PROFILED: 2024 AFLW Academy members

MANY of the top AFL Women’s Draft prospects took centre stage at Ikon Park a week ago to produce a dominant 16.16 (112) to 1.2 (8) victory over the AFLW Under 23 All-Stars. We took note of each player from the Academy who played, with further background on them in this article.

Note that Power Ranking Range is not indicative of where they will necessarily get taken in the draft, but is the range that they are currently in for consideration when it comes to Power Rankings.

#1 Zippy Fish
East Fremantle | 160cm | 04/06/2006
Power Ranking Range: Top 5

Stats: 23 disposals (74% efficiency), 5 marks, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 1 goal

The speedy utility started on-ball and then moved around including half-back and the wing to end up with the equal-most disposals on the field. Racking up 23 touches, Fish was superb with her usual run-and-gun attitude setting up plenty of scoring chains, including a brilliant running goal midway through the first term. There are few better pure second possession winners going around, and while she does her best work as a handball receiver to explode away, Fish can just be as damaging intercepting, as she is far better aerially than many might think of a 160cm player.

#2 Tatyana Perry
Palmerston Magpies | 171cm | 28/02/2006
Power Ranking Range: 15-30

Stats: 11 disposals (82% efficiency), 4 marks, 3 tackles

Perry’s cleanliness and quick hands were on display in the clash with a really strong intercept game coming to the fore. Often stationed at half-back, her understanding of the match and footy IQ in general is so high, and time and time again she was able to be there in the right spots to dish off cleanly to teammates. Easily one of the most naturally gifted players, Perry is arguably the top Northern Territory prospect over the last few years, and having already co-captained Palmerston Magpies, has maturity beyond her years.

#3 Jasmine Evans
Central District | 166cm | 05/02/2006
Power Ranking Range: First Round

Stats: 6 disposals (67% efficiency), 3 inside 50s

Largely played forward in the match and had a chance early, only just missing to the right after a flying shot from 50m. That behind would be her only non-effective kick, as she then showed off her elite foot skills with a pinpoint pass to Painter inside 50. Another impressive play late in the first half, shrugging off a would-be tackler and then hitting up Patton. Evans allowed her Central District teammate McKee to run on and kick an easy goal just before the final siren when the pair found themselves alone deep inside 50. A great decision maker and ball user.

#4 Sierra Grieves
Western Jets | 163cm | 18/05/2006
Power Ranking Range: 15-30

Stats: 15 disposals (67% efficiency), 3 marks, 5 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

Grieves is a player who just keeps on getting the job done at any level. A natural ball-winner, the Western Jets talent thrives on the contested ball and is able to extract from the stoppage while stopping others with her defensive pressure. She also has the capacity to go forward and hit the scoreboard, with strong dukes overhead, marking 25m out straight in front in the opening term and converting the goal. A tricky player to place as she is someone who could still improve some polish, but few are better first possession winners than Grieves.

#5 Tara Harrington
Suns Academy | 166cm | 24/03/2006
Power Ranking Range: 10-25

Stats: 8 disposals (88% efficiency), 2 marks, 3 inside 50s

In most drafts, Harrington would be a top 10 pick without question, but given the depth of this draft, the Gold Coast Suns could have a bargain on their hands. Harrington’s movement through traffic is sublime, her kicking as a whole is damaging and she can play just about anywhere on the field. Tends to find more of it when on the inside or at half-back, but rarely wastes it. She showed that by manoeuvring through traffic to hit up Patton with pinpoint precision.

Sara Howley fires away a handball under pressure. Image credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

#6 Sara Howley
Geelong Falcons | 173cm | 29/01/2006
Power Ranking Range: 5-15

Stats: 23 disposals (70% efficiency), 5 marks, 2 clearances, 5 inside 50, 1 goal

Howley continues to rack up the ball with ease at any level she plays, and is a great contest-to-contest accumulator. She can get forward and hit the scoreboard, as she did late in the first term with a clever snap, but missed a set shot late in the third term she would normally gobble up. Howley stands up in tackles well, and will be one of the top accumulators in the Talent League this season, coming off a League Best and Fairest and Rookie Me Central Medal last season. Her speed is a point of difference to others, and she falls around the end of the top 10 or just outside.

