With the AFLW Draft just days away, it’s come that time once again to write up some Draft content once again.
In past years, it’s been customary to hand in a Phantom Draft to the chief Mongrel and go from there. This year, I’ve formatted it a little bit differently.
With the remaining clubs to come in next year, the (not so smart) powers that be have handed the top draft picks to those expansion clubs, giving them the best chance to draft the best kids coming out of this year’s class.
So instead of just putting them where basically they should go, I’ve just gone and put together a list of the best 30 under-18’s talent that will be looking to be drafted ahead of Wednesday night’s AFLW Draft.
For reference, here is the first-round Draft order
3. Port Adelaide
7. Port Adelaide
14. West Coast
15. West Coast
16. St Kilda
19. Gold Coast
21. Western Bulldogs
23. Port Adelaide
24. West Coast
28. North Melbourne
29. Western Bulldogs
31. Port Adelaide
34. Gold Coast
36. West Coast
It’s taken me a few weeks to put this together and after 11 pages and over 6600 words (not trying to impress you guys, hand on my heart honest here), without further ado, here are my top 30 AFLW Draft prospects heading into the 2022 AFLW Draft.
30: J’Noemi Anderson – Midfielder/Forward, Northern Territory, 171cm
The best Northern Territory prospect in this year’s draft, J’Noemi Anderson is a player that was supposed to play at the Sandringham Dragons in the NAB League this year but didn’t play a single game. She did represent The Allies in the national championships this year and was very impressive.
Much like her brother Jed, who is currently playing at the North Melbourne men’s team, Anderson is an inside-first midfielder, who is very powerful around the stoppages, both with the ball and without the ball, but as her campaign in the championships indicated, she is also very capable of hitting the scoreboard when she’s around the forward half of the ground, kicking two goals in her two matches for the Allies this year, also averaging 14.5 disposals, 2.5 clearances, 2.5 inside 50s, 2.5 marks and four tackles per game.
Of course, like many inside midfielders, her kicking is very scratchy and in terms of defensive transition, it’s been said that it needs work in this area, but above all else, when the game is in the balance and the game is there to be won, Anderson will do almost anything and everything required to make sure her side is the one with the ball in possession.
29: Charley Ryan – Midfielder/Forward, Vic Country, 171cm
Although she’s a player that will most likely slide down the draft order due to an ACL injury sustained in the under-18 championships, but Dandenong Stingrays’ product Charley Ryan is a player that will acclimatise herself at AFLW level sooner rather than later and one that has got the tools to be a legitimate football player.
Before her injury, Ryan was named in the forward pocket of the NAB League team of the year, after a season where she averaged nearly 20 disposals per game, whilst averaging 3.2 marks, 3.3 tackles and two inside 50s per game, whilst kicking eight goals in her six games at NAB League level. When she went down with injury in the championships, she was putting together a very good game, having picked up 14 disposals, three clearances, two inside 50s, two rebound 50s, five tackles and two marks.
On top of being a neat and efficient ball-user in general play, Ryan’s versatility and ability to push forward and kick goals on top of being a prolific ball winner and is why she should still be a highly sought-after prospect for the future. She’s going to cause a lot of damage in the years that follow.
28: Amelie Borg – Key Defender, South Australia, 177cm
One of the top key defenders in this year’s draft crop, Amelie Borg is a player who has a ton of upside for a player of her size. Primarily used as a one-on-one key defender, Borg has won plenty of plaudits for her work this year, winning both selections in the under 18’s national team of the year and the SANFLW team of the year.
As she’s a lockdown first key defender, Borg doesn’t win a lot of the ball herself, averaging 9.3 disposals per game in the championships and 8.3 disposals in the SANFLW this past season, but it’s both her work in the air and in the one-on-ones that make her the draftable prospect. She’s already strong in her upper body so she can at least break even in the contested situations, but on top of that, she can read the play well and affect the opposition’s forward line either by spoil or through intercept marking.
In terms of being an offensive weapon, that too is also very limited as not only does she not win enough footy, a lot of the kicks look to go up the line, which is something that can be worked on later down the track. Having said that, Borg’s ‘defensive first’ capabilities are already outstanding, which can be backed up by her accolades this year.
