59 new players joined the AFL Women’s competition in last night’s draft.
The best of the best from the junior pathways and the state leagues got the chance to live out their Aussie rules dream across the 14 clubs.
The Inner Sanctum has broken down each team’s selections, what they mean for the squad and give our final ratings.
Players selected: Zoe Prowse (17), Brooke Tonon (20), Abbie Ballard (34)
The Crows have increased the amount of speed, agility, and ferocity in their nest with their three draft picks. They first called on ruck and key position utility Zoe Prowse, then 17-year-old half-back and wing Brooke Tonon, and small but powerful mid and forward Abbie Ballard.
Prowse was a smart choice as the Crows look to add height around the ground, especially with some of their original talls nearing the ends of their careers. Her height paired with her ability to take a strong overhead mark – not dissimilar to her favourite player, Brodie Grundy – will be valuable for Adelaide no matter what position she plays.
Tonon has a knack of knowing where the ball is headed next, a valuable attribute in the half-back line, and can run along the wing to hopefully improve Adelaide’s forward entries. She is still young but has plenty of potential, and being in an AFLW environment will only see her flourish further.
Ballard is a hard nut with a similar playing style to the fierce tacklers Ebony Marinoff, Hannah Button, and Rachelle Martin. She was a train-on ahead of Adelaide’s 2021 season and clearly impressed coach Doc Clarke, and will look to improve her pace to keep up with the rest of the team’s quick midfield.
Players selected: Maggie Harmer (18), Bella Smith (35), Mikayla Pauga (46), Luka Yoshida-Martin (53), Lucinda Pullar (58)
The Queensland talent pool grows deeper by the year, and much of that growth has been fostered by the Lions Academy. Their first three picks in last night’s draft were all home-grown academy selections.
Emma Zielke’s retirement was set to leave a gap in the powerful Lions backline which helped push them to their first flag, but the additions of Harmer and Pullar will help to nullify the loss. Pullar adds an extra rebounding option off half back, while Harmer is one of the most highly rated intercept defenders in the 2021 draft.
With Nat Grider already enjoying a breakout season, Brisbane’s small defender brigade is looking like one of the best in the competition. Kate Lutkins and the perennially underrated Shannon Campbell and Breanna Koenen have the back up they were looking for, both aerially and at ground level.
Pauga has the versatility to play across roles in the midfield and forward lines, doing both with Bond University in the 2021 QAFLW season. Smith still has work to do her on her inside game against mature bodies, but will be a solid rotation through the middle as she develops.
Yoshida-Martin is a mature age pick that has demonstrated her resilience and ability to stand up in big games in the QAFLW. She’s a premiership player for University of Queensland, coming back stronger than ever after a quad injury.
They didn’t have too many list needs off the back of an already near complete squad, but the Lions certainly don’t have any passengers now.
Players selected: Annie Lee (10), Keeley Sherar (11), Brooke Vickers (23), Imogen Milford (26)
After a trade period which saw multiple key players depart, the Blues were in desperate need of replenishing their list and filling the holes that were missing in season 2021.
Annie Lee will slot into Carlton’s half-back line alongside skipper Kerryn Harrington and Charlotte Wilson and provide that run, dash and drive up the field.
Keeley Sherar will step into a one paced midfield and give it a much needed injection of pace which was lacking throughout this season just gone with the absence of Chloe Dalton (who has since departed for GWS).
The Blues added to their key forward stocks adding mature ager Imogen Milford to partner Darcy Vescio and fellow young key forward Serena Gibbs in the front half for the Blues.
The Blues also added the versatile Brooke Vickers who will provide that extra midfield and defensive cover after the departure of Jess Hosking and the likely absence of Mimi Hill for the season as she continues to recover from her ACL injury.
Players selected: Eliza James (29), Eloise Chaston (32), Imogen Barnett (33)
Collingwood’s first pick in this year’s draft didn’t come until later down the order with pick 29, however the Pies selections highlighted their need to refocus on their forward line.
Eliza James joins Collingwood with the prospect of being a threat to her opposition with the strong on-ball presence she applies. Her versatility will allow the Pies to move her around the ground particularly up forward where she is also handy in front of goal.
She is quick, and remains strong around the ball. She made the move up to VFLW from the NAB League look easy, performing consistently, and is expected to do the same when she gets selected for her first AFLW games.