#7 Sophie McKay
Sandringham Dragons | 168cm | 27/04/2006
Power Ranking Range: 5-10

Stats: 18 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 3 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 3 goals

Carlton fans have got a beauty here with McKay, an incredibly gifted talent. While sister Abbie is a fantastic inside midfielder, McKay has the capacity to play inside, outside and forward, with great strength overhead, a powerful kick, and an ability to win multiple possessions at the coalface with repeat efforts. She kicked three goals in the match, with her best being a snap from the pocket off a step that bounced home, but easily could have kicked five on the day. Expect her to be the first Vic Metro non-tall taken.

#8 Molly O’Hehir
South Fremantle | 179cm | 24/05/2006
Power Ranking Range: 5-10

Stats: 9 disposals (89% efficiency), 2 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

The South Fremantle tall is the perfect foundation for a player of the future. She has the height, the explosive speed, the endurance, the skills and the competitiveness to be one of the very best from this group. Captaining the AFLW Academy – which speaks volumes of her leadership – O’Hehir led from the front with a number of bone-crunching tackles. She nails her passes well and is always happy to take grass. O’Hehir has always had the tools and it was about putting it all together, but now the Bulldogs top-ager is finding that consistency and having a huge season.

#9 Lucia Painter
Bendigo Pioneers | 174cm | 23/02/2006
Power Ranking Range: 5-10

Stats: 11 disposals (82% efficiency), 8 marks, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

An ankle injury stopped Painter from a huge bottom-age season last year, but she can not be forgotten when discussing the best players in this year’s draft crop. A good size at 174cm, Painter can play on all three lines, and in her return to football via this match, showed off her strength both inside 50 and through the middle of the ground. Her contested marking ability is outstanding, clunking a grab in the fourth quarter and converting the set shot, while hitting up targets inside 50 with ease. A dual-sided player with power, strength and class.

#10 Ashley Patton
Giants Academy | 170cm | 26/09/2006
Power Ranking Range: 15-30

Stats: 12 disposals (83% efficiency), 4 marks, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

Patton was one who really drove her stocks up from the game given her relative inexperience at elite junior levels compared to many of the others. Having represented her country at baseball, Patton has honed in on making an Aussie rules career, and if her performance in this game is anything to go by, she will get there. Patton kicked a clever dribble goal late in the first term just a minute after her set shot from straight in front fell short. She was generally clean with ball in hand, and showed good strength overhead as well. Did what she needed to do and will be a big watch for GWS Giants fans this year.

#11 Claudia Wright
Claremont | 179cm | 30/10/2006
Power Ranking Range: 15-30

Stats: 11 disposals (82% efficiency), 3 tackles, 3 clearances, 4 inside 50s

Very similar to Painter in the way that Wright missed the majority of last season due to injury, but is so naturally gifted and versatile that she ticks a lot of boxes. Often playing off half-back or the wing for Claremont, she spent more time inside on the weekend for the Tigers, while for the AFLW Academy was able to dispose of the ball cleanly going forward. Her vision and pinpoint precision is fantastic, and while she is still getting back to her best, Wright is clearly a talented player with upside.

#12 Grace Baba
Eastern Ranges | 179cm | 17/09/2006
Power Ranking Range: 15-30

Stats: 7 disposals (86% efficiency)

In a huge win like the AFLW Academy’s, it is hard for defenders to get too much of a look in, but Baba continued to pop up with highlight reel moments. She did cough up a few frees for getting in the back or the like, but her intent is fantastic. Baba’s closing speed and ridiculous leap is outstanding, and she can use the ball efficiently coming out of defence. She always go full steam when running down the field, and plays on instinct which clubs love. A fast developer with huge upside.

#14 Zoe Besanko
Dandenong Stingrays | 178cm | 25/05/2006
Power Ranking Range: 20-30

Stats: 6 disposals (50% efficiency), 3 tackles, 6 hitouts, 1 goal

Another athletic tall who largely played deep forward before rolling into the ruck, Besanko is an enormously talented player who has the potential to take her game to another level this season. She is normally strong overhead, and though she dropped a few marks she would normally take in the match, continued to present. She kicked one goal running in to the goalsquare from a metre out and missed a set shot from 35m out, but remained involved. Captaining the Dandenong Stingrays this season, expect her to spend more time around the ball at Talent League level.