27: Charlotte Taylor – Utility, Vic Metro, 174cm
Another tall prospect with the capabilities of playing a lot of positions around ground, Oakleigh Chargers’ Charlotte Taylor is a player that has got a lot of draftable qualities that make her stand out as a top-30 prospect.
She’s got height and some size about her already, pushing that mid-175cm bracket, which is tall enough to be a powerhouse midfielder when she comes of age, but already we’ve seen from her at both state and national level that she loves to compete and when the opposition has the ball, her tackling pressure is something that stands out above all else, having averaged 6.9 tackles per game this past year, on top of averaging over 17 disposals per game in the NAB League this year predominantly as a midfielder.
There’s no trouble with her finding the footy and being able to gather metres, but her work in terms of precision and hitting targets remain with some work to do. Averaging 12 disposals per game in the championships doesn’t read as big numbers, but it’s also worth mentioning that she did kick three goals in her three games for Vic Metro, as well as averaging four inside 50s per game, showcasing her wares as a forward option.
26: Sachi Syme – Midfielder, South Australia, 165cm
Sachi Syme caught my attention earlier this year when she put in a monster game for Norwood in the SANFLW against West Adelaide, where she amassed 27 disposals and 12 clearances in a monster win. For a 17-year-old in a seniors environment, that’s just crazy thinking about it.
But truth be told, she’s put herself together a very good season for the Redlegs this year. She is not the most explosive or dynamic midfielder in the talent pool, but one thing she is though is tough around stoppages, clean in the congestion and as she showed in that game, she’s an A+ extractor. It’s with these skills she excelled in the SANFLW and her work rate in the championships saw her rewarded with a spot in the All-Australian side.
Syme averaged 3.2 clearances per game and 4.3 tackles in the SANFLW on top of averaging 18.2 disposals per game and averaged 21 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s per game for South Australia in the championships across all three games and put through two goals for them in the process, outlining that she has got scope of being a goal-kicking midfielder – something that a lot of engine rooms would crave as we go forward with the development of AFLW.
25: Mia Austin – Ruck/Key Forward, Vic Metro, 178cm
Given the lack of quality talls in this year’s draft cohort, it wouldn’t surprise me personally if Mia Austin was taken off the board early in the first round, given both her production for the Eastern Ranges this year and the enormous upside she brings to the table.
Her size and natural leap has seen her play in the ruck and average a solid 19 hitouts per game across six games this year, but it’s her work as a forward that will have the attention of a lot of AFL recruiters. Her marking hands were quite impressive at state level and if that and her leap can work together, there will be very few defenders that will stop her when she reaches the prime years of her career. Also take into account that nine goals in six games is a great return, her kicking for goal is another key point in her game.
Her championships campaign were very quiet in comparison to her NAB League campaign only managing two goals from two games and averaging only four disposals in comparison to the 12 she averaged at state level. The level of upside she brings is exciting and with more experience and continuity in terms of games played, she’s a player that can offer plenty either as a ruck or a key forward.
24: Ella Smith – Midfielder, Queensland, 168cm
Not to be confused with the Ella Smith who was just recently picked up from West Coast, Brisbane Lions Academy prospect Ella Smith is a player who already has established a great contested and inside midfield game through her journey as a junior and is already working on developing an outside game, which has been brought to bear throughout her campaign this year.
Being a dual-sport athlete that juggles her football with rowing, Smith already has got an endurance base that is being dubbed as elite and that means that she’s seen plenty of time on the wing this year for both the Lions’ academy and for Queensland in the Championships and is a player that has got a great football future ahead if she maintains the course.
Smith’s two performances for Queensland in the Championships saw her average 19.5 disposals, three marks, three clearances and 2.5 tackles per game and albeit they were only just small sample size of the work she can do both inside and out, her games for the Academy both this year and last in the NAB League also suggest that she’s got the makings to be a serious player in later years.
