with the ball, so running with the ball. Also just my endurance running, so aerobic fitness.
Molly Walton: I think that I do need to get fitter, faster, stronger. Just keep working on my skills and everything. Just get a little bit better.
Grace Hay: Most of the time I’ve been playing backline but I’ve been elevated into the midfield a bit this preseason, so I think that’s something I want to get better at this year. Just to have another aspect to my game essentially.
RMC Q: What position will you play this year at your Coates Talent League club?
Felicity Crank: This year I’m playing off half-back in the Stingrays, something a little bit different. It was really beneficial to my game when I was a bottom-ager. I’ve got experience in the backline so this year I’ll play a bit more backline coming off playing the inside mid role the whole year last season.
Olivia Robinson: I think I’m going to play inside mid and show off a bit of my clean hands with the ball, ball on the ground fishing it out to our faster players, that’s what Josh really wants me to focus on, my clean hands.
Molly Walton: I’m not too sure yet, I’m hoping to play a little bit in the midfield, maybe a bit as back as well. I’m a bit more of a defender, but I’d also like to have a bit of a run in the midfield as well so we’ll see where the coaches put me.
Grace Hay: A bit all over the place. Just wherever the team needs me, I’m happy to play wherever.
RMC Q: What do you see as some of your strengths in your game?
Felicity Crank: My best skillset would be my strength. I’m a pretty strong individual, and my footy smarts. My fitness may be not there but I’ll cut the lines and use the knowledge for that natural instinct. I’d say my leadership is up there coming off co-captaining the Rays last year.
Olivia Robinson: I think that’s (clean hands) my weapon, my ball skills but also my directional kicking, so my stab passes I really want to show off this season.
Molly Walton: I can read the play pretty well and rebound get off half-back and rebound. My work rate, one percenters, second efforts that sort of thing.
Grace Hay: I’m pretty good overhead.
RMC Q: What player at the elite level do you look up to or mould your game on?
Felicity Crank: I like how Kate Hore plays. Although she’s up forward, I like her want for the ball and I feel like she’s really strong player who could also play inside if she needed to.”
Olivia Robinson: Those (drafted Stingrays) girls are amazing and playing with those girls and seeing them play on TV, it gives you so much motivation. I trained with Mackenzie at Hawthorn as a train-on and just being around that environment, the professional environment and absorbing it, it gave me more motivation to get to that level.
Molly Walton: I like Chelsea Randall a lot from Adelaide. I think the way she goes about her game, puts her team first, leads by example, just courageous. Just has a good crack at it. That’s how I like to play.
Grace Hay: Tayla Harris. I feel like we have similar builds and similar styles to our game.
RMC Q: Who are some mentors who have influenced your career along the way?
Felicity Crank: I’d say my recent Stingrays season obviously we had Nick Cox as the head coach, he was awesome to me and I had a really good relationship with him. As I was playing in the midfield, I had Josh Moore, he’s been awesome for me. He’s made me grow in the midfield area and he’s obviously now our head coach. Really good relationships and learning off those guys.
Olivia Robinson: Heaps. I do running group with Roundabout Runners, so we do 6-o-clock, and that’s just running with older marathon runners.
Molly Walton: Just my coaches, I’ve had a few different ones, but a couple of coaches I’ve had for a few years who have really helped me, so that’s been good. Sal (Riley) our coach at the moment, she’s been really good, she’s a great coach.
RMC Q: What team do you support in the AFLW and AFLM?
Felicity Crank: (Melbourne is) the team I follow the most, I have a few friends who play for the Dees like Shelley Heath. I probably follow them the most out of all the girls. Boys I go for Saints so they’re coming off a rough season but that’s alright.
Olivia Robinson: Collingwood since birth.
Molly Walton: Geelong.
Grace Hay: Hawthorn and Collingwood now. In the women’s it was Collingwood until Hawthorn came in last year, but I follow both those teams.
RMC Q: In the upcoming AFLW Over-age Draft, are you looking to nominate Victoria or nationally?
Felicity Crank: Because of my uni and it starting up, I’d probably prefer to be in a Vic area just to not mess around with that as I’ve just started in my first year of nursing. I’d be looking for a Vic thing, but if there was any interest from interstate it’s definitely a consideration I would take on.
Olivia Robinson: I’m probably going to go the national draft only because my parents are living in Queensland at the moment, so I’ve been living by myself all of last year and I wouldn’t mind travelling anywhere.
Grace Hay: I think I’m just going to stick to Victoria, it’s just easier, less travel.
RMC Q: What are you goals for 2023?
Felicity Crank: I just want to do really well in my uni for my first year, get really good grades in that, and really focus on that on striving to do those extras to get onto an AFL list hopefully at least if not in this Overage Draft then hopefully the one after.
Molly Walton: I just want to keep getting better. If I could get drafted in April that would be amazing, but I just keep improving.
Grace Hay: Hopefully get drafted would be the main one, but just continue developing those areas of weakness.