AFLW Draft | 10 mature-age SANFLW prospects

EACH year, over-age and mature-age players stand up and impress to earn a place on an AFL Women’s list. Be it via a train-on spot, as an injury replacement or at the end of the year draft, history says there will always be a handful of players who for one reason or another were not drafted earlier, but are instead taken down the track.

In this article we’ll take a look at 10 mature-age AFLW Draft prospect from the SANFL Women’s who have started the 2024 season strongly.

Emily Bartsch (Norwood)
Tall Defender | 06/04/2003 | 172cm

A former basketballer, Bartsch has gone from strength to strength over the last 18 months. The Norwood defender showed promising signs in her first season at the Redlegs, and remains a critical part of the sides’ starting 16. She is strong one-on-one, ultra competitive and has good closing so she can create a spoil or provide body contact.

What perhaps she lacked in her first season was her natural foot skills and understanding coming from another sport, but she further developed that area of her game in 2024. A clear developmental talent who can improve quickly in a short space of time, the 172cm defender only turns 21 on Saturday so has a bright future ahead of her.

Jessica Bates (Glenelg)
Midfielder | 15/08/1995 | 165cm

There are always players who miss out where their omission is deemed as a “head scratcher”, but few could be more accurate than 28-year-old Bates. It is not far-fetched to say Bates is the most accomplished and readymade player outside the AFL Women’s at the moment, and she has not missed a beat in 2024.

Though often attracting opposition attention, Bates is averaging a ridiculous 31.0 disposals, 7.8 clearances, 11.2 tackles, 3.6 marks and 4.6 inside 50s per game from five matches. Put simply, there is no way Bates does not at the very least compete for a midfield spot at most AFLW clubs if given the chance. A perfect addition to a premiership contender, or a young side needing readymade experience bodies.

Jess Bates
Glenelg’s Jess Bates won the 2022 SANFLW Best and Fairest Medal. | Image credit: Rookie Me Central

Emily Brockhurst (South Adelaide)
Tall Forward | 13/04/2001 | 175cm

The one that AFLW clubs would not have had on their bingo card this year was tall defender Brockhurst transforming into a dominant tall forward. Thrown up the other end after previously been a defender, the Panther’s story is quite remarkable. She last played SANFL Women’s in 2021, where she managed the four games playing in defence.

Fast forward to 2024, and the now 22-year-old Brockhurst is kicking goals – literally. Averaging two goals per match from her five games, Brockhurst has booted three majors in three games, and only been held goalless once.

In that win over the Eagles she still had three scoring shots – all behinds – but has otherwise been outstanding in front of goal. A nice mover with good hands and an ability to kick majors from set shots on in play, she is one who would have to be rising up club boards with this transformation.

Julia Clark (North Adelaide)
Midfielder | 03/05/2002 | 163cm

It is hard to believe Clark is only about to turn 22 as she has been around the SANFLW and South Australian junior pathways for many years. A naturally skilled player, Clark can play in a variety of roles, but has become damaging at both inside midfield and on the wing. A good decision maker with skill by hand or foot, Clark has gained confidence over the years to produce more consistent footy.

In 2024, Clark is having her best season yet, averaging 17.0 disposals, 3.6 marks, 2.2 clearances and 6.2 tackles per game. Her accumulation had always been a question mark, but few could doubt her production rate this season as she has been one of North Adelaide’s best players in a slow start to the season for the club.

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

The Tasmanian talent has shown she can play on all three lines at the Roosters, having developed as a forward back in the Apple Isle, whilst also playing in defence for the Devils at Talent League level in the 2021 season. In her second SANFLW season, Crooks has found some nice form and showed particularly in the early rounds that she can provide some nice dahs off half-back.

When she roles into the midfield, Crooks adds a point of difference with her speed and agility, while having a great understanding of the game. She is still developing areas such as her marking and consistency, but with ball-in-hand, has some outstanding athletic traits to work with. A raw talent with impressive upside for the future.

