In two weeks on Wednesday, October 18, players across the country will anxiously be hoping their name is read out as a selection in the 2017 AFLW Draft.
It’s expected that only approximately 60-70 players will be selected this year, a far cry from the 145 chosen in last year’s draft.
Though we know there will be fewer selections, it still hasn’t been made clear whether each of the eight participating teams will have a defined number of draft selections, or if they will just keep picking until their heart’s content.
Keep in mind, clubs are also able to sign up to three rookies who can be elevated to the club’s main playing list, presumably as part of the draft. It’s all very confusing.
But what we do know for certain is the draft order for the first two rounds, and the Girls Play Footy teams has attempted to predict who will be selected with the first 16 selections in the 2017 AFLW Draft.
Predictions are made assuming players will nominate for the state they currently reside in, and does not take into account the potential for players to nominate for drafts in other states. Eg, Kate Bartlett has previously stated she may nominate for an interstate draft.
Girls Play Footy’s AFLW Phantom Draft is an informative prediction of the first two rounds of the 2017 AFLW Draft and should not be viewed as factual. The players we have profiled are those we expect will be selected at some stage in the draft. Over the next two weeks, we will also be profiling players who are in contention to be selected in our popular returning ‘Draft Her’ series.
Pick 1, Western Bulldogs: Chloe Molloy (Diamond Creek/Calder Cannons, VIC)
Future youth players will struggle to recreate the success Chloe Molloy has had in 2017. The 19-year-old forward was joint TAC Cup best and fairest for the premiership-winning Calder Cannons, the TAC Cup leading goal kicker and joint VFLW leading goal kicker in her first season of senior football. Molloy proved her versatility through the VFL season by playing a variety of roles, including a shutdown effort on Brianna Davey. Though she appeared to have seriously injured her collarbone in the VFLW Grand Final, Molloy will be fully fit for the pre-season.
Draft notes: Molloy is undoubtedly the best available player in the AFLW Draft. The Bulldogs desperately need another key forward, and Molloy has proved she is able to consistently kick majors against seasoned defenders in the VFLW. This is a no-brainer – you could go as far as saying that if the Dogs pass up on Molloy, they will have made a serious list management mistake.
Pick 2, Fremantle: Kate Bartlett (Peel Thunderbirds, WA)
Whether in youth or senior footy, Kate Bartlett has proved she is up to the task of holding down a key forward position. She kicked 13 goals in five outings in the AFLW Under-18 National Championships, including seven in one match, while also establishing herself in the Peel Thunderbirds forward line in the WAWFL. As second fiddle to Kira Phillips, the comp’s leading goal kicker, Bartlett still managed 13 goals and did not go without a major in any of her six games.
Draft notes: Fremantle needs avenues to goal, that we know. Bartlett has proven to be the most reliable young forward in WA, though her output may be improved working in tandem with another forward. Whether that is with Amy Lavell or Fremantle targets another forward, Bartlett has a key role to play in Freo’s forward half.
Pick 3, Collingwood: Isabel Huntington (Melbourne Uni/Sandringham Dragons, VIC)
Had Isabel Huntington not damaged her ACL in late 2016, we would probably be talking about her as the runaway first overall pick. Unfortunately, Huntington has not played a game since, though has been training with Melbourne Uni in a bid to regain the form that made her a must-see youth star. A genuine goal-kicking midfielder, Huntington will be an immediate star if she can regain her 2016 form, but will need to do so against senior opposition.
Draft notes: Huntington’s proven skill cannot be denied, but it would be careless to not question her ability to come back from a serious knee injury at a young age. It’s one thing to star against other juniors, but unlike Molloy, Huntington has not proved she can dominate at senior level since last year when she played reserves footy for Melbourne Uni. Still, she has undeniable talent. Realistically, Huntington could be selected with the first overall pick or even fall as low as the second round depending on her showing at the AFLW Draft Combine.
Pick 4, Western Bulldogs: Darcy Guttridge (Cranbourne/Gippsland Power, VIC)
A damaging half-back, Darcy Guttridge is a senior head on young shoulders. She was named the captain of the AFLW Under-18 All-Australian side at the half-back flank, and was totally dominant in the National Championships earlier this year. With clean skills and the ability to run through the centre of the ground, the defensive-minded midfielder will be a serious candidate for Rising Star next year.