23: Imogen Evans – Midfielder, Queensland, 171cm
The captain of the Gold Coast Academy side, Imogen Evans is a player that has got all the skills required to make a significant impact in the AFLW. Her stats line in the championships won’t suggest she’s a big-name player, but with the ball in her hands, she’s a more than capable player.
She doesn’t have that burst out of stoppages that other midfielders in her draft class may have, but she’s got a great work-rate and an appetite for the contested work that can stack up with almost anyone else in the Draft. In her three games for Queensland in the championships this year, Evans averaged 15 disposals per game, but also 3.7 marks and 4.7 tackles per game, utilising her strength and height in various spots around the ground.
The Suns have got their eye on a few of their Academy selections, but Evans would be right on the top of their bucket list for draft selections – a very good, blue-collared midfielder with enormous upside to be a midfield gun.
22: Charlotte Mullins – Midfielder, Queensland, 167cm
Another one from out of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Charlotte Mullins is a player that the Lions would be delighted to have on board their already star-studded side as a player they can build towards for the future.
Mullins’ best position is situated on the outside of stoppages and when she can get time and space to utilise her foot skills the best – think half back or on the wing specifically. However, she is also working tremendously hard to become more of a balanced midfielder who can just as easily win the ball in close and apply defensive pressure consistently as well and that kind of versatility in midfielders will go a large way in the AFLW.
Mullins’ campaign for the Queenslanders in the under-18 championships this year saw her do plenty with the football offensively, averaging 15.3 disposals, but also three clearances and nearly four inside 50s per game to go along with 2.3 marks and 2.7 tackles per game. It is also worth noting that in her one game in the NAB League for the Lions’ Academy side, she laid seven tackles in a strong defensive effort.
21: Mia Busch – Defender, Vic Metro, 166cm
I like a lot out of Mia Busch from the Eastern Ranges. Playing predominantly out of the defensive half, she’s got the speed to be a great rebounding half back option, but also is a terrific competitor who has an aggressive approach to both ball and contest.
This year, she has also spent some time in the middle this year and has had no trouble finding the ball this past season, and with continuous work rate and development in the top flight, she can be a really good midfielder, but in the meantime, clubs looking for mid-sized defenders could look at Busch and you’d half expect her to go early in the Victorian pool come draft night.
Busch averaged 18.5 disposals, 3.4 marks and 5.8 tackles for the Ranges this year, and averaged 15 disposals, 2.3 marks and 3.3 tackles per game for Vic Metro in the championships this year. Busch’s disposal by foot remains a work in progress, but her competitiveness and elite football IQ are high-quality traits to her game that should see her a player to look out for over the next decade.
20: Bridie Hipwell – Utility, Vic Metro, 174cm
Sandringham Dragons’ prospect Bridie Hipwell is someone who after featuring regularly as a midfielder in her under-age year, emerged as a forward star for the Dragons this season, featuring in at centre-half forward in the NAB League team of the year.
Hipwell’s work in close the past couple of seasons mean that her work on the inside is a big strength to her game, but it’s with her size and athleticism that could see her play as a key-position prospect at either end of the ground. As a forward, she leads, competes well and links up strongly to her teammates. A wrist injury late in the year meant that Hipwell missed some games at Sandy and missed two games for Vic Metro in the championships.
But, in the one game she did manage to play for Metro, she was stationed in defence and by all reports, didn’t look out of place there either. Hipwell averaged 13.5 disposals and 3.2 marks for the Dragons this season, whilst kicking three goals in her six games as well, indicating that she’d have no trouble finding the scoreboard if she was playing more closer to goal.
19: Rylie Wilcox – Midfielder/Forward, Vic Metro, 158cm
There’s not a lot of Rylie Wilcox physically, but in terms of what she adds and provides to the game, she proves that size doesn’t matter with her excellent football IQ and her skills both by hand and foot.
The thing with Wilcox as well is that she’s also remarkably quick and dangerously agile and with these athletic attributes in combination with her skills and nous, make her a very draftable player and one with a great future ahead of her. She can be used in a multitude of positions; primarily been used on the wing or across the half forward line. I can also see her being used as a player similar to Caleb Daniel in the AFL men’s, as a small, yet elite user and rebounder off of half back.
