Less than a month after signing for North Melbourne, Lexi Hamilton makes her return to the AFLW on Sunday.
Hamilton played just one game for the inaugural Gold Coast Suns side in 2020 before being unceremoniously delisted at the end of the season.
A remarkable story of resilience, the Canberra native followed former coach Cheyne Webster down to Victoria for the 2021 VFLW season, where she played 12 out of a possible 14 games.
Finishing fourth in the Roos’ best and fairest count, Hamilton averaged 13.8 disposals, 4.3 tackles, 3.3 marks, 14.2 hit outs, and kicked six goals as a versatile tall.
Her best game for the season came in a narrow upset victory over Essendon, registering 32 hit outs, 24 disposals, and six tackles in a dominant ruck performance.
She was vital in limiting experienced Dons’ ruck Simone Nalder to just 19 hit outs and five disposals of her own.
After coaching her at both the Queanbeyan Tigers and North, Webster is overjoyed to see the 21-year-old get her chance at AFLW level once again.
“[I’m] really proud of her, she’s worked really hard to get a second opportunity,” Webster told The Inner Sanctum.
“I think it’s a real redemption story. I coached her in Canberra… and saw her development there. She was an All-Australian in her draft year and missed out on being drafted, and worked really hard to get an opportunity at Gold Coast.
“Unbelievably, [she] was delisted after a year. She went through 16 hour round trips to play VFLW and sacrificed a lot in terms of friendships and social stuff. I’m really stoked to see her get reward… and give herself a second chance.
“The kind of character and person she is, I knew she’d be able to fit in.”
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Now an assistant coach for the Sandringham Dragons’ NAB League Girls team, it’s another feather in Webster’s cap for players drafted out of North’s VFLW side.
Meagan Kiely (Richmond) and Airlie Runnalls (Fremantle) both also made their debuts last weekend, while North AFLW draftees Ella Maurer and Perri King spent time in the VFLW side last season.
“It makes me feel the hard work and the sacrifices [we’ve] made to give the girls these opportunities [were worth it],” Webster said.
“It’s something I’m really chuffed about. Pathway programs like the VFLW are designed to get girls to the next level. Lexi and Meagan Kiely, girls that I’ve worked incredibly hard with, have been really able to tap into what I want them to do and improve to get to the next level.”
A lot of Hamilton’s time in the VFLW program was spent developing her ruck craft, in addition to an already strong marking key forward game.
It means she’ll likely be set to rotate through the ruck perfectly with Emma King, with one resting forward while the other takes the tap work.
The Kangaroos have also been severely lacking another marking forward option, moving defender Tahlia Randall forward last week against Geelong.
“With me, the one thing that I saw in [Hamilton] was a super aggressive, hard-at-it player, but I wanted to build some versatility in her game,” Webster said.
“One of the things that I did at VFLW level was really try and push her into a ruck role as well as playing key forward.
“AFLW list managers and recruiters want to see… players be versatile. Not only has she been able to develop her game as a forward… but to be able to push into the ruck.”
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