Draft notes: In this observer’s opinion, Guttridge is the prospect everybody should be talking about. She is forged from the same mould as Karen Paxman, and is a defensive general on top of being a highly skilled footballer. Watch this space.
Pick 5, GWS: Haneen Zreika (Auburn, NSW)
A tough, agile midfielder, Haneen Zreika is a former rugby league player who has developed her skills as part of the GWS/Auburn Giants Academy. She was excellent early on in the AFLW Under-18 National Championships, and will have the chance to further develop her ball skills in the pre-season.
Draft notes: In what is a relatively weak draft year for NSW/ACT, Haneen Zreika is star material, though she may give up the game if a women’s national rugby league competition is established. For the immediate future, she will bring some physicality to the GWS engine room which generally features smaller, athletic mids.
Pick 6, Melbourne: Monique Conti (Melbourne Uni/Calder Cannons, VIC)
Monique Conti could be considered the x-factor prospect in this year’s AFLW Draft. Though she is raw, her speed, agility and natural ball skills mean she has a high ceiling – it still hasn’t quite been figured out how good she can be. Conti finished sixth in the TAC Cup B&F count despite missing a game, and comes from an elite basketball background. She was part of the Australian Sapphires team that won gold at the 2016 U17 World Championships, was named in the tournaments all-star five, and won the WNBL’s Rookie of the Year for the 16-17 season.
Draft notes: What we know about Conti is that she is good. What’s unknown is just how good she can be, and in what capacity. Being selected for a team like Melbourne would be perfect for Conti, with the Demons’ cast of established and young mids able to offer plenty of direction.
Pick 7, Brisbane: Jordan Zanchetta (Yeronga South Brisbane, QLD)
Having succumbed to an ACL injury last year, Jordan Zanchetta was denied a spot on the inaugural Brisbane Lions playing list, and inadvertently became the best player to not feature in the AFLW. A tough-as-nails midfielder, the 22-year-old played six games in her return from injury for Yeronga, including the successful Grand Final. She is rated highly in Queensland and will be a key inclusion to Brisbane’s midfield.
Draft notes: Zanchetta might not be the best available Queenslander on form, but she has shown enough in her comeback matches that she will be able to return to the level that had her so highly touted in 2016. With the draft order meaning little for Brisbane, it will be a sentimental moment if coach Craig Starcevich picks Zanchetta first.
Pick 8, Adelaide: Jess Allan (Salisbury/Glenelg, SA)
Rucks don’t often win much attention for the work they do, but Jess Allan turned plenty of heads during the AFLW Under-18 National Championships. She played much taller than her 182cms would suggest, has a great vertical leap and knows how to use her body to give her midfielders quality first use. She was named the Championships All-Australian ruck and vice-captain, a sign of things to come for this star in the making.
Draft notes: The Crows aren’t desperate for another ruck, but Allan will be an excellent addition to the side nonetheless. Expect her to juggle duties with Rhiannon Metcalfe and eventually take the lion’s share of taps in the centre of the field while Metcalfe applies pressure up forward.
Pick 9, Collingwood: Bridie Kennedy (Cranbourne/Dandenong Stingrays, VIC)
While a lot of the draft focus has been on Chloe Molloy, it can’t be forgotten that Bridie Kennedy, who shared the TAC Cup best and fairest with Molloy, is also a fantastic prospect. Though she was dominant in the ruck during the youth competition early in the season, Kennedy proved to be strong in defence for Cranbourne, an area she is likely to play most of her footy.
Draft notes: If she’s still available, Collingwood will not be able to look past Kennedy. With Emma King developing her forward capabilities in the VFLW, the Magpies will be able to bring in another star ruck and have two versatile talls on their hands.
Pick 10, Fremantle: Tayla McAuliffe (Swan Districts, WA)
Tayla McAuliffe is described as an athletic ruck-forward, but she was most impressive in the AFLW Under-18 National Championships when used as a tall midfielder. She is very clean below her knees despite her tall frame and is surprisingly speedy, which comes from her background in athletics. Her style of play brings comparisons to Fremantle defender Ebony Antonio in the way that she attacks to football.
Draft notes: Fremantle is in the market for a starting ruck, and McAuliffe showed in the last two Nationals games in particular that she can be used in a number of roles. Either as a deep-lying forward, a mobile half-forward who can take ruck duties or the number one ruck option, McAuliffe has earned a place in Fremantle’s line-up.
