Over the past couple of months, a number of AFLW clubs have either ran, or announced they will run, a rookie try-out day for athletes crossing over from other sports.
For those not eligible, meaning they’ve been playing footy for the last few years, the thought constantly runs through their mind about what they have to do catch the attention of one of the eight AFL Women’s teams and be drafted.
To give a clearer picture on what’s being looked at, and how clubs will come to a decision on who they’ll draft for the 2018 AFLW season, we caught up with Western Bulldogs AFLW recruiter, Paige Cardona.
A former female footballer herself, Cardona won five premierships with the Darebin Falcons and had the honour of representing Victoria before retiring due to injury.
She temporarily come out of retirement in 2015 to help Deer Park win the VWFL Division 3 flag.
In between all that, she was member of the TAC Cup Radio call team, closely watching and reporting on the next generation of male AFL footballers coming through the ranks.
It’s fair to say that in the years before AFLW there was not much in the way of vision and information on the top female footballers for recruiters to scan over.
Cardona told Girls Play Footy that in the lead-up to the second AFLW draft, this has changed, with greater information now available to clubs to assist them in making their decision on draft day.
“All VFL [Women’s] games are now recorded, and we’re now able to delve into those and watch back bits and pieces,” Cardona said.
“For example, if I’m watching a game on the weekend… and a player puts in something eye-catching, or what I deem worthy of re-visiting, whether it’s good or bad, I’ll note that down and go back to the tape to look at the vision.
“There’s statistics from Champion Data as well that come into us.”
The former TAC Cup scout for a number of AFL clubs admits that she loves stats, and for her it’s one piece of the jigsaw puzzle in developing her ideas about a player.
“I love to read stats in-depth, it’s a great way to re-visit what you’ve seen at a game.
“Stats will tell one side of a story; watching a game on the weekend will tell another.
“I’m [also] always looking to lean off a couple of people and find the inside word of who might be in, who might be out, who is carrying injuries.
“We’ve sort of got some names down that we’ll look at each game, and basically it’s about monitoring those players.
“Me personally, I like to do some research if I haven’t seen a player in a couple of weeks; for example, I’ll maybe go back and have a look at some tapes, have a look at their positioning, have a look at their stats in games, and see from a glance what player I interpret them to be.”
When either a fan or even a player spots a recruiter or AFLW coach at a state league game, it’s naturally assumed they are there to watch how many stats a player racks up, how goals they kick, or what defensive effort they put.
Cardona explains they are there to look at much more, and it’s what a player does at the ground but not necessarily part of game play, that could tip a decision either way on if that player will be drafted.
“I like to kind of build character profiles as well, and that includes things that I notice before the game – how they warm-up, how they interact with other players,” Cardona said.
“What are they like at the huddles, are they engaging, do they look like they care, what the general body language is as well, and how they are after games.
“Essentially, we invest in these players and want them to be long-term contributors to the football club.
“Any detail is good detail. Whether some care [too much] about their hair and make-up on game day, that’s another thing [that gets noted down] as well.
“There’s a load of different quirky things that I could tell you about that I look into, that all goes into building a profile.”
Unlike the men’s AFL where there are professional scouters looking at not just state league football and under-18s, but also school football and some of the major suburban and country leagues, the AFLW recruiting is not that well-resourced yet.
With a smaller amount of resources available, clubs need to use them wisely and thus zero in on the state leagues, meaning if players want to be noticed, they cannot just run around on cruise control in the lower leagues and hope to be drafted, they have to step up to the top level in their state.
“With AFLW at the moment, there are people that get out to VFL games, and at the moment I believe most clubs have just got the resources to get out to VFL [only].
“I know we’ve got the Ammos (VAFA) that has come in for women this year, which is great, but at the same time, I think the next step for a lot of clubs is being able to get more resources into more leagues.
“There are girls that are playing country footy for example, that could be really great talent, but they could go under the radar a bit because of resources in the second year.”
“We look at the Under-18s competitions, we look at the VFL Women’s… but predominately most of the people that will be drafted will probably come from the VFL competition in Victoria and the senior competitions in the other respective states.”
Nominations for the AFL Women’s draft open in September, with the draft to take place in mid-October.
Hear the full interview with Paige Cardona, plus our interviews with the Box Hill Hawks’ Chantella Perera and GB Swans’ captain Laura Turner, in the latest episode of the Girls Play Footy Podcast.
You can listen to the Podcast on iTunes, or below.