There’s plenty of young talent on show in this upcoming AFLW season which begins next week. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the first-year players to watch from your respective AFLW side.
Keeley Kustermann was taken with the Adelaide Crows’ first pick in the season seven draft. Kustermann is a versatile player who has played across half-back or through the midfield for South Australia and West Adelaide.
The 18-year-old played eight games for the Bloods in the SANFLW league this season, where she averaged 19 disposals, 1.8 marks, 6.3 tackles and 3.3 clearances. She is known for her clean ball use, ball winning ability and her efficiency on the outside.
Another aspect of Kustermann that will be best served at AFLW with more time will be her leadership as she was the captain of the South Australian state team.
Playing under some of the best talent in the league in Chelsea Randall and Sarah Allan down back, or under Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard in the midfield will best serve the young utility in the coming years.
Ella Smith was the Lions first pick in the season seven draft after being taken by the Lions at pick 41. Smith is an inside midfielder but has been learning to play on the wing across the season for Aspley.
A product of the Brisbane Academy, Smith is a see ball, get ball type of player and isn’t afraid to get in and under to win possession back for her team. She’s known for firing quick handballs out to her teammates or being the one to take that clearing kick.
While she only played two matches for Queensland across the National championships, Smith racked up the possessions, averaging 19 disposals, three marks, three clearances and two inside-50’s across her two matches.
Playing in that Brisbane side, she’ll be behind the likes of Emily Bates and Ally Anderson in the middle. The chance to learn from the very best will be priceless and will contribute to her becoming one of the future stars in the competition.
Coming in at pick 48 in the 2022 AFL Women’s Draft, Lily Goss could prove to be a valuable addition to the Blues’ midfield group in season seven.
Goss will feel at home playing at Ikon Park, having played in the 2022 VFLW season with the Carlton Reserves. In her first season at the VFLW level she excelled, averaging 15.3 disposals, 6.4 tackles & 3.8 clearances per game in 12 games.
It is no secret that the Blues need a ready-made midfielder following the departures of Madison Prespakis & Georgia Gee to Essendon as well as Grace Egan to Richmond. Goss could be that player after a terrific first VFLW season.
After injuring her shoulder recently, Goss will have to wait to make her debut in the navy blue, however when she returns she could play a big role in the Blues midfield.
In the AFLW Draft leading up to season seven, Collingwood selected 18-year-old midfielder Charlotte Taylor with pick 30. Taylor was recruited from the Oakleigh Chargers, and is known for her toughness around the ball in the midfield. Her physicality was a prominent feature playing as an inside midfielder.
Taylor had an outstanding start to the season, starring with 20 disposals and nine tackles in the first game, to set up the foundations for a terrific season. Taylor also showed versatility by spending some time up forward, a role she played well for Vic Metro in the National Championships, as well as playing some game-time down back.
Taylor was already known to Collingwood before the draft, playing three games at VFLW level and impressing with an average of 14 disposals per game.
Collingwood were on the lookout for more inside midfielders at the draft and the Pies may just have found a gem in Taylor, who will don the number 11 guernsey this season.
Essendon’s second pick in the 2022 draft has rocketed herself into contention for an early season debut after an explosive showing in the second half of the practice game against Port Adelaide.
Scott was a noted goalkicker in her pre-draft years, having kicked 22 goals across 16 games. She showed that she has the potential to play either a crumbing role close to goal, kicking one herself, or a linking role off the half-forward flank.
The GWV Rebels recruit set up Bonnie Toogood and Federica Frew for goals in a dominant final term at The Hangar on Saturday, utilising both her pace and strength to burn opponents.
Scott adds a spark to a forward group that has the potential to be particularly damaging early in their season. As she develops and grows her game, she’ll be able to join the midfield rotations and become an even more damaging offensive threat. Already playing with a bit of swagger, she’ll no doubt have the confidence to back her talents up.
Forward Tahlia Read comes in the Dockers set-up having been selected as Fremantle’s fifth and final pick in the season seven draft.
Despite being born in Western Australia, she plied her trade in Victoria at the Calder Cannons at NAB League level between 2020 and 2022. She also played at Maribyrnong Park in the Essendon District Football League for the majority of her junior career.
Her best NAB League season came this year, she averaged 17.2 disposals, 5.2 tackles, plus 2.9 marks in nine games.
Eventually she was rewarded with the Cannons’ Best and Fairest award for the 2022 season before the side that she grew up supporting rewarded her for her terrific season with a spot on their list.
Whilst she is a product of the future for the Dockers, she could be set to become a key component of Trent Cooper’s side now with both Ebony and Kara Antonio set for lengthy stints on the sidelines.
