2023 AFLW U16s MVP Focus: Mia Russo (Western Australia)
JUST four weeks prior to the first AFLW Under 16 Championships match, Mia Russo injured her hamstring and was put in cotton wool in the lead-up to the national carnival. Considering her Most Valuable Player (MVP)-winning carnival came off the back off no lead-up matches for a month, Russo’s performances hold even more weight for what she can produce in the future.
WAFLW SEASON SO FAR:
Mia Russo has only featured at Rogers Cup level for West Perth this season, with the Falcons taking a cautious approach to their youth in 2023. Aside from State Academy members, any player not in their top-age year (turning 18 in 2023) will play in the Rogers Cup competition. After a dominant first two games that included a remarkable 41 disposals in Round 1, Russo injured her hamstring in Round 3 after collecting seven disposals. The talented midfielder will have an extra week’s rest this weekend with the undefeated Falcons having a bye in Round 9 before returning to the field for the red and blue in Round 10. Russo has averaged 35 disposals and booted three goals from her two full games this season.
AFLW U16s CARNIVAL:
Game 1: 24 disposals (21 kicks, 3 handballs), 1 mark, 6 tackles 8 clearances, 7 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 1 goal, 1 behind
Game 2: 24 disposals (20 kicks, 4 handballs), 1 mark, 3 tackles, 6 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 1 behind
Mia Russo is a contested beast, and though not big, packs a mighty punch. Unlike many players of her age, she is capable to playing on-ball without too many problems, and though if playing at League level she would likely play inside 50, is not too far off being able to compete against bigger bodies. She stands up in tackles and keeps her feet strongly when others around her fall down. Her core strength is a major aspect of her game.
Aside from her core strength, Russo is also clean by hand and reads the ball off hands so well from the rucks. She is a one-touch player in that situation, and immediately looks to burst away from the back of the stoppage or power between opponents to kick the ball forward. She can put the ball into dangerous positions and when given time and space and win it on the outside as well as she can on the inside.
Russo still has areas of improvement to make including her decision making at times and then getting that exposure at senior level. Being a smaller player, Russo will have to adapt to the bigger bodies and may end up as a forward who rotates through the midfield when she first reaches the top level. It is likely when she does crack into the League team she will play that role with some midfield minutes growing as time went on.
In terms of her decision making, Russo can further improve by potentially looking to give the first option off rather than blazing away. Though her pace and ability to get the ball clear is impressive, adding that additional element to her game, which will come with more experience, especially when thrown into a side where she is not necessarily the standout player.
Mia Russo is a high-level talent who is strong on the inside and terrific at winning the clearances and also being able to go forward and hit the scoreboard. Her footy smarts and ball-winning abilities will hold her in good stead for the future. When she is able to step up into the League side, Russo will continue to develop the other elements in her game to become more well-rounded and even more damaging.