It’s been a busy year for Eloise Chaston who made her VFLW debut for Hawthorn in 2021, as well as captaining the Eastern Ranges in the NAB League. The 19-year-old suits best playing as a half-forward with a great defensive game.
Collingwood’s forward line will be strengthened with the inclusion of Imogen Barnett, who was the VFLW leading goal-kicker with 21 goals.
Barnett was the difference in Collingwood’s VFLW semi-final win against Essendon, her work under pressure and to perform accurately in front of goal notable. Barnett will be positioned a key forward, allowing a reliable option for when her side looks for inside 50 options.
Players selected: Amy Franklin (14), Dana East (31), Makaela Tuhakaraina (38), Airlie Runnalls (44), Jessica Low (52), Sarah Wielstra (57)
With Sabreena Duffy (work) and Ashley Sharp (pregnancy) placed on the inactive list, Fremantle was recruiting to fill those gaps, and with their six selections have done well to do so.
Claremont product Amy Franklin went at pick 14 and had too much unique talent to refuse. She’s a taller player – preferably a forward but has the athleticism to potentially push into the middle in the future. With the ability to play across three lines, this choice was simply ingenious.
If there’s one thing Dana East loves, it’s the contested ball. The Swan Districts’ midfielder was taken with the next pick and looks like a solid replacement for Duffy. Like Duffy, she enjoys extracting the ball from stoppages and playing on the inside, but she can also rest forward and kick the occasional goal.
While she isn’t like-for-like and there are some big boots to fill, East should do well in Fremantle’s star-studded midfield.
After spending only one year in the AFLW Talent Pathway, rugby convert Makaela Tuhakaraina is an exciting prospect that should continue to excel under Trent Cooper’s guidance. The small forward is speedy, agile and a handful to contain, but also has no qualms showing off her strength when tackling or shrugging off an opponent. She’s an exciting player and should be a fan-favourite of the future.
Airlie Runnalls was the only non-Western Australian to end up at a WA club, earning her opportunity after Fremantle came knocking. The Dockers took notice after a stellar conclusion to the VFLW competition where she had a string excellent games, finding plenty of the ball. The Victorian outside mid is only new to the game, but has natural talent which can be nurtured and put to use by a club like Fremantle.
Despite missing out on selection last year, Jessica Low, a midfielder who can also play in defence finally got her chance. It was the WAFLW match where she lined up on Hayley Miller that seriously impressed Fremantle and kept her on their radar. If she can line up against a superstar like Miller, then she should slot right into the Fremantle midfield easily.
The final pick was Sarah Wielstra who can provide extra support in the ruck, or play forward when needed. After missing out last year, an additional year of development did her a world of good.
Players selected: Georgie Prespakis (2), Zali Friswell (7), Gabbi Featherston (9), Annabel Johnson (15)
AFLW fans were waiting with bated breath to see what Geelong would do with its pick two selection. When Georgie Prespakis’ name was read out, it was a nail in the heart of Saints fans, but an astute selection by the Cats.
Prespakis’ contested work is already at an elite level, dominating the NAB League as an inside midfielder and taking her game straight up to VFLW level with her four games for Essendon, including two strong finals. She tackles, she competes, she extracts with ease and she goes all game long.
Zali Friswell, her Cannons and Bombers teammate, brings a similar level of aggression around the contest. Friswell can add a strong pressure role either in the midfield or forward. Her disposal on the outside is also of note, which the Cats have notably lacked in the past.
Featherston was one of the bolters of the first round, but understandably so. While she’s a touch smaller than some of the other key position prospects of this year’s pool, her athleticism and contested marking sets her apart. She’ll provide much needed support for Phoebe McWilliams and will develop nicely alongside Liv Barber.
Annabel Johnson has been putting in work for the Cats’ VFLW side all season in the midfield, and has earned a well-deserved call up.
While Geelong addressed a need for more class in the midfield and greater tackling players, the backline which leaked some of the highest scores of 2021 received no additions. Young defender Millie Brown’s decision to sit out the 2021/22 season hurts even more in this regard.
They may have overpaid a bit for Featherston and Johnson as well, and could have done well to split one of those first round picks for a couple of later selections in the second round. Why they passed on now Roo and Falcons product Tess Craven also remains to be seen.