Whilst not technically a first year player, Mia Skinner would definitely feel like one. Originally drafted in 2019, Skinner missed the entire season due to a stress fracture in her leg. 2020 was a similar story, with Skinner being delisted.
Following her delisting, Skinner went away to work on getting her body right, then upping her fitness to a high level once again. This paid dividends for her as she was able to play all 14 games in this season’s VFLW competition, kicking an impressive 21 goals and being a part of the teams’ leadership group.
This great form was too much for Geelong to ignore at AFLW level, with the Cats selecting the 21-year old with its first selection in the draft. Skinner is now mature, has found voice as a leader and has excellent goal-sense, something the Cats AFLW side has been lacking in the front half since its inception into the competition.
If she can continue her good run health-wise, the ‘new’ cat is certainly one to keep a close eye on.
Selected with pick 34 in the 2022 AFLW Draft, exciting young midfielder Claire Ransom promises to be a valuable addition to the Gold Coast Suns outfit.
Ransom, who hails from Tasmania, has been a consistent performer at under-age level for both the Tasmania Devils and the Allies in the AFLW U19/18 Championships.
She averaged 19.4 disposals, 4.6 tackles and 4.1 inside 50s across seven NAB league matches for the Devils, culminating in being named vice-captain of the NAB League Team of the Year.
The 18-year-old has the capacity to be damaging on both the inside and outside, with her impressive work-rate enabling her to impact multiple contests.
Ransom’s move to the Gold Coast will also see her link up once again with head coach Cameron Joyce, with the pair having spent time together through the Tasmania Devils program and at the Allies.
Given the exodus of several senior players at the Suns, Ransom is likely to be afforded consistent opportunities to shine at AFLW level this season.
With the Sydney Swans coming into the AFLW competition, GWS are looking to be the premier New South Wales team. Chosen with the Giants’ first pick in the draft at pick 20, Zarlie Goldsworthy is looking to showcase her talents in the midfield and forward line.
The MVP for the Allies in the Under 18s National Championships, Goldsworthy had a great showed great composure with the ball, often finding the right target.
After being a dominant presence in the NAB League Girls, she was selected to represent the Allies. In the AFLW U18 Championships, she averaged 14 disposals, 4 marks, 2.5 tackles and nearly a goal per game.
A former junior Matildas player, she is used to playing elite sport at a high level. If Goldsworthy is able to work on her kicking consistency, she could develop into the complete player.
She will be hoping to lead the Giants into the future and could be the player they need to get them into the finals.
Ethan Lee Chalk
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Hawthorn has a number of exciting prospects coming out of this year’s draft class and Laura Elliott is one of them. She will hope to create a base for the young Hawks going into the future.
Selected with Pick 26 in the 2022 AFLW draft, Elliott is an exciting defender that has the potential to become a key pillar in the Hawthorn defensive end for many seasons.
The Western Jets product played a key role in securing their inaugural premiership during this season’s NAB League. She averaged 13.8 disposals, 4.7 rebound possessions inside 50 and 3.8 marks this season. This prepared her well for the U18 state games where she would represent Vic Metro.
One of Elliott’s key attributes is her aerial prowess, which is sure to excite many Hawks fans. She has a great read on the play and although she only stands at 170 cm, her ability to shut down taller opponents is something to not be underestimated.
Maeve Chaplin was drafted with pick 44 from the Northern Knights in the VFLW. She could have immediate impact for Melbourne, being a more mature player.
Missing out on being drafted in 2020, Chaplin returned to the Knights for two more seasons. She continued to perform week on week, averaging 17.3 disposals and five tackles in her seven games. Chaplin even played some VFLW football with the Carlton reserves in 2021, which helped her to grow.
Eventually she ended up playing for the Casey Demons in the VFLW this year where she averaged 15.3 disposals, 11.6 kicks and 3.7 tackles in 11 games. Melbourne picked her up in the draft with their first pick after seeing her play a key role in their journey to finals in the VFLW program for Casey.
Whilst she might not make it immediately into a strong and talented Melbourne lineup, if she does play this season she could be a handy depth player and can be utilised both down back and on the inside.
Cassidy Mailer was drafted by North Melbourne with their final pick of the 2022 AFLW draft. Mailer is used as a utility, used to fill any gap on the field where needed.
This makes her an incredibly valuable asset for any side that picked her up, which was one of the key reasons the Kangaroos were keen to snap her up.
While Mailer would be happy to play anywhere, her best football in recent times has been in defence.
North conceded quite a few big scores to opposition sides in season six including finals loss to Fremantle, therefore it’s unlikely head coach Darren Crocker has his best back six locked in.
With decision making and cleanliness both in the air and on the ground as weapons, Mailer has excelled and averaged 12 disposals and seven marks per game in the U18 championships.