Wilcox’s year has seen her play exceptionally well in both the NAB League and the under-18’s championships and has even seen minutes in the VFLW, playing for Carlton and hasn’t looked out of place there either. She missed a bit of footy for the Northern Knights at state level due to injury, but averaged very strong numbers of 20.2 disposals, 5.4 marks, 3.4 tackles, five inside 50s and three rebound 50s per game in five matches. She averaged 16 disposals, 4.3 inside 50s, three marks and 0.7 goals per game in her three games for Metro in the Championships.
18: Cynthia Hamilton – Midfielder, NSW-ACT, 170cm
With her sister Lexi Hamilton linking up with Sydney this past off-season, there’s a strong chance that we will be seeing Cynthia Hamilton also heading over to the Swans in the upcoming draft, given her credentials as a midfielder.
As far as inside midfielders come, Hamilton is up there with the best of them. She’s powerful and thrives in and around stoppages and that’s something the majority of teams look for when it comes to ball winners. With that, however, comes plenty for her to work with as she finds her feet at the top level. Her composure by foot needs work when she pushes to the outside in general play, recording a kicking efficiency of just over 50 percent at the championships this year.
Having said that though, she was named on the bench in the All-Australian team this year, backing up superb campaign in the previous year, averaging 15 disposals and eight tackles for the Allies this year in two games; the previous year she averaged 21.5 and 10 respectively. Her strength and power in the stoppages, along with her sharp hands outline just how good she can be as an inside midfielder.
17: Octavia Di Donato – Utility, Vic Country, 172cm
Bendigo product Octavia Di Donato is a player that has seen game time in all three areas of the ground over the past 12 months, making her one of the most versatile players in the draft class, and easily one of the more draftable utility players as well.
As far as skills go, she’s nearly the complete package, she’s got great foot skills, clean hands in close, terrific vision and football IQ and is also a very good runner with the ball in hand. With that in mind, I think a spot in the defensive half wouldn’t be the worst idea to plug her into as she eases into an AFLW system, given her height, football IQ and ability to spot up a teammate with her vision, but the scope to push her in the midfield down the track means that she becomes a high-value prospect.
Her numbers for Bendigo in the NAB League this year are very strong, averaging 20.6 disposals, four tackles, just under three marks and over three inside 50s per game. Her disposal averages for Vic Country in the championships took a sizeable dip, but she was still consistent with her ability to find the right spots and use the ball well enough.
16: Keeley Skepper – Midfielder/Defender, Vic Country, 163cm
There’s been a lot of plaudits for how Keeley Skepper likes to play the game and if you have watched her across the year, it’s not hard to see where the plaudits come from – she’s a player that has developed versatility in the fact that she can play both as an inside midfielder or as a rebounding defender, where she is able to utilise her raking kick.
Skepper is more of a runner than a clearance specialist, so it won’t surprise me if she is used as a rebounding half back flanker to start off her AFLW career. It was in the under-18 championships that she was named as Vic Country’s MVP and named in the back pocket of the championships’ All-Australian side, averaging over three rebound 50s, 2.7 marks and four tackles per game, to go with the 15.7 disposals she averaged in the campaign, being able to utilise her run and carry game to full effect.
There are concerns with the consistency in terms of her composure and her decision-making, which is something that can be easily fixed over time. She spent a lot of time floating between both midfielder and half back for Murray this year, averaging 17.6 disposals, four inside 50s, 3.7 rebound 50s, three marks and 3.5 tackles per game. She’s a player that has got great potential of being a terrific user of the ball by foot.
15: Sarah Goodwin – Defender, South Australia, 163cm
Coming out of the defensive half is one of the best users of the ball by foot in Glenelg’s Sarah Goodwin. When it comes to rebounding defenders, Goodwin’s kicking skills are amongst the top percent of youngsters in this year’s draft class, being consistent with her vision and her decision-making all through the season.