Players selected: Charlie Rowbottom (1), Teagan Levi (6), Ashanti Bush (8), Giselle Davies (30)
They may have only had four selections to make, but the Gold Coast Suns nailed all three of their top 10 picks.
After Charlie Rowbottom nominated for the Queensland zone, there was no doubt the Suns were going to take her with pick one. In an open draft pool, Rowbottom would have still likely been a top selection.
She addresses a direct need for scoring power and an extra strong body in the midfield. At 178cm, Rowbottom and Ali Drennan will make for a scary proposition to come up against. Throw in Jacqui Yorston on return from injury and Maddi Levi, and the Suns have strength, size and class in spades.
Teagan Levi is just as strong of a midfield pick, coming through the Suns Academy. Where Rowbottom adds size, Levi adds agility and burst speed away from stoppages. She has a leap above her height, second in the vertical jump and equal-fifth in the running vertical jump at the Draft Combine.
When Rowbottom is resting forward, Levi will be one of the key players delivering inside 50 to both her and forward partner in crime Sarah Perkins.
Ashanti Bush, meanwhile, will be there to mop up the crumbs at ground level. She’s a dynamic forward with eyes only for the goals, and she certainly has some powerful aerial options to work off.
Giselle Davies was the Suns only defensive selection, and is a powerful one on one player. She’ll work well to free up Lauren Ahrens and Jade Pregelj to play their strong rebound games.
There was an all around need for more class and aggression for the Suns as the second lowest scoring team of 2020, and they’ve certainly addressed that. It looks like this will be a defining draft for Gold Coast.
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Players selected: Ally Morphett (37), Jess Doyle (49), Brodee Mowbray (55), Georgina Fowler (59), Casidhe Simmons (60), Erin Todd (61)
In what could be potentially the last year that the Giants have the New South Wales draft pool to themselves, they certainly did capitalise.
The Giants’ first pick was their academy ruck in Ally Morphett, adding to their two rucks in Erin McKinnon and Jessica Allan. When not in the ruck, Morphett can easily dominate up forward.
Jess Doyle has the potential to be a future captain of the Giants, having captained the Swans Academy side. The future is bright for the Giants, with Doyle being an excellent midfielder/forward. She’ll create a formidable force with one of last year’s draftees in Tarni Evans up forward for many years to come.
Adding Brodee Mowbray into that Giants midfield alongside Alyce Parker is going to be a scary sight for opposition, with both of them tough nuts who are strong tacklers. Mowbray also uses her pace to her advantage, whether that be to burst out of the contest or speed towards goal.
Another Swans Academy player, Georgina Fowler is a cross code athlete with a background in rugby sevens. Having both Fowler and Cora Staunton in the same forward line creates a dangerous prospect for opposition.
Fowler has eyes for the goals and is incredibly strong in a one on one contest, and will likely cause defenders plenty of headaches
Mature age recruit Casidhe Simmons is ready to make a big big sound in the AFLW this upcoming season. The 26-year-old has a background in the heptathlon, having the endurance to spend time in the middle. She’s most dangerous up forward however, with Simmons averaging two goals a game for the UNSW-ES Bulldogs.
Last but not least we have Erin Todd, who was delisted by the Giants at the end of the 2021 season, but has put in the work over the break to earn a second chance. The lockdown defender is looking to cement her spot in the GWS backline alongside the likes of Louise Stephenson.
Players selected: Georgia Campbell (41), Tahlia Gillard (42), Alison Brown (45)
With several key experienced players retiring, the Demons have used the draft to supplement their list ahead of the new season.
The Demons have drafted three exciting talents to complement new recruits Olivia Purcell and Tayla Harris as the side aims to build on last season, having bowed out in the preliminary final.
A historic pickup, Georgia Campbell was selected as Melbourne’s first ever father-daughter pick up. Eligible for both the Demons and Bulldogs with her father Adrian playing for both clubs, the Demons declared she’d join the club last week with her selection made official on draft night.
Starring in the 2021 NAB League Girls with the Eastern Ranges as one of the premiere ruck-forwards of the competition, Campbell showed great athleticism and would’ve been an early round selection had she’d not been taken by the Demons.