Traits like these should see Mailer become an important part of the North side in some form.
Port Adelaide has a number of young, exciting talents from this year’s draft and in the practice match against Essendon. Abbey Dowrick put her hand up for selection, proving that she’ll be a player to watch for in the upcoming season.
Added as an open-age signing, the 19-year-old proved to be a capable performer amongst experienced competition, holding her own when given the opportunity to impress in the second half against the Bombers.
The 165cm midfielder showed her willingness to get dirty, throwing her body around, putting on several hard tackles, and challenging hard, getting in and under with her contested work.
Dowrick made her name in the WAFLW and SANFLW after being overlooked in last year’s draft. Despite this setback, she continued to work hard and showed enough to catch the eyes of Port Adelaide recruiters, averaging 17.7 disposals and six tackles, and 19.3 touches, five tackles, and three clearances in the respective competitions.
Dowrick’s performance in the practice match against the Bombers has likely put herself in contention for a Round One debut. Although Dowrick might not crack into the Power’s main midfield group yet, she should do enough to start her career for the Power in the forward line.
The Subiaco product will be a threat in the forward line as she looks to be at the feet of Erin Phillips and Gemma Houghton. As the season goes on, we may see Dowrick roll through the middle.
A quick glance over Richmond’s playing list for season seven, Saraid Taylor’s name immediately stands out. She enters the new season previously linked with both the WNBL and NBL1 competitions.
The 23-year-old signed on to the side as a cross-code rookie. At 180cm, Taylor brings with her speed and agility as a result of her background in basketball.
Given that Richmond will be without the likes of Harriet Cordner and Hannah Burchell due to injuries, it’ll be interesting to see how the league newcomer progresses during the upcoming season.
It’s been reported that Taylor will be developed as a defender/ruck, which potentially may help lessen the blow of having Cordner absent. Whilst the basketballer might have limited experience compared to other members on the playing group, she brings with her transferable skills.
One will need to look at the likes of Monique Conti and Tessa Lavey to see such transferable skills in action.
It is rare for a player to already be a legend of a club without playing a game in the senior side, but Hannah Stuart may be a rare exception.
Stuart was rewarded with a spot on the Saints AFLW list for season seven, after a fantastic season that saw her win the Southern Saints’ best and fairest and take the side to the grand final.
The midfielder became known for racking up disposals in the VFLW, leading the league by season’s end. Stuart is sure to add significant experience and leadership to the young Saints side, whether that be playing on ball once again or as a forward, a position she initially played.
Being drafted with fellow Southern Saint Deanna Joliffe, Stuart is well accustomed to many of the AFLW side already and will be sure to make an immediate impact in season seven.
It would’ve been too easy for us to say Montana Ham, let’s face it, it shouldn’t take much more convincing for everyone to already have one eye on her debut season.
Instead it’s Canberra product Cynthia Hamilton who is already beginning to turn heads from the few outings the Swans have partaken.
You’d do well to miss her in the Swans themed helmet that already has her ascending into cult status, but it’s the goals and forward energy that she’ll bring in her first season that will generate attention.
Hamilton accumulated four goals from both unofficial and official practice matches in the lead up to the AFLW new season, and looks primed to become a primary scorer in the Swans’ inaugural campaign.
The former Giants academy product also has the ability to help out in the midfield and could become a mainstay in the guts in years to come. Hamilton’s football knowledge particularly around contests is of a high standard and will complement her competitive nature that will never see her too far away from the footy.
One of the most anticipated youngsters coming out of the draft, 17-year-old Ella Roberts arrives at the Eagles with plenty of hype. Though still in her teens, the forward/midfielder is no stranger to senior football.
Having been a staple of the Peel Thunder’s senior women’s side since 2020, Roberts burst onto the scene aged just 15. She’d also play a major hand guiding them to premiership glory in 2020. Roberts is ready made for AFLW level and will be looking to make an immediate impact.
Gifted with great speed, skillful at ground level, possessing great footy smarts and great workrate, Roberts is versatile and proven to be impactful whether utilised up forward or in the midfield. She will be a damaging player with the Eagles for years to come.
With the losses of Bonnie Toogood and Isabel Huntington, the Bulldogs forward mix will look very different moving into next season.
There isn’t a clear key-forward replacement for either player, and 17-year-old Heidi Woodley also won’t exactly fit into that mould. Due to the structure of the Dogs’ forward-50 being somewhat unclear, the introduction of Woodley up forward could be something worth trying at some point this season.
Aside from her abilities forward of the ball, her speed and athleticism also make her an extremely versatile product, with the ability to impact on the wing and move through the midfield if needed.
It will be interesting to see how Woodley can contribute in Season Seven, as well as how she develops in the coming years.
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