Sarah Grunden, Alyssia Pisano and Lara Hausegger in action for their Talent League sides. (Photo: AFL Photos)

The progression of female football has continued to thrive in recent years, with no exception for this year’s crop of female talent.

The Talent League is beginning to see teams that have girls purely brought up on a football diet, especially within the Vic Metro region. 

Ahead of the National Championships carnival commencing for Vic Metro this Sunday, the boys from the Craft of the Draft podcast take a look at the top prospects in the region.

Eastern Ranges

Alyssia Pisano

Pisano is a name that continues to generate interest, and deservedly so with the exciting, enthralling, and energetic premise she brings to each game.

The small forward doesn’t miss a beat inside 50, having a high impact per possession whether that be on the scoreboard or her ball usage. Her roving ability inside forward 50 is second nature, finding a way to burst through the contest and craft together a nice goal on the run with terrific polish. Her positioning ability inside 50 puts her on the end of a lot of set-shot opportunities.

Her ability to work contest to contest is something she’s built on during the 2023 season, making her versatile further up the ground. Averaging three goals per game this year, Pisano is undoubtedly the strongest small forward in this draft crop.

Alyssia Pisano in action for the Eastern Ranges (Photo: AFL Photos)

Jess Vukic

Vukic had an injury-interrupted first half of the season but when she was playing, she showed why she sits highly in many people’s books.

A 179cm ruck who has put it on a platter for a strong Eastern Ranges midfield, her tap work is excellent, and she’s got the confidence and swagger to take it out of the ruck and win the clearance as well.

Just as impressive is her ability to take contested grabs around the ground and she uses it very well for a player of her size.

Jess Vukic in action for the AFLW Academy (Photo: AFL Photos)

Hayley McLaughlin

McLaughlin has been one of the best decision-makers by foot for the Ranges, playing on the wing. She is able to produce strong two-way running efforts and often acts as a sweeper off halfback to transition the ball to the outside and provide clean and effective run and carry.

McLaughlin’s become a predominant disposal winner at Talent League level, averaging 20 disposals a game, with a nice balanced average of two inside 50s and two rebound 50s per game.

Hayley McLaughlin in action for the Eastern Ranges (Photo: AFL Photos)

Ava Campbell

The co-captain of the Eastern Ranges certainly has some likeable traits about her game. The centre-halfback is at her strongest as an intercept defender with a habit of taking the game on through the middle of the ground.

Campbell’s leadership ability is noticeable, with strong positional awareness to maintain strong defensive lines. Her ball use by hand is generally effective and allows smooth transition through the corridor, but the polish on her game is her kicking, with a tendency at times to rush kicks out of the defensive 50.

Jacinta Hose

A developing 181cm ruck whose leap and speed give her plenty of upside. Also has traits to play forward and the more exposure she gets at the level, the better placed she’ll be to round out her game with polish and understanding of the game.

Unfortunately, she has been unable to get out on the park this season due to injury.

Georgia Stubs

Stubs is one that has continued to grab the attention of coaches as the year has progressed, she is a well-established intercept defender that is showcasing her balance of offensive and defensive pressure in the defensive half of the ground.

The Eastern Ranges prospect has shown she’s a tough opponent to beat in a one-on-one contest, with a strong emphasis on breaking the lines when she takes a mark in the defensive 50.

The burst speed she offers is her biggest asset, and if that continues into the National Championships, she’ll certainly be on the radar of multiple AFLW clubs.

Georgia Stubs in action for the Eastern Ranges (Photo: AFL Photos)

Laura Stone

Expect Stone to play off halfback using her dash to set up the play for Vic Metro if given the opportunity. She’s also spent significant minutes in the Eastern Ranges midfield this season and cashed in on their status as one of the strongest clubs in the competition.

Stone attacks the ball hard and sets play up with her creativity. She gives herself more opportunities than most given her ability to get to repeat contests, highlighted by her average of 22 disposals in her six matches this season.

Oakleigh Chargers

Lara Hausegger

Possibly one of the most impactful defenders, Hausegger is a smart halfback that has a great understanding of when to impact the contest defensively and offensively.

Hausegger’s strong suit is her ability to move the ball up the ground with ease, with clean disposal moving forward in transition.

Her kicking has good poise and is often safe exiting defensive 50, however, can be rushed under pressure. In the contest, Hausegger is often able to hold her own and find an effective handball out.

Hausegger is one of the most reliable defenders in the Talent League with a strong understanding of her role.

Lara Hausegger in action for the Under-23 All-Stars. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Jemma Rigoni

Rigoni showed a little bit of her dash in the Vic Metro trial game and backed it up in the AFLW Academy v Under 23 all-stars contest.

The overaged Melbourne father-daughter prospect has speed and athletic traits, which combined with her height (173cm) make her an enticing prospect.

The drawback is her disposal efficiency but after missing a season through an ACL injury, she’s been a key ingredient in many an Oakleigh counterattack.

Jemma Rigoni in action for the Under-23 All-Stars. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Amy Carris-Brett 

The hard-running winger cashed in when Oakleigh smashed Calder in round four but hasn’t pieced it together consistently despite obvious upside.

Carris-Brett was part of several possession chains in transition that day and that’s where she can be most damaging as her work rate is highlighted offensively with her polished kick the cherry on top.

Amy Carris-Brett in action for the Oakleigh Chargers. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Calder Cannons

Amy Gaylor

Gaylor’s on-field leadership is a massive asset for Calder, which has been highlighted in her absence due to injury in recent weeks.