With being such a terrific outside player, her contested work leaves a lot to be desired, but when she plays to her strengths – her kicking, football IQ and speed – she’s a menace on the football field and her capabilities of splitting games open with her skills become more obvious. She was rewarded with a spot in the under-18’s championships on the back of these strengths, having averaged 19 disposals, 3.3 marks, four tackles and 2.7 rebound 50s in her three games for South Australia.
For Glenelg in the senior women’s competition in South Australia, Goodwin showed plenty more of the same, averaging 22.2 disposals, 15.7 kicks, 4.7 rebound 50s, 4.1 inside 50s, 4.3 marks and 3.2 tackles per game in an awesome season that saw her named on the half back flank in the SANFLW’s team of the year. Expect the Power to snap her up with one of their early selections in the Draft here.
14: Claire Ransom – Midfielder, Tasmania, 170cm
Arguably the most talented Tasmanian in the draft class this year, Claire Ransom is a player that will most certainly head to North Melbourne due to their links to Tasmania, and will do away with a neat midfielder that has got good height, but also has got that innate ability to find time and space where there’s very little.
Her strengths lie with her vision, composure and her neat skills and whilst the scope for her to be more of a contested, inside midfielder is there and needs some work, her year to date for both Tasmania in the NAB League and the Allies in the under-18’s championships speak enough about the body of work she’s putting in right now. Her seven games for Tassie saw her average very strong numbers; 19.7 disposals, 2.6 marks, 4.6 tackles and 4.1 inside 50s per game this season.
An injury to her foot meant that she missed the final games in her NAB League campaign and this, along with a change forward of centre for the Allies in the championships, saw her averages drop off a fair bit, averaging 10.5 disposals and three tackles in her two games. Having said that though, this is a player that’s got tremendous upside, if she can stay fit and healthy.
13: Lauren Wakfer – Ruck, Western Australia, 180cm
There are two ruck options inside this top 15, and out of the two, I believe Lauren Wakfer is the one who has the better ruck craft out of the two, and in a draft where tall options coming out of the under-18s are few and far between in the higher end of the order, she becomes all the more valuable to a side like the Eagles, who have just lost Parris Laurie to an abrupt retirement.
Unfortunately for a side like the Eagles, Wakfer suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury just recently, which will force her on the sidelines for the next 12 months, which is a massive shame, because she put together an incredibly strong campaign for both South Fremantle in the WAFLW and for Western Australia in the championships. Averaging 16.6 hitouts and 19.3 hitouts per game in respective competitions.
The thing that helps Wakfer standout is that she has got the endurance and the work rate to basically enable herself as an extra midfielder in the stoppages, averaging over 14 disposals and six tackles per game for South Fremantle and 12.3 disposals, 3.6 clearances per game and six tackles for WA in an All-Australian year. She has also proven herself to be handy in front of goals, kicking three goals across her five games in the state league this year.
12: Mackenzie Eardley – Key Position Utility, Vic Country, 180cm
One of the higher-ranked key position players out of this year’s draft class, Mackenzie Eardley has got a lot of athletic tools that have recruiters from the Victorian club’s salivating over this young lady’s upside as a player. Whilst she has got the potential to play forward with her ability to read the ball in flight and her marking hands, she has spent the past 12 months plying her craft as a key defender.
Her abilities in a one-on-one will need some work, but there is so much that Eardley does right which neutralises this negative. She already knows when to peel off her direct opponent to impact a contest in the defensive half and in terms of providing offence and drive out of the defensive 50, she has no problems in this regard either, averaging over four rebound 50s per game, as well as averaging 3.3 marks, 14.1 disposals and 4.6 tackles per game for Dandenong in the NAB League this year.
Eardley’s status in being the standout key defender in this year’s draft class was further enhanced by being named at full back in the under-18 championships’ All-Australian side, averaging 12.3 disposals, four tackles and over four rebound 50s per game for Vic Country in three performances this year. For a player of her size to be so quick, but still be so dominant in the air, you can expect that she’ll be taken early doors.
