Jordan Zanchetta on the comeback trail

Right now, recruiters, the media and interested footy fans are watching the vision of the early rounds of the AFLW Under-18s Nationals, all looking for the best eighteen-year-olds to pick up in October’s draft.

It’s very easy for those new to women’s footy – or those that don’t do their research – to overlook a number of open age footballers who didn’t play in the inaugural season.

Jordan Zanchetta represented the Gold Coast Suns in a 2016 AFL exhibition match. Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

A number were available but simply overlooked – let’s not forget that Sarah Perkins wasn’t taken in the draft – while others, sadly, seemed destined to be drafted, but the cruel hand of fate stepped in.

One of those footballers was Yeronga-South Brisbane midfielder, Jordan Zanchetta. In fact, she is arguably the best player to not appear in the inaugural AFLW season.

The two-time All Australian at Youth Girls level and joint QWAFL best and fairest in 2015 seemed a certainty to be drafted by the Brisbane Lions last year; that was until a season-ending knee injury.

“I was working so hard that pre-season, and I did it [the ACL] my second game back last year,” Zanchetta told Girls Play Footy.

“Obviously it was shattering and very disappointing, but these things happen when you play contested sports, so just something you have to go through and learn better from it.”

Going back to the start of her footy career, Zanchetta, like most Queenslanders, wasn’t an Aussies rules diehard, but a visit one day would change the direction of her sporting life.

“I started playing in high school in grade eight.

“AFL Queensland came to my high school and ran some clinics.

“Then my friends found out that I really enjoyed it… asked me to come down to the local club, so I went down and I’ve been playing it ever since.

“[Before] I was very much Rugby League; my family supported Rugby League.

“When the AFL used to come on, we used to switch it off; it’s very funny to look back now and see how much has changed, and how much AFL is a part of my life.”

The 22-year-old is among a crop of female footy talent that Breanna Brock, Craig Starcevich and the other coaches at AFL Queensland had been building up prior to the start of the national competition.

Zanchetta said she had noticed a more professional atmosphere in the QWAFL evolve since the first AFL Women’s exhibition match in 2013.

“I think with a league to aspire to, everyone’s been training harder,” Zanchetta said.

“There’s more coaching staff, more fitness coaches and conditioning.

“The level’s obviously going to improve, and I’ve definitely noticed that.”

The hard-at-it midfielder had plenty of support while sitting out the inaugural AFLW season, being forced to watch many women she had played with excel on the national stage.

“I had a good support system; all my team mates, friends and family, all the coaches.

“You don’t realise how many people care about you and want to be there for you, until something like that happens.

“I’m very lucky to have all those people in my life supporting me through.”

It’s hoped soon that Zanchetta will be out on the field in the red and black of Yeronga, helping the Devils with their push to the flag.

She says now, it’s all about ticking the boxes.

“I’m nearly back playing now; it’s been twelve to fourteen months.

“It’s a challenging process, you’ve got the positive days and the negative days.

“But having the goal of coming back and playing in the [AFL Women’s] league one day is a big reason I kept pushing through and training hard.

“Hopefully a few weeks of solid training and I’ll be back playing soon.”

With the experience of playing exhibition match football with both the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast Suns under her belt, Zanchetta’s name will surely be one the Lions’ recruiting staff seriously consider come AFLW Draft day in mid-October.

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