2024 AFLW Draft player analysis: Noa McNaughton

SOUTH Fremantle small forward Noa McNaughton is a dynamic talent who brings all the traits you want from a ground level player inside 50. Though standing at just 158cm, McNaughton is able to impact with her mix of athletic gifts as well as natural goal sense.

McNaughton started her WAFL Women’s career in 2021 through the Rogers Cup where she was one of the most decorated players. Kicking seven goals across 17 games for the Bulldogs, McNaughton was among a host of talented juniors in the Under 18s competition.

Despite only being 15 at the time and sub-160cm, her natural talent and ability to impact contests shone through, winning the Rogers Cup Rising Star for that season.

The next season, McNaughton became a steady feature in the Bulldogs’ WAFL Women’s lineup, but injury limited her to just seven games. Still, she booted eight majors from 11.3 disposals and 2.3 marks in that time, with her offensive traits proving outstanding.

Injuries limited her from showing her natural skills at the national championships, but coming in off the back of a big preseason, the then bottom-ager managed to play a much greater role in 2023. Mixing her time between the Bulldogs and Sandgropers, McNaughton established herself in that small forward role.

For South Fremantle, McNaughton averaged 9.9 disposals, 1.6 marks and booted over a goal per game from 14 matches in the red and white. At the national carnival. she saw less of it up forward as the Sandgropers picked up the one win from three games, but still kicked a couple of goals and averaged the 8.7 disposals.

McNaughton has been trialled through the midfield at times, and expect her to be a player capable of pinch-hitting there in the future, but is a natural forward with her ground level work and craft outstanding. As a double bottom-ager, McNaughton tended to go to ground a little too much, but that improved through her bottom-age year and while it is still a work in progress has come along.

McNaughton is one of the more talented players outside the AFL Women’s Academy, and certainly among the best pure small forwards in the AFLW Draft. If she can have a good 2024 season, expect her to be sought out by clubs for her point of difference compared to many, inside 50.


McNaughton is a wonderfully smart player who knows where the goals are. She is crafty, has a great understanding of when to run and when to hold her position. She is elite at reading off hands close to goal and can do damage in an instant. When she wins it, she looks to take grass and try and work her way out of trouble.

In terms of her improvements, McNaughton is still developing the defensive element of her game more, with her ability to do damage with ball-in-hand not in question, but the defensive side can further improve. McNaughton could also be a touch cleaner at ground level. Once she wins it, she is off the races and able to dish off quickly but could benefit from taking it one-touch.

She is a natural playmaker as well and though not set to be an aerial specialist given her size, has no problems competing above her head. At this stage she is a mid-draft option, but with plenty of room to improve and get better, particularly given her niche as a talented small forward.


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