11: Fleur Davies – Ruck/Forward, Queensland, 185cm
There aren’t many key position prospects in this draft that can make a significant impact in multiple areas of the ground the way that Fleur Davies can, which makes her a part of the top 10 here. In a stunning development, Davies has opted to nominate for the NSW draft pool. Where a side like the Giants, who lost both Ally Morphett and Erin McKinnon this past off-season, would relish a young athletic big.
She has got the vertical leap and an established ruck craft that could see her play more as a ruck option, and with an endurance base already established too, she can already turn to playing a secondary role, which could very well be stationed as a key forward, where she has got very strong hands and has developed good leading patterns already for her age. But those strong hands can also be used as a bail-out option in defence or even playing as a spare behind play.
There’s only a small sample size of her performances this year, having played three games for Queensland with modest returns of 8.3 disposals, 2.3 marks, four tackles and 10.3 hitouts per game, but also backed it up with a mammoth effort where she recorded 28 hitouts for the under-18s Academy in an exhibition game against a team under 23 prospects last month.
10: Keeley Kustermann – Utility, South Australia, 166cm
In my eyes, the second-best South Australian to come out of the state in this year’s draft crop, Keeley Kustermann. I like her a lot, largely due to her skill-set and her ability to adapt in a handful of roles and be extremely effective, despite the lack of speed or explosiveness out of the middle.
For West Adelaide in the SANFLW this year, Kustermann has played primarily as an inside midfielder and it’s here where she can be best used when it comes to clean hands in close or an ability to extract clearances, having averaged over three clearances per game, as well as averaging 19 disposals and 6.3 tackles per game in nine outings this year. She’s got a great appetite for the contest, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she went into the midfield in a few years’ time.
She has also spent a lot of time in the defensive half as a rebounding option, it’s here where her vision and ability to spot up teammates really come into the fore with her exquisite kicking skills. As well as featuring plenty for Wests as a half-back flanker in 2021, she was named on the half back flank in the under-18s All Australian team, on the back of averaging 16 disposals, two rebound 50s and 2.7 tackles per game this year. For Port to build their list further for their inaugural season and beyond, Kustermann is a safe bet, just a very strong player all across the board.
9: Amber Clarke – Utility, Vic Country, 169cm
One of the more exciting players out of this year’s draft cohort is Dandenong’s Amber Clarke. Rated highly by many for her abilities to play in a multitude of positions across the ground, Clarke’s impact per possessions and consistency on the scoreboard make her a talent to circle down as a must for the Victorian clubs.
Whilst she can spend time through the midfield, it’s the forward line where Clarke can really hurt the opposition, she’s got the speed, the agility and a goal sense that some have already described as elite and the best in the talent pool this year. Her NAB League campaign saw her take home the competition’s best and fairest award after averaging 17.6 disposals, 4.6 inside 50s, 2.7 marks, 2.6 tackles and 1.8 goals per game over 10 matches for the Stingrays this year – in those 10 games, she polled three votes in six of them.
The stat line from her campaign at the championships won’t read as flattering as her NAB League season, but was still good enough for her to be named on a half-forward flank in the All-Australian team from the Championships, for her abilities in front of goal, she has got enormous scope to be pushed into the middle full-time with more games that she plays and that’s an exciting proposition to anyone willing to pick her up.
8: Sofia Hurley – Midfielder, Vic Metro, 166cm
Having nominated for the NSW talent pool, it’s almost a lock that Sofia Hurley will be in the Sydney red and white. In a talent pool that boasts an abundance of talented midfielders, one can argue that Sandringham’s Sofia Hurley has already got a terrific balance of offence and defence, with her ability to win the ball on both the inside and out well complimented with her ability to tackle and really hurt the opposition in doing so.
Another underrated point of difference for Hurley as opposed to other midfielders this year is that she didn’t have as much of a hard time in comparison to others in terms of hitting the scoreboard, kicking four goals in eight matches for the Dragons this year, but her averages of 25.3 disposals per game and 10.1 tackles per game, immediately outline her work-rate and her willingness to work both forward and defensively.
Hurley was also named on the wing in the Championships’ All-Australian this year, playing a more prominent role this year, as opposed to just the one game in 2021 as a 16/17-year old. Her 2km time trial results in the Combine also suggest that she is a very good runner and wouldn’t be too out of place on a wing in an AFLW system, but her tackling pressure almost makes it too good to not throw her in the centre as well.