Aprille Crooks showing off her explosive speed in the SANFLW Launch relay. | Image credit: David Mariuz/SANFL

Christina Leuzzi (Woodville-West Torrens)
Small Defender | 08/07/2003 | 157cm

Height will always be a question mark with Leuzzi, but the talented small defender has enjoyed a great start to her second season at SANFL Women’s level. Only turning 21 in July, Leuzzi is still young and has provided great run and carry off half-back in 2024. After getting a taste for it with three games in 2023, Leuzzi has played all five this season, averaging 14.8 disposals, 4.0 marks, 2.4 inside 50s and 2.4 rebound 50s.

Leuzzi has some neat skills and looks to take grass, getting the ball forward every chance she gets. Providing consistent rebounded from defence has improved the Eagles’ ball movement this season, and her 17-disposal, eight-mark, five-inside 50 and five-rebound 50 performance in a tight win over Norwood in Round 3 proved critical.

Georgia Madigan (Central District)
Medium Defender | 11/12/1999 | 163cm

Not too far off potentially squeezing onto a list last season, Madigan continued her rise from role player to key player in the Doggies’ defence. One of the standouts in Central District’s premiership season, the teacher by trade has certainly done plenty of learning herself, and developed her game to be one of, if not the best one-on-one defender for her size in the competition.

So competitive and rarely losing a contest, Madigan is a ray of consistency this season, and is averaging 12.2 disposals, 2.6 marks, 3.2 tackles and 3.8 rebound 50s in 2024. She provides composure to a younger Dogs defence at times and just plays her role, while being freed up over the last 18 months to provide some critical offensive rebound.

Katelyn Rosenzweig celebrates a goal | Image credit: LongTime Photography

Katelyn Rosenzweig (Central District)
Tall Forward | 29/06/2000 | 173cm

Consistency is key, and Rosenzweig has remarkably kicked more goals in the SANFL Women’s than any other player despite missing the 2022 season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Since returning, Rosenzweig has booted 31 goals in 20 games, and just this season, the Central District forward has had two bags of three goals and one two-goal effort.

A penetrating kick of the ball, Rosenzweig is a powerful marker, taking a contested grab in each of her five games this year. She is best placed as a centre half-forward as she can create a contest, and is able to kick some incredible long-range goals. Given her performance at SANFLW level over many years since being a one-season Crow, the tall forward deserves a second chance and is clearly good enough to take the next step.

Jaslynne Smith (South Adelaide)
Medium Defender | 17/08/2000 | 168cm

Another defender with plenty of consistency over the years is South Adelaide’s Smith who has played more games than any other SANFL Women’s player. A ray of consistency, Smith provides a balance of offensive and defensive traits in the back 50, alongside her composure and decision making with ball-in-hand.

Over the years, the 23-year-old has not really put a foot wrong, and while not the flashiest player compare to run-and-gun defenders, Smith is good one-on-one both in the air and at ground level, uses the ball well with an accurate kick and has great natural football smarts. She has largely only played the one role at SANFLW level, but has done it well and would be another experienced head at the next level who is still quite young.

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)
Midfielder | 04/11/2003 | 168cm

After Bates and Shelby Smith, it would be easy to mount a case for Venning as the most consistent midfielder in the SANFL Women’s over the last few seasons. Always thereabouts in club best and fairest counts – and having won two in the past three seasons – Venning has been a staple in the Bloods side. She is a natural contested ball winner and high production player, but has worked hard at developing other elements of her game.

As a former state representative at junior level, Venning was the first to admit her outside game and skill execution needed work, and she has gradually added other strings to her bow. Still predominantly an inside player, Venning gets to the outside consistently, and has sustained impact on games around the ground. Her footskills are developing and her endurance-speed mix are ultra-impressive so it seems close to time she was given some consideration as a mature-age prospect.

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