The AFLW academy player is fundamentally sound and has the skill set to succeed as an inside midfielder wherever she plays.

Gaylor has a well-rounded game, bringing defensive intent each week to match her read of the ball off the ruck’s hands and ability to explode if given an inch.

Sarah Grunden

Grunden is a forward that can also play in the backline due to her kicking ability, has made an impact for the Cannons with her craftiness inside forward 50 and also her delivery to leading forwards when she pushes further up the ground.

Averaging five tackles per match, Grunden’s tackle pressure is terrific inside 50 and in the middle, helping to halt the opposition’s transition down the ground.

Sarah Grunden in action for the Calder Cannons (Photo: AFL Photos)

Kayley Kavanagh 

Kavanagh is a class midfielder with extremely effective disposal that allows her to move the ball forward with ease and deep within the contest.

She is able to help offensively and defensively with great vision to open the ground up and assist a runner on the inside or outside. Kavanagh’s tackling pressure is elite, averaging 8.7 tackles per game, second in the Talent League competition.

Kayley Kavanagh in action for the Calder Cannons (Photo: AFL Photos)

Ellie Sbeghen

At 183cm, Sbeghen is the tallest player in the Vic Metro squad and Calder is blessed to not only have her, but also Amelie Wright as its rucks. Sbeghen is second only to Northern over-ager Lauren Jatczak in average hitouts per game for those to play more than five this season.

Sbeghen uses her strong frame in ruck contests and seems to always gets first hands to the ball, with her form extending back to last year when she averaged 15 hitouts from nine games. The next step for her will be to win more of the footy as she averages only seven possessions and one mark in her Talent League career.

Ellie Sbeghen in action for the Calder Cannons (Photo: AFL Photos)

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Sandringham Dragons

Isabel Bacon

Bacon is a product of good consistency, providing the Dragons with much-needed flare in the midfield. She has the ability to take the game on and provide good ball use by hand, with the ability to use her long kick as an advantage in transition. Bacon’s tackling pressure has elevated in recent weeks, increasing her average to six per game.

The next step for Bacon is getting her hands on the footy more, with her average being at 11 disposals per game before her season-high 22 disposals on the weekend.

Emily Gough

Gough has a lot of versatility, playing as a natural winger, she’s also applied her trade at halfback.

When she’s played her footy on the wing, Gough has been a prominent driver inside 50, averaging 4.3 inside 50s per game, along with four tackles.

There’s definitely some opportunity for Gough to excel her game in the halfback role, as we’ve seen at Talent League level this year that wing players dominate at half-back.

Jasmine Shepherd

One of the toughest one-on-one opponents, Shepherd has continued to improve her draft stocks after a strong start to the 2023 season.

Shepherd is well known for her ability to win the ball aerially as well as when the ball goes to ground. She’s a clean ball user by hand but also provides great transitional kicking outside of defensive 50.

Her fitness has reached another level this season, showcasing her aerobic capacity to run games out and make an impact further up the ground at times.

Jasmine Shepherd in action for the Sandringham Dragons (Photo: AFL Photos)

Northern Knights

Ava Jordan

There’s not much of Jordan, who is listed at 150cm, but she certainly has a bit of talent to work with.

In her third season for the Knights, she has put together complete performances as a ball-winning midfielder and a dangerous small forward; it would seem the latter is where she would be played at the next level.

She was lively inside 50 in the AFLW Academy v Under 23s all-stars game, with her cleanliness and footy smarts generating scoring opportunities.

Ava Jordan in action for the Under-23 All-Stars (Photo: AFL Photos)

Western Jets

Sierra Grieves

The bottom-aged player has delivered in the clinches week-in week-out for a team that was winless until last weekend.

Grieves is second only to Geelong’s Sara Howley for average disposals per match (28.3), underlining her ball-winning ability. She’s also willing to lay tackles, apply pressure, and work from contest to contest.

Her weapon for her is acceleration and pace when she wins the ball and explodes from stoppage. Also rates highly for groundball gets which allows her to collect and go in the midfield, and open up scoring opportunities inside 50.

As a bottom-ager, if she plays for Vic Metro, expect her to play as a forward – where she has natural instinct having spent the 2022 season there.

Sierra Grieves in action for the Western Jets (Photo: AFL Photos)

Kiera Whiley 

Like Grieves, Whiley applies excellent defensive pressure in the Jets’ midfield and is a key part of that setup as skipper. She tackles, corrals, and positions herself smartly when she doesn’t get her hands on the footy to keep it locked up. With ball in hand, she brings the runners and better ball users into play.

Kiera Whiley in action for the Western Jets (Photo: AFL Photos)

Tamara Henry

Henry is a high half-forward who works opponents high up the ground and delivers the ball well inside 50.

If she plays in Vic Metro’s first game this weekend, she’ll enter it in good form, having accumulated 25 touches on the weekend. The conditions suited her more than they have in previous games, as she was able to show off her running power and tackle pressure in an open game.

Tamara Henry in action for the Western Jets (Photo: AFL Photos)

Kristie-Lee Weston-Turner

There’s a lot of hype about Weston-Turner and that’s because she has so many eye-catching ingredients. The tall forward is a thumping kick and is hard to tackle for a player of her stature (180cm).

Weston-Turner has threatened to tear games apart with her explosiveness and overhead ability with her upside on par with or better than anyone’s in this year’s crop.

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