Ash Centra clunks a strong mark. Image credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

#15 Ash Centra
Gippsland Power | 174cm | 02/06/2006
Power Ranking Range: Top 5

Stats: 18 disposals (55% efficiency), 4 marks, 3 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s

Centra is the top Victorian in this year’s AFLW Draft crop amongst a host of talented players. Her kicking is the best there is – ignore the efficiency, in this case stats lie – and the way she makes her teammates better with her decision making is phenomenal. Arguably the best ‘footballer’ in the crop, Centra’s natural ability is off the charts. She was again outstanding for the AFLW Academy, with just that finishing on goal an area to still develop. Centra is the player you want with ball-in-hand going inside 50 as she will hit a leading target with ease. On the weekend the Power talent had a lazy 47 disposals, 11 marks and four goals, so that just about sums it up.

#16 Emma Juneja
Swans Academy | 170cm | 08/05/2006
Power Ranking Range: 25-40

Stats: 5 disposals (60% efficiency), 2 inside 50s

Matches like this are great for Juneja to continue to hone her craft, building off a couple of matches for the Allies as a bottom-ager last season. She loves to take grass and has potential to grow, while being a good size at 170cm. Another versatile type, Juneja played inside 50 and on a wing, and while she missed a shot on goal in the fourth term and has elements in her game to work on, when she tucks the ball under her arm and goes, she can create important meterage for her side.

#17 Millie Lang
GWV Rebels | 177cm | 06/11/2006
Power Ranking Range: 10-25

Stats: 9 disposals (55% efficiency), 2 tackles, 7 rebound 50s

Often under enormous pressure from the hungry Under 23 All-Star forwards, Lang held her own and really came into it in the third term when the ball spent more time down the end. Essentially just looking to clear the area, Lang is an outstanding intercept mark, even if she only took the one in this match. She has a penetrating and damaging left foot – and can use her opposite side unlike a lot of left-footers – while having the smarts to read the play from down the field and know when to peel off her opponent and impact another contest. One of the top pure tall defenders.

#18 Emma McDonald
Oakleigh Chargers | 179cm | 18/04/2006
Power Ranking Range: 5-10

Stats: 15 disposals (80% efficiency), 5 marks, 3 hitouts, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

Athletic key position players are as rare as hen’s teeth, and McDonald fits the bill perfectly. She is strong overhead, can pinch hit in the ruck, but also create scoring opportunities for her team. A lovely user of the ball and her set shot technique is so pure, McDonald clunked a towering mark late in the first quarter and made no mistake with her set shot. She delivered the ball inside 50 or across the 50 on a platter time and time again, and her contested marking – including her ability to crash packs – stands out and she could be the first Vic Metro player taken.

#19 Georgia McKee
Central District | 161cm | 24/04/2006
Power Ranking Range: 5-10

Stats: 6 disposals (83% efficiency), 3 marks, 2 goals

McKee has returned from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that put a line through her 2023 season, but showed enough as a 16-year-old to suggest she will be right up there at the pointy end of the draft. The talented small is crafty, wins games off her own boot and has fantastic evasion ability. Both Central District and the AFLW Academy have kept her safe deep forward for now as she builds back confidence and match fitness, but the last two weekends she has kicked six goals from 11 touches and soon enough will be unleashed through the midfield. Has seemingly flown under the radar in terms of top prospects, but not here, she is right up there with the very best.

#20 Charlotte Riggs
Central District | 181cm | 02/11/2006
Power Ranking Range: 10-25

Stats: 8 disposals (63% efficiency)

Seven of Riggs’ eight touches came under pressure in the match, and though the aerial specialist only took one mark for the AFLW Academy, she also had a lot less to do than normal given her sides’ dominance. With time and space she can hit targets no worries, and while still developing consistency and areas of her game, her raw traits are more than enough to suggest she will be a very good intercept player for a long time. This draft is flushed with strong marking talls, and Riggs embodies that, also going into the ruck for the Bulldogs, and has played forward as well.