7: Charlotte Baskaran – Midfielder, Vic Metro, 162cm
Like some of the other top midfielders in this year’s draft class, Charlotte Baskaran is a player who has a lot of key traits that are required to be a top-line midfielder and whilst the size of her compared to those around is significantly smaller, she’s got the football smarts and the skill set to match that make her a troubling proposition.
Baskaran led the Western Jets to premiership glory in the NAB League, due to her willingness to lead by example. Despite the size, she throws herself in the firing line and can do the hard yards on both offence and defence to ensure her side gets over the line; her averages for the Jets this year were absurd, averaging 27.6 disposals, 6.6 tackles and 4.2 inside 50s per game this year. It’s not just her ability to accumulate possession and use it well, but it’s her work-rate and her heart that makes her a highly rated prospect.
Her three games in the championships for Vic Metro also outline this. Whilst her disposal averages weren’t as outlandishly high as her NAB League numbers, she was still doing a lot of the grit work when the opposition didn’t have the ball, averaging 12 tackles per game in her three performances, whilst averaging over three clearances per game from 16 disposals per game. Under an elite environment, she’s one that will seriously thrive in the AFLW in the coming years.
6: Jasmine Fleming – Midfielder/Forward, Vic Metro, 165cm
Others might have Jasmine Fleming well entrenched in their top five and there’s good reason once they hear about the elite sporting background that Jasmine Fleming comes from and her body of work for both Oakleigh Chargers and Vic Metro in the under-18 championships.
As well as being an ace in the sport of cricket, where her father has made a name for himself in the previous generation, Fleming’s ability with the ball in her hands, her athleticism, her work rate and effort to get from contest to contest holds her in good stead. Watching her bounce from contest to contest, there are some similarities to how Monique Conti plays in the midfield to how Fleming plays; an accumulator, quick off the burst and an out-and-out workhorse, maybe a little untidy by foot under pressure, but the facts are that she’s a gut-running midfielder.
She was named in the midfield of the championships’ All-Australian side, such was her impact for Metro, averaging 22.5 disposals, 5.5 clearances and 5.5 inside 50s per game, as well as 4.5 tackles in just two matches, whilst her year at the Chargers shows that she can play in a few other positions, kicking three goals in one NAB League game. Limited gametime hurts her standing here, but she has shown enough to suggest that she is going to be a ripper prospect and well inside the best handful of Victorians.
5: Zarlie Goldsworthy – Midfielder/Forward, NSW-ACT, 168cm
One of the most exciting forwards to come out of this year’s draft crop is Murray’s Zarlie Goldsworthy, but the scope to play her as a full-time midfielder as well will be the massive carrot that dangles over the heads of recruiters.
Whilst it cannot be understated that her 14 goals in nine games is crucial for the sides that need forward presence. Having nominated for the NSW portion of the draft, it could be the Swans who likely pick her up; her impact in the contest, both offensively and defensively is where she can cause the most damage. For Murray, she averaged nearly 25 disposals per game, six inside 50s, 4.2 marks and nine tackles per game and whilst her averages dipped in the championships, she was still a big enough presence to be an All-Australian and MVP for the Allies.
Whether it’s up forward, where she can present well and provide as a strong, contested marking option, who’s has proven that she can hit the scoreboard consistently, or a terrific in and under player with great defensive pressure, whoever drafts Goldsworthy will have themselves a terrific player who is capable of winning a game off her own back in the years down the track.
4: Alana Gee – Midfielder, Queensland, 170cm
Arguably the best Queenslander in the talent pool this year is Alana Gee, who comes out of Gold Coast’s Academy and would be something that the Suns would absolutely love for their midfield set up. She is seen more as an offensively-minded midfielder, with her speed and athleticism able to see her either burst away from a contest or provide as a link-up option to the forwards, her ability to find the football and her vision – with time and space – to hit up her targets with precision, in conjunction with her tackling in congested spaces, make her a top-five worthy prospect.
