The future is now – AFLW Draft pool growing deeper

AS the AFL Women’s and female footballing pathways continues to develop, the overall quality continues to get stronger at a grassroots level. Not only the top-end talent, but also the depth within the draft pool, as players who five years ago would have been walk-up draftees are missing out purely due to the quality on offer. In this article, we cast our eyes ahead to the future and show some of the players who are going to shape the AFL Women’s in the coming years.


The combined states have some nice talent at the bottom-age level and the pick of the bunch is Northern Territory star Tatyana Perry. Arguably the most promising player to come out of the Top End based on her junior career thus far, Perry has outstanding hands, great decision making and elite skills. The Palmerston Magpie is a first round talent, and in the Top 10 mix off her traits. Winger Emma Stark is another Northern Territory prospect to keep an eye on, drawing some similar traits but still raw, Stark has natural talent and as a field umpire, boasts elite levels of endurance.

Heading to the Apple Isle, and rebounding defender Mackenzie Williams is hard to overlook. Her sheer weight of numbers is astounding, and though some of her fundamentals can still improve, she has good hands and knows where to be to win the ball. Lightly-built forward Ava Read is another Tasmanian with plenty of potential, while Meg Harrison and Sophie Strong have shown promising signs.

Heading north to the NSW-ACT and there are three 2006-born talents who have emerged as ones to watch. GWS GIANTS Academy member Ashley Patton has talent to burn, and is a good decision maker. She looms as her Academy’s top member at this stage, while fellow Academy member and Murray Bushrangers midfielder Tamika Rourke has eye-catching speed and room for improvement. Sydney Swans Academy winger/forward Ella Parker is the name to remember from the red and white in an even crop.


If push came to shove and there was a question of the frontrunner for pick one next year (when viewing through an uncompromised draft lens), then it would be Havana Harris. The 181cm player can suit up in any role, and while she is traditionally a ruck/forward, can just as easily role through the midfield as she did against South Australia. Capable of racking up the ball with ease and boasting ridiculous burst speed for a player of her size, she can just about do it all. Given her size, aerial ability and impact around the ground, it is likely she will talked up in the same way as Lauren Young this year.

Another top talent to remember is midfielder Tara Harrington. The tough talent brings a heap of defensive pressure, but also executes well by hand or foot more often than not. She takes risks and though that can add pressure, she loves to run and gun and has an all-round profile that will hold her in good stead.

A couple more players who have shown promising signs are Lions Academy ruck Lilly Baker and Suns Academy speedster Nyalli Milne. Baker can play any key position role, but has the athleticism to play through the ruck, and then drop behind the ball as she did against South Australia. Milne is one of the fastest players going around, and when she gets goalside she explodes. While like a number of her peers there are fundamentals to develop, she has some serious upside. Cairns prospect Heidi Talbot is another exciting forward/midfielder with plenty of talent.


The strength of the South Australian pathway indicates the growth of women’s football across the board, with the Croweaters flourishing post-Covid and becoming the premier state in top-end quality. That is evidenced by the fact the South Australians have won their past six AFLW Under 18 Championship matches, and have been able to blood an array of bottom-age and double bottom-age prospects.

Sturt forward/midfielder India Rasheed has emerged as the frontrunner in the pool at this stage, but plenty of players are capable of taking that mantle. The elite left-footer can do incredible damage around the ground and in front of the big sticks, and is a genuine top pick contender for 2024.

At the end of each year, Rookie Me Central compiles its top prospects to watch for next season, and along with Rasheed, those in the box seat from South Australia include Central District pair Charlotte Riggs and Georgia McKee and Glenelg utility Poppy Scholz.

McKee has been out recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, but is as skilful and powerful as they come playing as a small forward who can roll through the midfield. Riggs has enjoyed a premiership season with the Dogs and become a premier interceptor in the SANFL Women’s. Scholz plied her trade as a rebounding defender after being on a wing the year before, but has also rolled through the ruck and can play forward as well.

Another Central District teammate – Jasmine Evans – is also in the mix, while Woodville-West Torrens defender Jemma Charity is fast moving up the rankings. Glenelg winger/forward Violet Patterson is also thereabouts, as is West Adelaide utility Lucy Boyd and bottom-age South Adelaide forward Shae Archbold, the latter of whom is also out with an ACL injury at present.


