SANFL Women’s Player Focus: Molly Brooksby (Norwood)
ONE of the most promising prospects in this year’s draft, Molly Brooksby had a delayed start to her 2023 SANFL Women’s season, but had the breakout performance everyone was waiting for on the weekend. Boasting natural talent and elite skill, in her fourth SANFL Women’s game and fifth match back from an extended preseason following knee and hamstring issues, Brooksby collected a match-high 26 disposals and was a standout for the Redlegs during their narrow loss to South Adelaide.
Molly Brooksby came into the year as one of the top South Australian prospects, rated in the Top 5 overall across the country. While her peers were able to get ahead following some outstanding performances, it took until Round 9 for Brooksby to finally crack into the team following the injury layoff. She gradually worked into her season, having got better each week over the past month, while also running out for the Croweaters against Western Australia. Her Round 12 performance was by far her best though, and the subject for our Player Focus.
2023 SANFL Women’s: Round 12
Norwood 3.6 (24) def. by South Adelaide 4.6 (30)
STATS: 26 disposals (20 kicks, 6 handballs), 5 tackles, 3 clearances, 4 inside 50s, 5 rebound 50s
Molly Brooksby had an unassuming start to the game, gradually racking up the ball in the first term to collect seven disposals and be among the most prominent ball-winners on the ground. She started off half-back to utilise her elite kicking and decision making in transition against a side that was vying for the minor premiership.
Her first touch came via a handball receive in the middle of the ground and Brooksby was able to kick high and long inside 50 to a contest. She was soon involved in a 1-2 with Tesharna Maher at the top of 50 without looking flustered, and roamed between the arcs well. She won a few touches under pressure in close as her day started as a foreshadowing for what was to come.
Brooksby attacked the contest hard at the start of the second term and quite often won first possession but was immediately tackled, with the opposition well aware of her capabilities once given any time and space. Quite often opposed to fellow State Academy Holly Ifould when further afield on the wing, the pair had a good battle before going their separate ways.
Brooksby’s first clean touch came winning a hard ball then spun in and then out of traffic to slam it on the boot and go forward. She received the handball just outside 50 at the seventh minute of the term and her deep kicked looked headed for home but was intercepted close to goal. Another thumping kick inside 50 not long after kept the pressure on the opposition defence incredibly high, before going back into defence.
Brooksby supported the back five by winning it in the pocket and kicking it long to half-back, then had a couple of eye-catching touches. Firing out a handball in close midway through the term, Brooksby won a second touch and spun her opponent inside out before pinpointing a pass into the middle. She had another elite kick down the ground that hit a target with ease to finish the half of action.
South Adelaide won the opening clearance but Brooksby was able to win her one-on-one at half-back and force a ball-up, with the Norwood top-ager’s first touch coming three minutes into the term from a kickout. Unfortunately the usually switched on Brooksby had a brain fade and ran about 30 metres without taking a bounce, and was pinged for running too far. She did apply pressure off the mark from the kick and no harm was done on the scoreboard.
Brooksby took no chances with the next kick-in taking a bounce very early on and producing an effective kick just outside the defensive 50. She ran up to receive the handball from that kick and then had another disposal with a kick down the line. She would have another few disposals, often running and clearing the ball down the line, as well as a pinpoint pass from one back pocket to the other in what would normally be a massively risky pass, but Brooksby made it look easy.
Finishing off the game with a solid final term, Brooksby was able to get further afield and roll through the midfield at times, firing off a quick handball to teammate Lana Schwerdt in close at a stoppage. She would team up again with Schwerdt a minute later by hitting a pass going inside 50 with precision. Her clean disposal continued via a handball at half-forward five minutes into the final term before winning it back after her teammate’s kick was smothered, and kicking long to the danger zone.
Her day finished off with a free kick just outside the attacking 50 where she delivered to the danger zone 20m from goal. For the second half of the final quarter, the game was largely at Norwood’s end, with Brooksby maintaining a high line and being there for support if the ball came out of the attacking 50. While Norwood was unable to get over the line, the Redlegs still had third in the bag and will host Sturt this weekend.
CLOSING THOUGHTS ….
Molly Brooksby played off half-back at the national carnival, and though she is a natural midfielder, the top-ager is adding extra strings to her bow by playing in different positions having forged a career on a wing in previous seasons at the Redlegs. Her outstanding skill and decision-making separates her from many of her peers, and she is one to watch in 2023.