U23s to watch: WAFL Women’s

IN the wake of a successful win by the Under 23 All-Stars against the AFL Women’s Academy, it highlighted the value that can be found outside the top-age AFLW Draft prospects.

While the All-Stars team was made up of players only from Victoria, Tasmania and Northern Territory, we decided to apply the same criteria out west.

In the WAFL Women’s we named eight players who have caught the eye this year and for one reason or another not yet earned a chance at AFLW level.

For the purpose of the exercise, players on this list must have been born between 2001 and 2004, therefore turning either 22 at some point this year, or having missed out on a previous draft.

Grace Betti (West Perth)
18/05/2001 | 172cm | Forward/Midfielder

Kicking off our list is the oldest one in this group, and a much improved player in 2023. Betti has some X-factor in the forward half, and often plays half-forward, but can push up the ground, or go deeper. Standing at 172cm, the West Perth product is a player who can fill multiple roles, with nice athleticism. The knock can come on her consistency within games and week-to-week, but her best is good enough, and sustained performances would catch the eye of clubs. At her best, she can provide a marking target and look to break lines. Betti is also a talented former futsal player.

Jeevna Heer (West Perth)
07/01/2004 | 177cm | Winger

Another West Perth prospect who is one of the more exciting and high-upside talents, Heer has enjoyed a breakout season with the Falcons stepping up in terms of competitiveness in the WAFLW. A smooth-moving winger, Heer is still only 19 but is a prototype outside talent. She is tall at 177cm and often outsizes her direct opponent in one-on-one contests. Like Betti, her consistency can be a little up and down, but her 22-disposal performance against Peel Thunder was her best of the season, and she has had far more ups than downs in 2023.

Mylee Leitch (East Fremantle)
21/01/2004 | 162cm | Forward/Midfielder

Coming back from injury, the State Academy representative has been among the potential draft prospects coming through the junior pathway, but just needed a few extra strings to her bow. A dangerous small forward, Leitch has worked hard on getting up the ground, and while she only just played her fifth game on the weekend, she is priming herself for the AFLW Under 18 Championships in August as an over-ager. Has footy smarts and those athletic traits which catch the eye.

Cassie McWilliam (Swan Districts)
25/02/2003 | 179cm | Key Forward

McWilliam is a well travelled talent for just 20 years of age, having come from the Northern Territory, represented her state and Allies, and then run out for Williamstown in the VFLW. Now in the west with Swan Districts, McWilliam is enjoying being a focal point for the Black Ducks, not only hitting the scoreboard, but setting up others. It took her a while to really find her feet in the WAFLW, but is averaging 10 disposals, 2.3 marks and a goal a game. A developing key position option who has also spent time in the ruck previously.

Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)
12/10/2003 | 163cm | Medium Forward

On natural talent alone, Reilly has what it takes to reach the top level. One of the most dangerous forwards going around, she is a tall in a small’s body at just 163cm. A talented junior, Reilly’s best attribute is her powerful kick, and quite often she would lead out, clunk a mark and convert the set shot. When injury struck, the teenager missed her overage season which would have been able to tick a few more boxes after missing out in the 2021 AFLW Draft. Reilly has answered doubters this year, booting 17 goals in 13 games and looking as dangerous as ever, and could complement a forward line.

Mackenzie Webb (Claremont)
17/06/2004 | 175cm | Tall Defender

The over-age key defender is one of the most reliable players going around, and while others might be flashier, Webb is just ultra consistent, competitive and strong one-on-one. Unlucky to miss out on the Supplementary Draft, Webb had one of her most impressive efforts on potential pick one Lauren Young at the AFLW Under 18 Championships, keeping her to one goal once she was moved onto her, which was an unlucky free kick against. Boasting good closing speed and an ability to play on talls and smalls, Webb is a prospect who would have no trouble adding depth to a squad having been a train-on player for Fremantle last year.

Charli Wicksteed (South Fremantle)
04/11/2002 | 169cm | Midfielder/Forward

Of all the Under 23 talents on this list, Wicksteed is the name to most remember. Having largely played as a high forward previously, she has moved into the midfield this season and enjoyed a breakout year. The 21-year-old Donnybrook product has not dropped below double-digit disposals this season, and has had 16 or more touches in six of her past 10 games. When she wins it, Wicksteed can explode from the stoppage and impact forward of centre, setting up her teammates inside 50. She really impressed for the WAFLW All-Stars and looms as a player that has all the tools to be a high-upside talent.

Courtney Zappara (Swan Districts)
04/04/2002 | 167cm | Medium Forward

While the 21-year-old was overtaken on the weekend in the leading goalkicker stakes and had a quieter return from injury in Round 14, Zappara has been one of the most in-form forwards this season. In a month-long stint from Rounds 7 to 10, Zappara kicked 16.9 to storm to the top of the goalkicking list. She is so clever at getting into the right spots, and though is more of a dynamic forward with good hands and great goal sense, she can be a lead-up player as well. If she can regain that mid-season form again, clubs will be keeping close tabs on her.

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