The AFLW Under-18 Championships concluded last week after two months of impressive footy from the country’s most promising up-and-comers.
The best youth players were on show across 16 games, and although the players would’ve been focused on the team result, it’s the performance of the individuals that coaches and fans alike are more interested in ahead of the October 18 AFLW Draft.
Though the squads that competed in the Nationals also featured underage players, more than 70 draft eligible footballers put their best foot forward.
These are the players from each state that caught the eye, and have proved themselves to their state’s corresponding team(s) as potential AFLW quality players.
All players highlighted red are underage and therefore not draft eligible in 2017.
Victoria (Carlton, Collingwood, Melbourne, Western Bulldogs)
As per usual, two Victorian teams competed at the Championships: Vic Country and Vic Metro. However, for the first ever, it was Vic Country that emerged as the dominant side, going through undefeated in their four matches.
For Country, Olivia Purcell was a ball magnet and served as the team’s rock in their unbeaten run. Captain and top prospect Darcy Guttridge was her regular self in defence, and had a particularly strong start to the carnival.
Tyla Hanks and Eden Zanker were two consistent avenues to goal, particularly Zanker who had a very impressive carnival inside forward 50.
Georgia Gee, expected to go early in the AFLW Draft, improved with every game, and Lucy McEvoy was exceptional down back, showing why she is a star of the future.
When discussing Metro’s performance, it’s impossible to look past Madison Prespakis. The underage midfielder was best on ground for Vic Metro in each of their four games and kicked four goals to boot, cementing her position as a first round pick of the future.
Maddy Guerin appears to be getting better as the year goes on, Hannah McLaren had a couple of exciting outings, and Olivia Flanagan and Georgia MacPherson finished off the carnival well.
Molly Warburton was also handy, and Emerson Woods put in a very good showing in the loss to WA.
South Australia/Northern Territory (Adelaide)
The news just keeps getting better and better for Adelaide fans who enjoyed their team’s 2017 AFLW premiership victory. The Allies, a team comprised of players from South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania, won all three of their matches at the Nationals.
From South Australia, ruck Jess Allan was a clear standout at the carnival and has quickly become a tall option for the Crows to consider due to her dominance. It may not be as easy for her at AFLW level, but she made her job look easy during these Championships.
Soccer convert Madison Bennett was very impressive and is coming along quickly, 10-year veteran Brianna Walling didn’t blink an eye, and Jaimi Tabb led the goal kicking for the Allies.
Eloise Jones showed off her agility and football smarts, and Nikki Gore was also impressive.
For NT, defender Janet Baird played a big part in keeping opposition teams to low scores, and Calista Boyd proved to be a handful around forward half, running her opponents ragged.
There is some bad news for Crows fans, however, and it’s a pretty significant blow. Chloe Scheer, who won both the SAWFL youth and seniors best and fairests last year, has succumb to a serious knee injury that will at least delay her introduction to AFLW football by one year.
New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (GWS)
It must be frustrating for the GWS Giants to see a talent like Alyce Parker running around knowing they can’t select her in the upcoming AFLW draft.
Parker, the team’s captain and AFLW Academy member, was sensational for her team, and most importantly, she was consistent. Jordyn Jolliffe was another top performer and the team’s leading goal kicker, providing a consistent and prominent option in the forward half.
Haneen Zreika and Angela Priftis, both members of the Auburn Giants Academy, were in great form. Zreika showed why she is a top prospect for the Giants through excellent performances early on, and Priftis was best on ground in NSW/ACT’s close loss to the Allies.
Georgia Breward and Alexia Hamilton had strong finishes to the carnival, and Nicky Steel was a consistent performer.
Tasmanian women’s football is most definitely on the rise, and the Apple Isle will be buoyed watching two Tasmanians be a couple of the most prominent and impactful players in the Allies squad.
Daria Bannister, a recent convert from netball and the only Tasmanian in the AFLW Academy, has rocketed to become one to watch come draft time. If she doesn’t get selected this year, which would be somewhat of a shock after these Championships, her rapid improvement will ensure she will be given a go next year.
Georgia Hill used her height effectively, and is another who could very well be in the mix to be drafted. Her versatility at her height is exceptionally valuable
The Queenslanders seemed to spread the workload during the National Championships – similar to the way the Brisbane Lions operate – giving us a good look at their best youth players.
It’s hard to decide who was the Queenslanders’ best out of Lauren Bella, Ruby Blair and Dee Heslop. The former two, both strong contested ball winners, are members of the AFLW Academy, while Heslop made a strong case for her to be invited next year.
Sure-fire draftee Gabrielle Collingwood and sprinter Kitara Farrar both put in important shifts at stages, and Zoe Wood showed a lot of promise for the future.
Western Australia (Fremantle)
It’s hard to determine the true strength of this WA squad after their inconsistent Nationals results, but there are certainly some stars that head the squad.
Courtney Hodder and Suzi-Rose Deegan were nothing short of sensational, something that is sure to both delight and frustrate the Dockers who would love to include both in their 2018 side.
Just as good was McKenzie Dowrick, a consistent performer that was twice best on ground for the Black Swans.
Tall forward Kate Bartlett was the competition’s leading goal kicker with 13, including seven in one outing, and Sabreena Duffy had a blistering start to the carnival while Tayla McAuliffe finished it off just as well.
Members of the AFLW Under-18 All-Australian squad, which will be released imminently, will compete in a showcase match on the bye weekend following the AFL’s round 23.