Being named as Queensland’s MVP and on the wing in the Under-18’s All-Australian side this year, Gee averaged healthy numbers of 24 disposals, four clearances, four inside 50s and 3.7 marks per game in the under-18 championships, as well as kicking two goals from her three outings cannot be slept on either
Her ability to be a presence in defensive transition remains an issue, but if that’s the only thing wrong about her as an under-18’s prospect, then with what she has got going for her so far, big things will be coming from her when she reaches the prime years of her career. She’s an A-grade talent.
3: Montana Ham – Midfielder, Vic Metro, 178cm
Personally speaking here, Montana Ham has been a player of big interest here in Victoria over the past three years and looms as the best Victorian prospect out of this year’s class. But having nominated for the NSW draft it’s expected that the Sydney Swans will land her with the first pick. At 178cm, she’s got the height that can easily pass off as a ruck option, but her skill set, along with her size and power, is set to provide a massive headache in the middle for the opposition in the years that follow.
I say personally, because as a 15-16 year old prospect a few years ago, she was turning heads by blowing games apart in the stoppages with her size and her clean hands in close and has gotten better with every game she has played between the Covid-shortened 2020 season up to where we are right now. She averaged over 24 touches, 3.4 marks and 5.2 tackles for the Western Jets this year and emulated those numbers in the championships, averaging 23, five and five.
Right now, she’s better being an inside winner, who loves to just surge the ball forward, but there is so much scope for her to be a serious weapon if she can provide space and touch up on her reliability by foot across general play. Having said that, midfielders are often a dime a dozen, but a midfielder of her size do not grow on trees – the Swans are going to have a bloody good player on their hands here.
2: Hannah Ewings – Midfielder, South Australia, 167cm
Having been long touted as the best South Australian coming out of the Draft this year, it would be a shocker if Port Adelaide overlook North Adelaide’s Hannah Ewings as their first pick in the AFL Draft. For she has got a great blend of strength that makes her an inside midfield beast, the composure and the skill to hit her targets under pressure and the knack for kicking goals when she rests in the forward line.
For North in the SANFL’s women’s competition, Ewings has made the senior competition look ridiculous at times with her composure by foot and her strength in the stoppages, averaging 20.3 disposals, 4.2 clearances and 4.5 tackles per game this past season, whilst averaging well over a goal per game in the process that’s 12 goals in 10 games for those playing along at home. She also replicated this in the under-18 championships this year, averaging over 21 disposals and two goals per game, yet losing out on South Australia’s MVP to 2023 Draft prospect Shineah Goody.
It’s completely absurd to read upon her turning a senior state competition on its head in the manner that she does, and scarier to imagine what she does when she reaches the peak of her powers. Providing a healthy career, we’ll be talking a lot about her credentials as a footballer over the next little while, she’s an exciting prospect.
1: Ella Roberts – Midfielder, Western Australia, 175cm
Between our resident Eagles’ man Daniel Jon Kershaw and myself, Ella Roberts is someone who is destined to be one of a few key players to help turn the Eagles’ fortunes around. It’s not going to be an immediate fix, and perhaps it’s unfair to hinge the hopes of a team on a 17-year old, but once you see everything this young lady has done over the past few years, it’s enough to convince you that she’ll be one of those players who can carry a side over the line in the clinches when she eventually comes of age.
For a player her size, Roberts can play either in the midfield, where she can win the ball directly from the source or burst away out of the stoppages, or in the forward half, with her height and athleticism, can cause many issues for her direct opponent in defence. Roberts has also secured back-to-back MVPs for WA as well as dual All-Australian during the under-18 championships from both this year and last, averaging over 23 disposals, 5.8 marks, 3.7 tackles, 5.3 inside 50s and 1.3 goals per game over the last two years representing the state.
Roberts looks as a player that is capable to change games at the drop of a dime almost immediately, having proven to be a match-winner for Peel as a 15-year old in a WAFLW Grand Final a couple of years ago, with her elite skill set and athleticism, the Eagles – who have the first pick in WA – have got themselves a very special player here.