18/04/2024

Annie Lee is set to have her name called out come Tuesday night. (Photo: Geelong Falcons/Twitter)

Under the guidance of coach Mel Hickey, the Vic Country draft prospects look to be set to take up a large part of the first round selections.

As the AFLW Draft approaches, The Inner Sanctum has taken a look at the top prospects across Australia. Up next is Vic Country.

Vic Country is filled with talent this year, going undefeated during the under 19 championships. There are a number of players that will be apart of the next wave of AFLW superstars.

In last year’s draft we saw Tyanna Smith (St Kilda), Darcy Moloney (Geelong) and Olivia Barber (Geelong) all coming from Vic Country through last years draft as top end talent..

We also spoke to Vic Country U19s coach and former Cat Melissa Hickey on some of the prospects coming out of the country for this upcoming draft.

Jaide Anthony – Dandenong Stingrays/Port Melbourne VFLW

Defender – 20/11/2003, 165cm

Anthony was named Victorian Country MVP for her consistent performances across the Under 19 championship.

She is a highly rated intercept defender, with highly-rated footy smarts. Anthony’s main strength is her ability to read the play while in the air to claim intercept marks.

Her decision making when transitioning the ball out of defensive fifty is next level, and she has an attribute that many AFLW clubs could utilise not only for this upcoming season, but for many years in the future.

Having played with Port Melbourne in the VFLW, the Richmond Football Club would have been keeping a close eye on her. Anthony would slot in nicely in the Tigers backline alongside the likes of Harriet Cordner and Sarah D’Arcy.

Vic Country coach Melissa Hickey said that Anthony will always back herself in to win any contest.

“She was our player of the tournament for Vic Country, she was probably our most consistent performer across the games we had,” Hickey told The Inner Sanctum

“Fantastic intercept defender, she backs herself and reads the ball ahead of her opponent.

“She’s like a little bull; she attacks the contest and backs herself to win it. Just creates a lot of rebound off the half back line for us.”

Tess Craven – Geelong Falcons

Inside Midfielder – 23/12/2003, 163cm

The Geelong Falcons best and fairest is raring to go, and is ready to make an impact on whichever AFLW team picks her up in the first round.

Craven is highly rated by many AFLW clubs, and it won’t be too long until her name is read out on draft night, rated as one of the best inside midfielders in this draft.

It will be hard to see Craven dropping past pick two of the Victorian draft, leaving her destination down to either Geelong or St Kilda.

She is very clean with her possessions, especially under pressure, and is very smart in the way that she positions herself around the stoppage to come away with the possession.

Hickey said that Craven’s foot skills are some of the best that she’s seen in the age group.

“She’s a superstar, i got to coach her in the midfield group at the Geelong Falcons, just an outstanding footballer, her foot skills are some of the best that I’ve seen at that age group.

“She can play through the middle or go up forward and kick a couple of goals. She just seems to be able to find the footy and extracts it from congestion as well.”

“Really good inside mid that can go forward as well.”

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Chloe Leonard – GWV Rebels/Geelong VFLW

Defender – 01/02/02, 167cm

Leonard is a very consistent player who can spend time in the midfield, but her best footy is played in defence.

Her calmness and great decision making under pressure allows for her to pick the best option to get the her team out of danger.

Leonard has spent the VFLW season with Geelong, so already has that experience playing against veterans and matures bodies, and didn’t look out of place.

She is a proven ball winner, averaging 17.5 disposals, 10 contested possessions and 5.5 tackles during the Under 19 Championships. Leonard also played a key role defensively, keeping the opposition sides to only six goals across two matches.

Her consistency is what makes her such a good prospect for any AFLW side, and is expected to go pretty early on in procedings.

If she slips to pick 22 she’ll be a great asset to the Western Bulldogs emerging backline and will fit in well with the likes of Katie Lynch and Eleanor Brown.

Hickey said that Leonard was a real general in defence for Vic Country, and played a great lockdown role for the side.

