Clubs to Watch in 2024: Central District

IN a new series over the course of January, Rookie Me Central takes a look at some of the clubs across the nation that could be worth watching for a combination of AFL and AFLW Draft prospects, as well as being ultra-competitive or a title contender in their respective competitions.

Next up in our series is a team that has arguably the most stacked top-age female talent in the country with a whopping three AFL Women’s Academy members, and plenty of mature-age and junior talent. That is of course SANFL Women’s premiers Central District, who saw Caitlin Wendland spend a valuable season at Brisbane, and 18-year-old Elaine Grigg drafted to the Western Bulldogs last month.

From the boys’ space, Hawthorn father-son Will McCabe made his way to the brown and gold, and Liam Fawcett was picked up by Richmond, making it a really successful two drafts for the male and female programs at The Ponderosa.

On-field, Central District’s SANFL Women’s side rose to the flag, winning an unforgettable grand final in the dying moments thanks to a Caitlen Teague goal that sealed the win over South Adelaide. That goal came off the back of Laitiah Huynh‘s ripping finish which was her first of the 2023 SANFL Women’s season.

Looking to 2024, and the Bulldogs have three top-end players who are in AFLW Draft contention, as small forward Georgia McKee returns from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that kept her out of the Dogs’ title-winning season. In her absence, midfielder/forward Jasmine Evans became a household name stepping up to be one of the AFLW Draft bolters 12 months out, earning a South Australian call-up and impressing there, before playing in the Under 17s Futures match.

The pair are two of the club’s three AFLW Academy members, with key position utility Charlotte Riggs the other. Few will forget when Riggs went down with injury in the grand final – having taken over the ruck duties in the first term when first choice ruck Georgia Avery went down with a broken leg – before returning to a massive roar from the crowd and kicking a crucial goal playing forward.

Incredibly, the club also produced both MVP winners at the Under 16s national carnival. Dyson Sharp was ultra-consistent for the Croweaters and looms as a potential top pick in the 2025 AFL Draft, having already shown how good he can be playing at Under 18s level in the SANFL.

Similarly, Sophie Eaton held her own in the open women’s grade, and when stepping back to 16s level, she led by example and took out the crown as captain, and MVP of that carnival.

Other boys in the State Academy for 2024 include key position talls Charlie Nicholls and James Noack, as well as forward, Tallan Rosenzweig who booted 13 goals across six games last season for the Under 18s side. Of course a Rosenzweig kicking goals for Centrals is nothing new, with Katelyn Rosenzweig taking out the competition leading goalkicker in the SANFL Women’s last season.

Overall, both the male and female programs have enormous talent in them, with the former reaching the preliminary finals in the Under 18s competition last season, while of course the latter’s League side lifting the trophy. Heading into 2024, there are plenty of reasons to keep your eye on the red, white and blue.

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