One of Peel Thunderbirds’ rising talents and aspiring AFLW draft prospect, Kate Bartlett, is preparing for her shot at the big time.
The young forward, who has represented Western Australia in both the Under-16s and Under-18s National Championships, has shown continued growth this season, having established her place in Peel’s senior WAWFL side this year.
In the recently completed AFLW Under-18 Championships, Bartlett kicked 13 goals in five games to be the carnival’s top goal kicker.
Though to Bartlett, playing football has always come naturally.
“My family are very passionate about their football and ever since I could walk my brother Josh made sure that I always had a football in my hands and we would always play out in the backyard together,” Bartlett told Girls Play Footy.
Unknowingly following in the footsteps of Adelaide premiership captain Chelsea Randall, Bartlett began her time in the game playing junior footy with the boys at the Safety Bay Stingers Football Club, the same club as Randall.
However, it wasn’t until much later that Bartlett was able to consider football as a future career.
“I was playing at high school level, [and] coaches of the Peel Thunderbirds Youth Girls team Leigh Elder and Elly Lambkin asked if I would like to come and play for them, and from that point on everything took off.”
Affectionately becoming known as “KB”, Bartlett went on to win three premierships and a best and fairest while playing for the Peel Thunderbirds Youth Girls team, before representing Western Australia at the National Championships, relishing her time in the tight-knit teams.
“[The Championships are] always a great opportunity to play and test yourself against the best talent across the country,” Bartlett said.
“It was a good opportunity for WA to bond as a team… it kind of gave us a small representation of what the AFLW would be like.”
Last season’s Championships culminated in a Grand Final appearance against a dominant Vic Metro at the MCG, and despite WA being held scoreless the entire game, Bartlett says the atmosphere and running onto the ground was an experience she will never forget.
“That was definitely the best feeling in the world and kind of like a dream come true.
“You’d never think you were going to play a game on the MCG and that was just an amazing experience.
“The result obviously wasn’t what we wanted, but we learnt from that coming into this year.”
The Western Australian also revealed she would consider nominating for clubs outside of her home state in the search to play football at the top level.
Speaking on the Girls Play Footy Podcast earlier this week, Bartlett explained that she would review all options when asked about where she would most like to play her football in 2018, were she to be picked up by an AFLW club.
“At the moment, my focus is playing at the Thunderbirds, and I guess I’m definitely enjoying my football at the moment, whilst trying to work hard in my final year at school,” Bartlett said.
“However, I’m definitely willing to play anywhere in the country.
“My brother has recently moved across to the east coast and I’ve always wanted the opportunity to play football at the highest level, so I’ll go anywhere if the opportunity arises.”
Such a surprise decision would likely be a significant blow to the Fremantle Football Club’s hopes of acquiring the young forward in the AFLW’s state-based draft pool, with the club likely to have relished maintaining exclusive access to the 18-year-old, who this season has booted 10 goals in her four games at senior level in the WAWFL.
Discussing the experience of playing senior football, Bartlett expressed her admiration of Dockers skipper and Swan Districts spearhead, Kara Donnellan.
“It’s definitely been a good learning curve and a good experience, especially playing against the likes of Fremantle’s captain Kara Donnellan and all the other AFLW players in the competition.”
“I guess I’ve tried to make my mark against those who have played in the AFLW in the WAWFL by trying to match myself up against them and that’s been really exciting and a good challenge.
“I’m always looking for ways to improve my game by working and pushing myself.
“There’s always something to improve on no matter what and at the moment I’m working on my forward pressure and pack marking, and I believe if I can work on these skills it can help create more opportunities not only for myself, but for my teammates in the forward line.”
The talented athlete, whose competitive nature and reliability in front of goal would certainly be valuable traits for any club to attain in a player so young, and for all of her natural ability, Bartlett’s skill set is matched by her strong work ethic.
“If given the opportunity, I’d definitely look forward to learning off the well-established players and coaching staff at the elite level.”
The 2018 NAB AFL Women’s Draft kicks off in mid-October.
You can listen to Peter Holden’s full interview with Kate Bartlett below, or by searching ‘Girls Play Footy’ on iTunes.