“She played off the half back for us as well. obviously one of our captains and a fantastic young person.

“Little bit different to Jaide, probably a bit more of a lockdown defender. She obviously can intercept mark as well, but she was a bit of a general back there for us in the backline, sort of organised the back group for us and still wins plenty of the ball herself.

“Just a quality footballer.”

Leonard (left) in the Vic Country huddle. (Photo: NAB League/Twitter)

Tara Slender – Bendigo Pioneers/Essendon VFLW

Key Forward – 11/03/2003, 175cm

A traditional leading key forward, Slender has the potential to be a marquee forward of any AFLW club in the next few years.

Slender is just as good on the ground as she is in the air, and can crash a pack to bring the ball to ground and allow for her small forwards to collect and hit the scoreboard.

With the loss of Tayla Harris, Slender would be a great fit for Carlton. With Darcy Vescio back at her goalkicking best, it gives Slender the time to be able to develop.

She’s highly rated and poised to go in the first round, so if Carlton is to swoop on Slender they’ll have to use one of the clubs back to back picks at 10 and 11.

Hickey said that Slender plays a lot of selfless footy, particularly in the way she continues to provide options up forward.

“She played a key role for us in the country as obviously our key marking forward. At times she’d have two or three defenders on her, and when she wasn’t marking it she was bringing it to ground for us.

“Played a lot of selfless footy for us in terms of lots of repeat leads and not necessarily getting rewarded each time.

“Very athletic, fantastic sort of size for a key position player. I think she’s got a really bright future.”

Annie Lee – Geelong Falcons

Defender, 28/08/03, 163cm

Annie Lee is a reliable defender who slotted in well to Vic Country’s half back line throughout the the Under 19 Championships.

Lee is very clean under pressure, and similar to Anthony, does a really good job in reading the play and the ball. She’s able to position herself in the best space to gain possession back for her team.

She is very cool calm and collected under pressure, which what makes her such a great player in defensive fifty. She’s also got the pace to allow for driving run off half back.

Lee is poised to go late in the first round of the AFLW draft. Geelong has pick seven and pick nine, and it loves picking up local talent from the Falcons.

If Geelong don’t select her at either pick seven or pick nine, Lee could possibly end up at the Blues, who have the next two picks. She would fit nicely in the Blues backline, complimenting the likes of Charlotte Wilson and Mua Laloifi.

“Another really good rebound for us, her intercept marking is probably one of the most elite at that age level across the country I think,” Hickey said.

“She just reads to ball better than her opponent, which allows her to get in best position to mark the ball. She’s a pretty ferocious tackler and up there with Tess Craven as one of the best kicks I’ve seen.

“Can just sort of pinpoint under pressure, and seems to be able to create time and space even when coming out of the backline when you generally have a fair bit of pressure.

“She seems to be pretty cool, calm and collected with the ball in hand.”

Lee competing for Vic Country. Photo (Geelong Falcons/Twitter)

Aurora Smith – Murray Bushrangers/Port Melbourne VFLW

Midfielder/Wing – 13/12/2003, 165cm

The Bushrangers best and fairest winner provides endurance and class on the wing. Smith isn’t afraid to put the burners on to take her side into attack.

Smith has a fantastic game sense and is able to get herself out of pressure with ease. With an excellent work rate, Smith is poised to be an excellent winger for the club that selects her in the not too distant future.

After a quiet start to the Under 19 Championships, Smith was able to string together some great midfield performances, averaging 16 disposals and three tackles.

Smith has lots of potential to be one of the stars of the future, and is expected to be selected somewhere around the second round.

“;Smitty’, she was our little quite achiever,” Hickey said.

“Obviously out on the wing particularly in the last game against Queensland, she really got a lot of the ball.

“She seems to get in the right places to provide that link up on the wing. She dosen’t say much but she seems to find a lot of the ball.

“A good ball user going inside fifty as well, she can spot up a target pretty well and break the lines. She’s not afraid to take it on and run and carry the football as well.”

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