AFLW – The Doc’s 2023 Phantom Draft

The AFLW Draft is on tonight, with around 50-60 young people realising their AFLW dream or perhaps being granted a second chance.

It’s hard to get a feel on who’s wanting to get who, but I’ve tried to get the feelers out as much as I can over the weekend, in addition to what I’ve seen over the last couple of years and what I think every team needs. I’ve put together my phantom draft and predict who will go where tonight.


Western Bulldogs – Kristie-Lee Weston-Turner

It’s probably the one that the Bulldogs will want to cross off the list first. Kristie-Lee Weston-Turner is a local, being a Western Jets, but also as someone who has nominated National, you can bet West Coast and GWS will be looking at her too. She has extraordinary athletic attributes for someone of her height and has shown she can play across the midfield and forward line. The Dogs need the best players right now, and this is the best they can get.


West Coast – Jess Rentsch

There have been some rumours late that the Eagles could move on Rentsch, who’s got some family based in Western Australia, and given Rentsch’s incredible athletic attributes, could see the Eagles start her off at half-back before making a permanent switch into the midfield. She excels in the stoppages, particularly on the burst, and will gain meterage quickly. Coming off a severe leg break last year, she’s done all she could to get herself taken early.


GWS Giants – Brooke Barwick

Despite missing the entire 2023 season with a knee injury, it shouldn’t deter teams from going early on Brooke Barwick. She’s a brilliant ball user by foot and can break the lines with her speed and agility. An All-Australian for the Allies in the 2022 under-18 championships, she’s a player who already has a lot of tools to be a damaging player. The Giants need as many of those types as they can get.


Western Bulldogs – Alyssia Pisano

With Melbourne to pick next, it’s time to turn to a player nominated for Victoria. Alyssia Pisano is coming off a year where she kicked 46 goals in 20 games in all forms of under-18s footy. She’s an intelligent player in terms of where to be in the forward half, and she’s got the pace to burn defenders. The Dogs lacked potent goalkickers this year, among everything else. The Dogs head into next year with some dangerous players forward of centre.


Melbourne – Elaine Grigg
Melbourne will look to the best available talent here, and I’ve got them taking Elaine Grigg here, a player who can play both forward and midfield in her time at Central Districts but will most likely get her start in Melbourne’s forward half. She’s pretty special to watch when she gets the time and space, but she can also be strong in the contest when needed. She averaged six tackles per game for the South Australian side in the championships and was named All-Australian on the back of it.


Western Bulldogs – Georgia Clark
With their third pick in the first round, now is the perfect time to draft a genuine key forward, and one of the better ones coming out of this year’s draft class is Georgia Clark. The Dogs are desperate to have someone down there with solid hands and a significant aerial presence, and Clark is the one who fits the need well. She averaged 16 disposals and kicked 17 goals for Tasmania in the Talent League this year.


Carlton – Mikayla Williamson

Carlton will want the best available at this spot in the Draft, and I can see them taking the next best Victorian talent in Mikayla Williamson. She is an elite runner with great pace and a terrific player to have to move the ball in transition. She might start as a rebounding defender, but she can add a lethal point of difference in the midfield alongside Mimi Hill, Abbie McKay and Keeley Sherar.


Collingwood – Ella Slocombe

Perhaps one thing that hasn’t been talked about enough is the depth of midfielders Collingwood have. Bri Davey and Brit Bonnici are terrific players in the guts, but it then tends to drop off significantly after. Ella Slocombe is a player who boasts an exceptional athletic profile but is also a convenient player to have in the forward half of the ground. She’ll complement what’s slowly turning into a potent midfield unit.


Collingwood – Cleo Buttifant

Collingwood should look to turn to one of the best key defenders in the draft, and that’s Giants Academy prospect Cleo Buttifant. Whilst a raw prospect in terms of what she can do with the ball in her hands, she’s got an insane athletic profile and produced a pretty solid under-18s campaign for the Allies. She already showed a good understanding of how to play as the intercept marking defender. It should be an excellent pickup for the Pies here.


St Kilda – Kaitlyn Srhoj

I’ve got the Saints bringing in the next best talent available with this selection, and I believe it’s Kaitlyn Srhoj from Western Australia. The Saints could use a tall midfielder type to compliment the likes of Jaimee Lambert, Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith, and with Srhoj, the Saints have that tall midfielder who can cover ground. She’s also a solid overhead mark and strong in the contest when required.


Western Bulldogs – Jorja Borg

It’s not every day that a mature-aged player gets taken off the board this early in the Draft, but the Dogs liked what they saw from Jorja Borg in not just the VFLW this year but her lone performance in the AFLW this year against Sydney as a top-up player. Considering the Dogs’ next pick won’t be up until the 50s, they don’t have a lot of other options for ruck depth, given Celine Moody’s departure. This will be more of a pick out of necessity than the best available.


Melbourne – Lila Keck

Unless a bid comes in for Jemma Rigoni (highly unlikely), Melbourne will swoop on the next possible small forward on their list, Lila Keck. A player that could go just inside the top 10, she hasn’t had the runs on the board to show for it this year, but she has shown that she can kick some excellent goals and celebrate hard while doing so. She’s a class talent and the sort of player that can get a side up and about when they’re down. A player that could go just inside the top 10


Richmond – Sarah Grunden

The best available here could see the Tigers land a midfielder, but given that they already have a good core of midfielders, the Tigers should look at getting someone who can help with the forward unit, and here is where Sarah Grunden can assist. A mid-sized forward at 168cm, she is extremely capable of hitting the scoreboard and helping set up the key forwards with delightful kicks inside 50. She Kicked seven goals for Calder this year in the talent league, averaging 12.3 disposals and five tackles per game.