Campbell will come in as a possible ruck partner for Lauren Pearce or a key forward replacing the retired Tegan Cunningam.
Another tall recruit for the Demons, the 190cm Tahlia Gillard is not only one of the tallest players at the club, but in the league. In addition to her standout performances for Vic Metro, Gillard also has senior football experience playing for Essendon’s VFLW side.
A similar type of player to Campbell playing as a ruck-forward and known for her athleticism, the Demons have addressed the need to add some taller bodies to the side.
Alison Brown would be the Demons final selection, with the defender receiving a third chance to play AFLW having been delisted by St Kilda this year, and Carlton back in 2017.
She regains her spot on a list having played well as a key defender for the Demon’s VFLW side, and is a ready made pick up having played 18 games at AFLW level.
Players selected: Tess Craven (13), Tara Slender (19), Kim Rennie (28), Perri King (43), Jasmine Ferguson (51), Ella Maurer (56)
Armed with six picks heading into the draft, North Melbourne has come out with a raft of talented players, adding to a list that has made finals the last two years.
The Roos got two steals with their first two selections in Tess Craven and Tara Slender, with the Vic Country products both projected to go in the top 10 by many heading into the night.
Craven won the Geelong Falcons best and fairest in a Grand Final year, as one of the best contested midfielders in her draft class.
She’s known for winning the ball around stoppages and possesses clean skills by foot.
Slender, a 175cm key forward, is a perfect fit, given that Kate Gillespie-Jones and Georgia Hammond were delisted by the club.
The AFLW Academy member isn’t afraid to crash packs and has great composure at ground level.
Kim Rennie finally arrived at Arden Street, after the former Bulldog failed to get traded to the club earlier this year. She will immediately slot in behind Emma King as the second ruck, as Vivien Saad got traded to the Suns.
Jasmine Ferguson comes from Collingwood’s undefeated VFLW side, after being a rock down back for the Pies. The key defender has impressed with her ability to read the ball and shut down opposing forwards.
The club’s connection with Tasmania continued, with two players picked up from the Apple Isle.
Perri King is a first-round talent that North was able to select later in the draft due to its Tasmanian draft zone. The skilful midfielder averaged 20 disposals and nine tackles in the NAB League and was the state’s only AFLW Academy member.
The Roos’ final selection, Ella Maurer, was the Tasmania Devils’ best and most consistent player behind King.
She’s a pure contested midfielder who knows how to win clearances and represented the Allies at the U19 Championships.
Rennie and Slender could immediately enter North Melbourne’s side, given that a second ruck and key forward were two of its biggest needs.
At 22-years-old, Ferguson brings some senior experience into the backline, but still has the scope to further develop.
Craven, King and Maurer might need to spend some time in the VFLW or earn their stripes up forward before getting a sustained crack in the midfield, given the depth the Roos have in that area of the ground.
Players selected: Stella Reid (5), Emelia Yassir (16), Megan Kiely (48), Ingrid Houtsma (50), Akec Makur Chuot (54)
Richmond has picked up some bonafide match-winners to add to its midfield depth with its selections in the draft in an effort to build and improve on previous seasons.
First-round picks Stella Reid and Emelia Yassir are an equally-important pairing who could split their time in the midfield or up forward. Both of these selections are known for their game awareness and ability to step up in crucial moments by winning the ball or hitting the scoreboard.
The inclusion of Megan Kiely, the stand-out North Melbourne VFLW midfielder who’s leading many categories in the competition, will be bringing forward an attacking presence on the ball. With an ability to get the ball forward from all areas of the ground, Kiely will prove pivotal for the Tigers’ accuracy launching into their forward 50.
An area of the game Richmond has struggled with is the putting the ball inside 50 to the advantage of the forwards, and Ingrid Houtsma will contribute greatly to that improving in 2022. A smart ball user with a cool head who’s a strong overhead mark, she’ll help the Tigers transition and move the ball up the ground.
Indicating they would pick her up in the draft after originally delisting her, Akec Makur Chuot rejoins the Tigers. Makur Chuot was in Richmond’s top three for intercept possessions and rebounds by backline players in 2021, highlighting her importance in the lineup.
All in all, the Tigers have drafted with the intention to help their midfield stocks, namely Monique Conti, with a focus on winning the ball and their movement forward.
