Leagues: AFLW, Coates Talent League Girls, AFLW U18 Championships
One of the premier prospects in this year’s AFLW Draft pool, Montana Ham is the quintessential end product of several years of development in the elite talent pathway. A powerful, 179cm athlete who dominates at stoppages, Ham owns her space with ominous presence and has also proven to be a capable lead-up forward. Either way, she’s near-impossible to stop in full flight.
Arguably the top Victorian prospect this year is Montana Ham, a dominant contested ball winner and distributor. Having been pegged as one to watch in the NAB League as a 15-year-old, the future is now as Ham has completed four campaigns in the competition and fulfilled her underage potential.
While her talent was a known quantity coming into 2022, the 18-year-old excelled towards the back-end of her top-age season in one of the more remarkable runs of form ever seen at junior level. She took hold as a game winner for the Western Jets en route to stunning premiership glory, before becoming the centrepiece (and MVP) of Vic Metro's championships, and earning the best afield medal in her AFLW Academy outing. Heck of a resume.
The absolute outlier in Ham's campaign was an 11-disposal effort in Round 2, the Jets' only loss for the year, but it served as a turning point for both player and region. She did not drop below 20 touches in her remaining NAB League appearances, including consecutive 30-plus disposal outings the in the following two weeks.
Most effective at stoppages, Ham uses her size and power at 179cm to dominate the contested ball. Her clean hands and extremely polished midfield craft allow her to be one of the more effective distributors in the game. While he previously showed a tendency to bomb long out of congestion, she shifted her decision making as the year went on to show greater composure in possession and use the ball at a greater rate by hand.
In the NAB League, she handballed 58 per cent of the time, and that rate remained throughout her representative duties, from the same percentage of contested possessions. While incredibly apt at waxing with her fellow midfielders by hand in-close, Ham also boasts a penetrative kick and can take serious meterage on the outside with her rare athletic traits. Good luck stopping her with a full head of steam.
Credit to her size, Ham's marking prowess is another trait which sets her apart. Not only does it bode well for dominance around the ground, but also allows her to impact as a makeshift key forward. She presents powerfully on the lead and has vice-like hands, proving so clean in almost everything she does. Her effectiveness in both positions was shown against South Australia and in the Academy showcase, where hit the scoreboard.
One thing which may hinder Ham's form as a forward is her finishing. 2022 was the only NAB League season where she failed to register a goal, but not for a lack of trying. While certainly a booming kick, she lacked for accuracy at times with 12 behinds in the competition, and 41 per cent kick efficiency figure during the national carnival. Though, akin to the likes of Charlie Rowbottom, that can easily be polished at the elite level.
Overall, there is seldom a prospect who can compete with Ham's body of work over the last handful of years. She is as experienced as any 18-year-old in the country when it comes to junior football, and is thus one of the more complete packages when it comes to pure football craft and smarts. Along with her athletic acumen, it makes her one of the top five talents in the country.
Montana Ham finished second for total disposals at the Under 18 National Championships, boasting the highest contested possession rate (58.6 per cent), and second highest handball-to-kick percentage (also 58.6) of players to register over 50 touches.
Coates Talent League Girls