Given the constant depth of Victoria across the board, trying to judge the best players, let alone the depth at both Vic Country and Vic Metro, a lot can change in the space of 12 months. In regards to Country, four players have established themselves as the top-end talents of next year, and three of them could play midfield. Bendigo Pioneers’ Lucia Painter, Geelong Falcons’ Sara Howley, Gippsland Power’s Ash Centra and GWV Rebels’ Millie Lang are all outstanding talents in their own rights with different strengths and abilities.

Painter is the all-round utility with power and an ability to impact a game wherever she goes, while having the best dual-sided ability of the group. Howley’s ridiculous production rates has seen her rack up the ball 30 or more times most weeks this season and she can set up scoring plays. Centra can play anywhere on the field, has a powerful and deadly right foot, and is incredibly strong in the air. Lang is also strong in the air, a potent left foot, and an intercepting machine for the Rebels.

Outside the top four, Dandenong Stingrays ruck Elli Symonds has quickly established herself as a player with potential, and she is not the only Stingray who will be closely watched by clubs. Fellow tall Zoe Besanko, and midfielder/forwards Kayla Dalgleish and Jemma Reynolds are also thereabouts, with Jemaya Bressan‘s best capable, and it is just about finding greater consistency.

Beyond the Stingrays, specialist winger Mekah Morrissy has great potential for next year, with GWV Rebels marking forward Claire Mahony and midfielder teammate Brook Ward also impressive. Gippsland Power midfielder Jasmine Sowden and Murray Bushrangers defender/wing Holly Egan are among the promising prospects for 2024.


Similar to Vic County, Metro has four prospects who have risen up to be the front-runners among the group, before opening up to a wider field across the board. Western Jets duo Sierra Grieves and Lou-Lou Field, Oakleigh Chargers forward Emma McDonald and Sandringham Dragons midfielder Sophie McKay are the players in the top-end frame at this stage.

Grieves is a natural ball-winning midfielder who wins the ball from the stoppage with ease and has an impact forward of centre, while also adding defensive pressure. Field is an intercepting and rebounding defender with a beautiful left foot kick that gets her team out of trouble more often than not. Up the other end, McDonald is an athletic key forward with contested marking ability, and she showed it against the Allies, booting five goals in the AFLW Under 18 Championships.

Carlton fans will be keen a close eye on McKay, who is the daughter of Andrew, and eligible under the father-daughter rule. She is tough, has clean hands and can explode from a stoppage with class, while also going forward and hitting the scoreboard.

Oakleigh Chargers utility Sienna Tallariti has enjoyed some outstanding form since moving into defence, and along with fellow bottom-age talents Zoe Hargreaves and Kyla Forbes are the next group of players to watch. Tallariti is incredibly strong with a powerful kick and can play on all three lines, Hargreaves is a smooth-moving midfielder who can burst out of a stoppage, while Forbes has that mix of power and evasion, with a hand left foot.

Eastern Ranges trio of forwards, Georgie Brisbane, Grace Belloni and Georgia Knight are also promising talents, with all three capable of taking a strong grab, and Belloni utilised more in the midfield of late. Sandringham Dragons midfielder Daisy Flockart is another classy talent, while the Chargers have a stack of players who could progress quickly in 2024.


The Sandgropers are quickly rising the ranks in terms of their development and talent at their disposal with five players thereabouts in that Top 20-30 frame next year. The pick of the bunch is East Fremantle speedster Zippy Fish who is coming off a Lou Knitter Medal-winning performance in the WAFLW Grand Final, easily best afield and showing her outstanding speed and skill. She clocked a nation-wide blistering time of 3.14 seconds in the preseason 20m sprint to give an indication of the wheels she possesses.

South Fremantle duo Molly O’Hehir and Noa McNaughton are also impressive talents, with great athletic traits and an ability to play in different positions. McNaughton is largely a small forward with outstanding goal sense, but can also step up into the midfield rotation. O’Hehir has played half-forward, wing or half-back and even on the inside, with enormous potential to improve.

West Perth winger Megan Norbury has plenty of upside to improve, with her best definitely good enough to compete with a lot of players on this list, and when she is up and about, can do a lot of damage with her foot skills and decision making. Claremont young gun Claudia Wright has unfortunately been injured and missing in action this year, but her X-factor and both aerial and ground level play is superb, and anyone who has watched her knows she is easily in the conversation among the best West Australians.

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