Pick 11, Western Bulldogs: Eden Zanker (Woorineen/Bendigo Pioneers, VIC)
Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the AFLW Under-18 National Championships was Eden Zanker. She arrived at Bendigo with little footy experience, but clearly has natural ability that has been on show all year. In a stacked Vic Country line-up, she proved to be the most reliable avenue to goal which speaks volumes, and was ultimately rewarded with the title of Under-18 All-Australian full forward.
Draft notes: If Zanker is still available at pick 11, the Bulldogs should pick her whether they select Molloy at number one or not. In a draft without much top-end forward talent, the Dogs have the chance to leave with two genuine future star forwards. Imagine Katie Brennan, Chloe Molloy and Eden Zanker roaming around in the same forward line.
Pick 12, Carlton: Sophie Abbatangelo (Diamond Creek, VIC)
Former ice hockey player Sophie Abbatangelo made an immediate impact for Diamond Creek this season, standing out clearly as the competition’s top small forward. The 27-year-old averaged a goal a game in her 15 VFLW matches, including two key majors in the narrow Grand Final loss. Being such a reliable source of scoring as a player who has to create her own opportunities is promising for any team that picks her up.
Draft notes: With five of Abbatangelo’s Diamond Creek teammates already signed to Carlton, you can be sure that the Blues are focused on the Creekers small forward. Carlton needs another forward after losing Bianca Jakobsson and Bella Ayre, and the prospect of having to stop Darcy Vescio, Tayla Harris and Abbatangelo – three very different types of forwards – is scary for opposition defenders.
Pick 13, Collingwood: Jessica Trend (Eastern Devils, VIC)
Jessica Trend was a sure-fire selection for last year’s draft, but she suffered a knee injury late last season. Though she hasn’t played this year, Trend is reaching peak fitness from all reports. If true, she immediately becomes a top prospect. The 26-year-old quick outside midfielder has exhibition match experience with the Western Bulldogs, and has proved she can punish teams on the run inside 50.
Draft notes: Trend would be a much-needed experienced addition to the Collingwood midfield. The Magpies are looking to remedy their midfield struggles of 2017, and have already brought in a similar player in Jaimee Lambert. Collingwood could have Lambert, Trend, Sarah D’Arcy and Steph Chiocci (and maybe Isabel Huntington) all working in the same midfield, creating a dynamic, high-powered core.
Pick 14, Melbourne: Ashleigh Riddell (Diamond Creek, VIC)
Ashleigh Riddell is a young midfielder that played a significant role in Diamond Creek’s forward line this year. As a hard inside ball winner, not only did Riddell prove to be a reliable clearance getter, her presence upped the impact of her fellow mids. Having made the jump from Fitzroy to more competitive football, Riddell is well accustomed to top tier senior footy.
Draft notes: Given her proven ability to improve the impact of her fellow midfielders, it makes sense that a team essentially comprised of midfielders selects her. The idea of Daisy Pearce and Lily Mithen getting more outside ball wouldn’t exactly be unappealing to Melbourne officials.
Pick 15, Brisbane: Ruby Blair (Coolangatta, QLD)
A courageous half-back, Ruby Blair is arguably one of the most skillful players in this draft class, particularly for her size. She is impressive overhead, often wins her one-on-one battle, and never seems rushed in possession. Blair is also able to be used through the centre and from the back pocket, taking any role from an inside or outside midfielder to a lock-down job.
Draft notes: If Blair wasn’t already a signed and sealed draft choice for Brisbane, the injury to Lions All-Australian defender Sam Virgo has made it a certainty. Blair is now a required player for the Lions and will be asked to have an immediate impact.
Pick 16, Adelaide: Sophie Li (Adelaide University/Norwood, SA)
Sophie Li is a prolific ball winner who torches teams if given any space. Though she can win the hard ball, Li is most dangerous with ball in hand in the centre of the ground, pushing forward to either create scoring opportunities or converting them herself. Her move to Adelaide University after three years with Morphettville Park allowed her to stand out individually, and she was excellent in the inaugural SANFL Women’s season, finishing equal second in the league best and fairest.
Draft notes: With a playing style that mirrors that of Erin Phillips, Li is an exciting prospect despite being an experienced player. Her game was taken to another level this year, and her electric running will bring more pace to what is typically a bruising midfield core for Adelaide.
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