If Chloe Molloy wasn’t already a sure-fire first pick when the trade period ended six weeks ago, she undoubtedly is now.
Only two rounds of the VFLW had been played at that time, but the 19-year-old forward was already touted as a potential first pick after kicking four goals against Seaford and six goals against Cranbourne to lead all comers.
Molloy’s lightning start to the season came after stunning performances in the TAC Cup earlier in the year, in which she kicked 20 goals in five games to be the competition’s leading goalkicker, the Calder Cannons’ best and fairest, plus the joint league best and fairest.
She had exploded onto the scene seemingly from out of nowhere, but footy has been in Molloy’s life from her Auskick days in Whittlesea right up until she chose to pursue basketball at the age of 12.
It’s an all-too familiar story for some of the country’s top footballers – most notably AFLW best and fairest Erin Phillips and star Carlton defender Brianna Davey – who were forced to find a different sporting avenue due to the lack of an elite women’s footy league.
“There wasn’t any talk of a future as such,” Molloy told Girls Play Footy.
“I was so young but it was a decision my parents and I made; if I wanted to play at an elite level, I’d hopefully want to make a career out of it.
“I had to choose basketball because footy didn’t have that pathway.”
In her six-year period away from footy, Molloy excelled as a youth basketballer.
As a point-guard, Molloy was a pivotal aspect of the Vic Country State Program, was a member of the Melbourne Boomers squad, claimed a silver medal at the 2014 Australian Championships, and just last year won the Australian Under 20 National Championship.
Molloy was such a talented player that she was nearly lost to footy for good.
Her terrific passing vision and impressive accuracy were aspects that won the attention of colleges in the United States, and Molloy accepted a full academic scholarship to play for Virginia Commonwealth University.
However, Molloy didn’t end up going.
“It was a really hard decision for me to make but I guess I just had to follow my heart, and footy was calling my name.
“I remember there was a phase where I looked on social media and there was football everywhere; it overwhelmed me with how much football was in my face.
“I was like ‘Man, I used to love that sport’.
“Then there was one day where I was like ‘You know what? I can make actually go play football now. There’s a pathway for me, I can make this a career’.”
Turning down the scholarship was a huge gamble. As she admitted, Molloy wasn’t a standout junior footballer, and there was no guarantee she would impress enough to make the AFLW.
“I remember I was so nervous to tell Mum and Dad because obviously the scholarship was a big thing,” Molloy said.
“I was changing my mind. I was scared but I had to follow my heart with what I wanted to do, and I knew footy was going to make me happy.”
Less than a year after her impressive showing at the Australian Under 20 National Championship, a then-18-year-old Molloy found herself at her first training session with the Calder Cannons prior to the first TAC Cup Girls season.
As Molloy told, she was welcomed back to football by going up for a mark and wearing a Sherrin on her face, proving that it can happen to the best of us.
A few months later, she was the competition’s joint best player and leading goalkicker, and found a new home at VFL Women’s club, Diamond Creek.
The club’s reserves side began its season in the Northern Football League before the VFLW began, setting the table for Molloy to get her first taste of senior footy.
She kicked a lazy nine goals, a precursor to her incredible VFLW season to date.
When the Western Bulldogs secured pick one from Greater Western Sydney during May’s trade period, it seemed likely that Molloy would be heading to Whitten Oval, but it was not a sure thing.
Despite the common belief being that this will be a weak draft after most of the country’s talent was dispersed last year, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bulldogs could pick from Molloy, superstar of youth football Isabel Huntington, champion basketballer Monique Conti, or joint TAC Cup best and fairest winner and ruck Bridie Kennedy, to name a few.
But in the past six weeks of VFLW football, Molloy has emerged as a clear, no-brainer first selection.
As part of ladder-leading Diamond Creek’s resurgence following an injury-plagued 2016, the young forward is using her great skills under pressure, superior athleticism, height and versatility to lead a reinvigorated Creekers forward line.
Kicking 10 goals against the competition cellar dwellers in the first two rounds is good, but Molloy has proved she can tangle with the best defenders Victoria has to offer, something she set out to do prior to the season.
It’s her way of trying to keep focused on the end goal: getting drafted.
“I’m trying not to focus too much on it [the AFLW Draft in October] but of course it’s always on the back of your mind because it’s your end goal,” Molloy explained.
“I want to make my mark on those players who have already played AFLW [that are playing] in the VFLW, and match myself up against the best backs.
“I want to prove myself that I’ll be that forward for whatever team it’ll be.”
In games against Darebin, Geelong, St Kilda, VU Western Spurs and Melbourne Uni – all potential finalists this season – Molloy has kicked a further 12 goals, plus one more against Box Hill, to bring her tally to 23 in eight outings.
She sits atop the goal kicking chart ahead of Darebin and Carlton multi-purpose forward Darcy Vescio, who won the AFLW’s leading goal kicker award this year.
The next best is 11 goals back.
The option to potentially nominate to be drafted by GWS later this year was discussed by Molloy and her parents, but now that the Dogs have secured the first selection, the choice appears to be clear.
“I’m studying in Victoria right now; it’s a four-year course, if I go over there I’m not going to be able to finish off my studies,” Molloy said.
“I’ve got a job here that works around me and my football.”
Molloy’s form is excellent news for the Bulldogs who are in desperate need of another goal kicker.
Their severe lack of a key forward was on show after marquee signing Katie Brennan was sidelined through injury in round two of the AFLW.
The Dogs kicked only 31 goals in seven games and had a woeful team goal accuracy of 34.4%.
Midfielder Ellie Blackburn was the club’s leading goal kicker with six, and second-placed Jaimee Lambert has since been traded to Collingwood.
Those factors help make the Bulldogs’ choice of what to do with the first 2017 AFLW Draft selection a very simple one: secure the best young forward the country has to offer.
That is undoubtedly Chloe Molloy.