#24 Mackenzie Williams
Tasmania Devils | 171cm | 26/06/2006
Power Ranking Range: 20-35

Stats: 12 disposals (50% efficiency), 5 marks, 2 rebound 50s

A strong interceptor, Williams is another player who had limited chances to do too much, but still got involved driving hard up the ground. She clunked five marks and provided rebound from the defensive half of the ground, with her thumping right boot an element that really underpins her game. Her kicking efficiency in terms of accuracy is still an area Williams can further develop, but her strength, aerial ability and power are all outstanding and she looms as the first picked Tasmanian in this year’s AFLW Draft.

#26 Havana Harris
Suns Academy | 181cm | 01/07/2006
Power Ranking Range: Top 5

Stats: 18 disposals (67% efficiency), 2 marks, 6 tackles, 20 hitouts, 4 clearances, 6 inside 50s, 3 goals

Harris was our pick one choice in the 24 to Watch in 2024 article released in last year’s AFLW Draft Guide, and she has done nothing to suggest she loses that spot thus far. Both her and Centra loom as the top two picks in the draft, though Harris is of course club-tied to the Suns Academy. Capable of playing anywhere on the field, she spent time in the ruck and up forward, but had Lilly Baker played, there is every chance the 181cm talent rolled through the midfield. Explosive speed, good overhead and can just about do anything. She missed a couple of chances including getting run-down in the goalsquare and missed a regulation set shot she normally would nail, so could have walked away with a five-goal haul she was that good.

India Rasheed kicks clear with her damaging left boot. Image credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

#27 India Rasheed
Sturt | 174cm | 29/11/2006
Power Ranking Range: Top 10

Stats: 18 disposals (67% efficiency), 8 marks, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s

A damaging left-footer, the midfielder-forward largely played off half-forward and used her skills to set up teammates consistently inside 50. Very unselfish, even passing off a ball she could have easily put through the big sticks herself, Rasheed is looming as the first South Australian taken this year. Able to lower the eyes so well, the Sturt junior has enjoyed a big season for the Double Blues, and given her prowess up forward, it is incredible to see how comfortable she is around the stoppages as well, consistently winning them at state league level.

#29 Sienna Tallariti
Oakleigh Chargers | 168cm | 10/07/2006
Power Ranking Range: 15-25

Stats: 12 disposals (58% efficiency), 2 rebound 50s

Winning best afield honours in last year’s Talent League Girls Grand Final, Tallariti did not look out of place alongside the best in the country. She might only stand at 168cm, but she competes well above her height. Strong one-on-one, a great mark – even though she was the only AFLW Academy member not to take one on the day – and a pinpoint kick, Tallariti is one o the most naturally gifted medium defenders. She was looking to hone in on the athletic elements of her game over the off-season and is skippering the Oakleigh Chargers this year.


Note: These ones did not play on the day

#13 Lilly Baker
Lions Academy | 179cm | 14/08/2006
Power Ranking Range:

No doubt would have started spent time in ruck for the AFLW Academy, and will do so for the Lions Academy, while resting in defence. An athletic talent with raw potential. Baker is just overcoming injury and will be an important part of Queensland’s campaign this year. She came along in leaps and bounds last season as a bottom-ager, so expect that to continue and given players her size and athleticism do not grow on trees, the Lions will keep a close eye on her and how she develops.

#21 Elli Symonds
Dandenong Stingrays | 178cm | 07/10/2006
Power Ranking Range: 15-30

Had a breakout season last year, and loomed as one of the most exciting talls in the Victorian pool. Stress fractures in her ankle have put a line through the first half of 2024, but with the national carnival late in the year, it will be a wait and see upon her return. Athletic and mobile for a tall, Symonds plays like a ‘fourth midfielder’ around the stoppages and can go forward and clunk some big marks. Her final execution was the area to work on, but she has most other aspects of the game ticked off.

#28 Poppy Scholz
Glenelg | 179cm | 31/12/2006
Power Ranking Range:

The ultimate utility, Scholz has been juggling her commitments between football and netball, and is one who could go very high in this year’s AFLW Draft. Not a massive accumulator all the time, Scholz is so strong overhead, ultra athletic and can play in literally any position on the field. She uses the ball well by hand or foot and looks to have taken her game to another level this year for Glenelg. It is crazy to think she was born on the last day of the year and therefore is only one day away from being a bottom-ager in 2024.

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