Family ties: Rigoni the next Dee in line?

TALL utility Jemma Rigoni has all the athletic traits that raise eyebrows of recruiters, and is now in line to follow in the footsteps of her father, Guy. The top-age talent has been nominated by Melbourne to fall under the father-daughter rule and is join the club her dad played 107 games for between 1998-2005.

Melbourne fell short of going back-to-back in Season 8 after lifting the Season 7 AFL Women’s trophy, bowing out of the finals series in straight sets. Despite that fact, the Demons still showed throughout the regular season that they are a force to be reckoned with given their depth across the board.

Demons defenders Charlotte Wilson (Gold Coast Suns), Libby Birch (Hawthorn) and Maddison Gay (Essendon) are all rumoured to be potentially departing the club during the off-season, which give Melbourne an opportunity to rejig its backline ahead of 2024.

Furthermore, defender Shelley Heath has gradually progressed into the midfield where she has undergone tagging roles on players such as Brianna Davey and Jasmine Garner. If she is to continue that role into 2024, then Rigoni has a place not only coming off half-back but also provide run along a wing.

On top of the two defender departures, two other Demons – Eliza West and Casey Sherriff – could also find new homes over the off-season. It could mean as many as eight list changes with Georgie Fowler (stepping away), Jordan Ivey and Samantha Johnson (delisted) also coming off the club’s Season 8 list.

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Jemma Rigoni

Height: 172cm

Weight: -

DOB: 04-06-2004

There are many aspect to Rigoni’s game that will help ensure she fits into Melbourne’s lineup and game plan perfectly. Her key strengths are her explosive speed and agility, while also having the capacity to read the play well in any role.

Given Melbourne’s strong ability to generate quick run off half-back, Rigoni would only enhance that area of the Demons’ game. As someone has a similar playstyle to Blaithin Mackin, Rigoni will slot in next to the likes of Sinead Goldrick and Heath and increase Melbourne’s speed off half-back to be a further reaching weapon.

As someone with great versatility to-boot, Rigoni has spent time as a winger and forward too. This enables her to change roles when injury strikes and also force her way into the team on another line. Standing at 172cm, Rigoni has a good size to compete on a variety of forwards, as well as run hard on the outside.

One thing that Melbourne have become renowned for, particularly this season just gone, was the versatility of its players, with the likes of Heath, Sarah Lampard, Kate Hore and Gay all playing several positions across the season. Having an extra magnet to move into multiple positions like Rigoni will only strengthen that part of Melbourne’s game.

If Rigoni was to go back to her bottom-age roots of being a marking forward, she could play as a third tall to Melbourne duo Tayla Harris and Eden Zanker inside 50, and fill the whole left by Ivey’s departure.

Composure with ball in hand is something Rigoni still needs to improve, but with the experienced heads of Goldrick, Heath, Lampard, Gabby Colvin and others around her, this may improve once in the Melbourne line up. That, along with her kicking will develop with the more time she spends working on her craft in an elite program.

Given the success of players such as the Mackin sisters, Heath and West who have come from other sporting codes, working on Rigoni’s fundamentals such as her kicking and composure should not be a problem, especially given her naturally high footy IQ.

Rigoni is one of the top utilities in the 2023 AFL Women’s Draft, and given Melbourne’s touted list changes and their likely available draft picks, it is expected that the father-daughter prospect will join the club with a second round selection. As an over-ager, Rigoni is one with extra experience and her elite athleticism and sensational footy IQ will hold her in good stead to make the transition to the elite level.

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