Perhaps though, without looking squarely at position players for either end of the ground in the draft, Richmond would again be focusing on the likes of Katie Brennan up forward and Harriet Cordner down back to keep command in those areas for the upcoming season.
Players selected: Ella Friend (4), Ash Richards (12), Pass (36)
The Saints have only decided to use two selections in this year’s draft, but have added plenty of flexibility to their team in Ella Friend and Ash Richards.
Friend has plied her trade in all positions on the ground but is expected to play in defence for the Saints. The 175cm left footer is a brilliant intercept marker and makes good decisions with ball in hand.
She will slot in nicely into the Saints backline, but expect her to be thrown around and use her strength through the midfield and marking prowess as an extra option up forward.
Similarly, Richards may provide plenty of different options for the Saints moving forward.
The Dandenong Stingrays co-captain began her career as a defender but has since flourished in attack where she knows how to hit the scoreboard. Richards has also spent some time in the midfield and could provide a good pinch hit option in her first year.
Richards has experience against seasoned bodies, featuring for Port Melbourne in this year’s VFLW which could elevate her into the senior side very early in the season.
Players selected: Charlotte Thomas (3), Courtney Rowley (21), Beth Schilling (24), Sarah Lakay (40), Emily Bennett (47)
It would be fair to say West Coast has one of the youngest midfields in the competition, but it is absolutely stacked with talent as Charlotte Thomas and Courtney Rowley join Mikayla Bowen (third in the 2021 NAB Rising Star) and Club Best and Fairest Bella Lewis.
It’s a true testament to Thomas’ natural footballing talent being taken at pick three despite playing just one game of WAFLW this year. She has brilliant game sense and can compose herself in traffic to dispose of the ball cleanly and accurately.
Many were surprised when Rowley slipped to pick 21, but in reality, she was WA’s third pick and went in the range of picks she was expected to. She and Niamh Kelly will compliment each other perfectly on the wings, as they both possess speed and agility to evade bigger opponents, and can lay the perfect tackle.
Peel’s Beth Schilling was taken three picks later and is an excellent choice for West Coast who is lacking in taller players. After delisting ruck-forward Alicia Janz and key defender Demi Liddle, Schilling covers all three of those players as primarily a key defender who can also slot into the ruck or forward line when required.
In the draft’s lead-up, Sarah Lakay stunned many with her vertical leap scores, including her new home West Coast. With Janz gone, Parris Laurie would’ve been the only ruck on the Eagles list, so she was the obvious, but perfect choice to join her.
Defender Emily Bennett rounds out West Coast’s draft as a rebounding defender with a booming kick. She’s the type of player who plays for her teammates, is willing to put her body on the line, and stands up in critical moments. She can also gather and move the ball out of defence quickly, which is something West Coast needs in its still-developing backline.
Players selected: Amanda Ling (22), Aurora Smith (25), Elizabeth Snell (27)
After a season of building in 2021, the Bulldogs have capitalised and brought in some handy talent to complement their young guns.
With both Amanda Ling and Aurora Smith poised to go in the first round, the Bulldogs have done well to get the pair into the club, Elizabeth Snell also another great addition to the kennel.
Ling originally missed out in her first year eligible, but has gone back to the NAB League and absolutely dominated. Playing for the Oakleigh Chargers, she was the best on ground in the sides Grand Final victory over the Geelong Falcons.
She’ll complement the Bulldogs current midfield, especially alongside Doggies captain Ellie Blackburn. She’s spent time at Port Melbourne in the VFLW, so she’s already gained experience against those bigger and more experienced players.
During the AFLW Trade Period, the Bulldogs picked up GWS’ winger Elle Bennetts, and Smith will go nicely alongside her on the opposite wing. Smith isn’t afraid to put the burners on, and it will be a feature of her game in the red, white and blue.
With their final pick the Bulldogs took midfielder/forward Elizabeth Snell. Snell is a very versatile pick, that can play up forward or in the midfield. She’s a great option to fill the void left by Deanna Berry, who went down with an ACL injury late in the 2020 season.
Considering that they didn’t come into the draft until early in the second round, the Bulldogs did extremely well to pick up such elite talent.
One thing is for sure, these young pups will be lighting up VU Whitten Oval for many years to come.
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