2023 AFLW Draft: Talking Points

LAST night the 2023 AFL Women’s Draft took place and there were more than a few huge moments throughout the night. Though the top end went largely as predicted, there were still some bolters and sliders, as well as key themes which we’ll take a look at in this piece.

Dogs have the need for speed

The Western Bulldogs really could not lose considering they had four picks inside the top 11 selections, and they had a key focus themselves – speed. All four players move well, with Kristie-Lee Weston-Turner and Cleo Buttifant explosive talls, while Elaine Grigg is electrifying at ground level, and Alyssia Pisano is as evasive as they come. In a nice twist, Grigg remained a Bulldog, hailing from Central District in the SANFL Women’s.

Pies surprise with draft bolter, then Dees go one better

Collingwood pulled out the first surprise of the night at Pick 9, selecting athletic rebounding defender Lucy Cronin. The talented 177cm back had a delayed start to the season due to recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, but showed promising signs in the run home. The Dees trumped the definition of a draft bolter though, selecting little known Ryleigh Wotherspoon who had been a train-on for the Lions out of Sherwood Districts.

Williamson slides but finds home in brown and gold

Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Mikayla Williamson was the somewhat surprise slider on the night, expected to go inside the top six picks. But when the Bulldogs at Pick 6 opted for the added forward pressure of Elaine Grigg, Williamson ended up slipping outside the top 10. Invited on the night, it was clear Hawthorn was one of the clubs responsible for that, sliding back from Pick 5 to Pick 17 and still getting the Vic Country co-captain.

Athleticism factors in club thinking

It should come as no surprise, but athleticism continues to be placed highly in the AFLW Draft, with arguably only a handful of the first round players not blessed with either explosive speed or outstanding evasiveness. North Melbourne pounced on two explosive midfielders in the second round, with Ella Slocombe and Georgia Stubs.

Hose to Dees

The feel-good story of the night had to be that of Eastern Ranges’ ruck Jacinta Hose. The talented tall unfortunately tore a second ACL this season after just the two games and was only a fair chance to be picked up given she is set to miss the entire 2024 season. When Melbourne pounced at Pick 24, the roar from the Ranges’ support crew at the Hawks was phenomenal, joining best mate Jess Vukic at the elite level.

Like father, like daughter

All three nominated father-daughter prospects made their way to their respective clubs, with Geelong matching a bid for Bryde O’Rourke at 23 following a cheeky bid from Melbourne who had their own father-daughter prospect on the way. That being Jemma Rigoni who received a bid at Pick 29 from North Melbourne that was duly matched. St Kilda also picked up over-ager Charlotte Simpson at Pick 47.

Mature-agers come to the fore

Later in the draft, a handful of mature-age prospects were specifically picked up by clubs, with Adelaide pulling the first surprise, selecting Bond University’s Lily Tarlinton, with the tall capable of playing forward or even ruck. The third round saw West Coast pick up local Matilda Sergeant from Claremont, before Gold Coast plucked out Taya Oliver from Coorparoo.

Four clubs pass

Four clubs – Geelong, GWS, Melbourne and North Melbourne – all passed their last selections, leaving the door ajar for overlooked prospects. The clubs now have time to select a player from across the country who was left on the board.

Ranges rise up

Eastern Ranges had a massive draft haul across the 2023 season, with a further five players landing on lists to add to the three that were pre-listed. Hawthorn recruits Laura Stone, Jess Vukic and Hayley McLaughlin were already set for the elite level, and there were quickly joined by now Melbourne small forward Alyssia Pisano. She will not be alone at the Dees, with Hose and then defender Delany Madigan heading there with the last selection of the draft. Stubs (North Melbourne) and Indigo Linde (GWS) were the other two players to be drafted on the night.

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