West Coast – Kayley Kavanagh

With Fremantle not set to enter the draft until pick 52, the Eagles can afford to draft another few players nominated for the national pool before selecting one of the best key position prospects in Georgie Cleaver with either 38 or 42. So, with this selection, I’ve gone with the best available approach. A reliable midfielder who can win the ball inside and out. She’s consistently winning the ball, and the Eagles could use a little extra depth in the midfield spot.


Sydney – Kiera Whiley

The Swans have an exciting position since their sudden rise up the ladder this year. I think they’ll look at midfield depth, and perhaps the best available talent here is Kiera Whiley. She’s a consistent player on the inside, averaging nearly three clearances per game in the championships. She also provides good defensive pressure and a capable link-up option in transition. She’s a good height, too, at 172cm. Given she’s nominated nationally, I expect she’ll get snapped up around this mark.


Hawthorn – Emily Gough

With their midfield stocks secured during the trade period, Hawthorn should target either a key defender to make up for the loss of Catherine Brown or a key forward that can help relieve some pressure off Aine McDonough. I’ve got them taking Emily Gough, a tall unit at 179cm that has the mobility to play several roles around the ground. She’s clean below her knees and has played forward and back throughout the year. She’s a perfect pick here to help continue the Hawks’ build.


Geelong – Chloe Adams

While the Cats aren’t short on options that can run through the midfield, the chance to snare Geelong Falcons captain Chloe Adams is there for them, and I’ve got the Cats taking her on with their first pick. She’s an elite inside midfielder but can also work her way on the outside to receive the ball and send it forward. She also averaged good tackling numbers in the talent league, averaging over eight per game in 14 matches. She’d be good depth for the meantime.


Port Adelaide – Piper Window

Having only just nominated the South Australian portion of the AFLW Draft, Port Adelaide is set to claim first dibs on Piper Window, who is seen as the best available talent of what’s left after all the expansion pre-listings. It leaves Port Adelaide in a very comfortable position, where they’ve picked up three under-18 players who have lit it up this year and in previous years. With Window, Port will get a player who is a tremendously balanced midfielder with an excellent overhead mark for her size.


Essendon – Jacinta Baldwick

With Lions Academy product Jacinta Baldwick opting to nominate Nationally, I’ve got the Bombers taking her on with this pick. The Dons need some extra firepower up forward. Baldwick is a player who can hit the scoreboard, having slotted three goals in a championship game against the Allies this year. She’s a very talented player with a great skill set, and for someone at her size of 167cm, she’s an elegant overhead mark, too, making her an excellent little option up forward for the Bombers.


Brisbane – Sophie Peters

Rules to Academy bidding this year means that Brisbane must match bids from other sides with the picks they’ve got at their disposal. Expect a bid to come for a few players in the first round. One of them should be Sophie Peters, widely regarded as one of the best players to come out of Queensland in this draft class. She’s a very clever player on the run, has a neat kick, and is fast in transition. The Lions have got themselves a good one.


Brisbane – Evie Long

Another one is tied to Brisbane’s Academy, which is expected to get a bid placed in the first round. Evie Long is a player who battled concussion issues in 2022 but responded to be a prominent figure for both the Lions Academy and Queensland’s under-18s side in the championships. She’s a great runner, has a good overhead mark and a great size at 175cm – she’s a player with great scope to be a midfielder in due time, but will most likely start up as a forward-type.


Who doesn’t have a pick in the first round

Adelaide – I expect Adelaide will luck out on securing Brooke Boileau with the first pick of the second round. Many people project Boileau as a top-10 talent after this year’s incredible campaign with South Australia and South Adelaide. She’s a great in-and-under player who can win the ball outside. This year, she also averaged five tackles per game in the championships, highlighting her defensive capabilities.

Fremantle – The Dockers are in the unenviable position of entering the draft late, with their first pick not being until pick 52. By then, I expect Western Australia’s best talent to be off the board. It might be a slim chance key position Angelique Raison slips to Freo’s first pick, but given she’s nominated to go in the National pool, it seems a stretch. They might target someone out of the VFLW, like Lauren Caruso, an outside type who did feature this year as a top-up player for Richmond, or Jess Bates, who dominated for Collingwood this year in the state competition.

Gold Coast – Gold Coast enter the draft at pick 35, and it is about as elementary as it gets for them here, as they should receive a bid from Brisbane from Sienna McMullen – who’s easily the best player to come from the Suns’ Academy. She’s got a great burst of speed and can run all day. She will slot in nicely onto a wing spot for the Suns, but there’s scope for her to develop into a tremendous balanced midfielder, such is her talent with the ball in her hands.

North Melbourne – North Melbourne entered the draft at pick 27 after offloading their first-round pick to Melbourne, which was then on-traded to Essendon as part of the massive 11-club deal. They’ll be watching closely to see who slides down the order. I could see them taking half-back-midfielder Jaime Henry, a competitive mid-forward type out of New South Wales in Mel Staunton, or forward Lily Jordan. We could see someone like Amber Schutte get picked up here, who could be an apt Emma Kearney replacement.


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