Under the Radar – SANFLW/WAFLW: Round 1

IN a new addition to season 2024, Rookie Me Central will take a weekly look at players who caught the eye outside the traditional draft pathway. This means the only players who will feature on this list are those outside the State Academies so are either mature-agers, or juniors that have not made it into the State Academies yet.

Aprille Crooks (North Adelaide)
30/09/2003 | 170cm | Utility

The Roosters utility played a fair bit out of defence but her gamestyle is a naturally attacking one, and she has the flair to allow it. What she does well is she takes the game on and generally can hit targets over multiple distances. Though a little more inconsistent under pressure, Crooks came on a lot in 2023, blossoming from being inconsistent at the start when she crossed from Tasmania, but found her groove by year’s end.

Entering 2024, Crooks is still only 21 year-old, so has a long career ahead of her. Aspiring to reach the top level, the North Adelaide youngster has traits that catch the eye. Her blistering speed is the obvious one with her straight line bolting capacity shown at the recent season launch where she took off in the club relay to essentially destroy the rest of the field and help her club take home $1000.

While that is more about fun and less about having the best of the best in it, Crooks does show that natural acceleration on-field. That acceleration along with her ability to play on all three lines makes her a valuable player to any team she plays on. In Tasmania she showed she was a class above her league and in the SANFLW she is gradually moving up the ranks.

Crooks will need to have a consistently strong season to catch the eye of AFLW clubs in a year where top-age talents will dominate draft boards, but for teams eyeing off readymade talent that is still young, Crooks is one to keep in mind.

Lily Paterson (Swan Districts)
02/05/2006 | 173cm | Midfielder

Unlike Crooks, Paterson is still only a teenager. She is even a top-ager in this year’s draft, but is outside the West Australian State Academy. Two years ago Paterson was still learning her craft and split eight games between Rogers Cup and then WAFLW Reserves. Coming into last year and the Swan Districts bottom-ager played all 15 games for the Black Ducks, averaging 9.5 disposals, 3.5 tackles and 1.1 marks per game. She also converted six goals for the season.

At 173cm, Paterson is a good size for a midfielder but can also play off flanks. Her kicking ability is what stands out, and she showed it on the weekend. Collecting 13 disposals, three marks and three tackles for Swan Districts in the loss to Claremont, the top-ager was able to be incredibly potent with her ball use. She is not afraid to chew off tough kicks, and on a few occasions, managed to pinpoint teammates between multiple opponents.

In the past, Paterson has not always been a massive ball-winner, but she rarely wastes a touch. Her aerial ability is another feature of her game, able to take it cleanly one-grab more often than not, and given her size, along with her strength, Paterson can win one-on-ones consistently.

The element that lets her down is in her athletic profile, with Paterson lacking the speed and agility of other top-line midfielders. In saying that, she still has a high hurt factor with the way she plays, particularly when it comes to executing by hand or foot. The athletic element might hold her back somewhat, but she also ticks a lot of boxes with the way she plays.

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