Under one week out from the 2017 AFLW Draft, our ‘Draft Her’ series is back to highlight some of the players who deserve spots on an AFLW list.
As was the theme last year, the series will focus on players who are not expected to be selected early on – there’s plenty of info on them already! – but those who have slogged away to bring themselves into draft contention.
We start the 2017 edition off with three tough, experienced defenders who had impressive years, and all look to be excellent draft prospects.
The highlighted players’ potential AFL Women’s teams are based on the assumption that the respective players have nominated for their home state’s draft.
Part two: Jenna Bruton, Nicky Steel and Georgia Gee
Part three: Sonia Dorizzi, Daria Bannister and Eloise Jones
Part four: Jodie White, Courtney Gum and Anna Teague
Part five: Calista Boyd, Brianna Walling and Gabby Collingwood
Part six: Courtney Webb, Tiahna Cochrane and Rachelle Martin
Renee Cowan (Yeronga South Brisbane, QLD)
Renee Cowan seems to be reaching her peak performance after another year of improvement in the QWAFL, and looks to be a strong draft option for the Lions as a half-back option.
The 28-year-old former soccer player was a member of Brisbane’s train-on squad after an impressive 2016, in which she was named best-on-ground in the QWAFL Grand Final, and has further improved her standings as part of Yeronga South Brisbane’s successful premiership campaign.
Though she undoubtedly would’ve already been on Lions coach Craig Starcevich’s radar, Cowan did her draft chances no harm by being one of the standout performers at the AFLW Draft Combine, finishing top 10 in five of the six athleticism tests, including third in the 20m sprint and fifth in the agility test.
Following the injury to All-Australian half-back Sam Virgo, Cowan could find herself playing a large role in Brisbane’s make-up if drafted.
Draft notes: The Lions will look to draft Ruby Blair, a similar player to Cowan in terms of position, early on in the draft, but may look to Cowan later on as an extra transition option or link-up midfielder, given her ability to also kick goals. Considering her experience training with the Lions squad and her heightened performance this season, Craig Starcevich will know that Cowan can come into the squad and perform.
Tanya Hetherington (Diamond Creek, VIC)
In her comeback season after an 18-month lay-off as part of her knee injury recovery, Tanya Hetherington didn’t miss a beat.
As Diamond Creek made its resurgence in the VFLW, the no-nonsense defender was a major part of the team’s return to the finals. It’s no surprise to long-time viewers of Victoria’s top tier women’s competition, as Hetherington has been a standout key back in her 150+ game career.
Though the injury was unfortunate, a full season on the sidelines allowed her to take the coaching board and further develop her understanding of the game, and steering her side through a difficult 2016 further speaks volumes about her character.
Had she not gone down with a serious knee injury in 2015, Hetherington would’ve been a sure-fire selection in last year’s draft. Now that she has coaching experience and brings the perspective of a true veteran – while also returning to her best form at 32 years of age – she will be targetted.
Draft notes: While there is nothing in particular that makes Tanya Hetherington stand out from other key defenders, she does all the things you’d expect from a physical back well and with confidence. If she is not selected late on in the draft – which would be a surprise in itself – she is sure to be signed as a free agent post-AFLW Draft. Teams will find plenty of value adding Hetherington to their roster, as she can seamlessly transition into a coaching role at the end of her playing career.
Chantella Perera (Box Hill, VIC)
Box Hill might’ve had a slow start to its inaugural VFL Women’s campaign, but four-time WNBL championship player Chantella Perera didn’t miss a beat.
Starting as a key defender, Perera was effective, but it wasn’t until she was trialed in lock-down defender role that she reached her potential in the new sport.
The 31-year-old claimed some impressive scalps in 2017, shutting down AFLW calibre forwards in Melbourne’s Bianca Jakobsson and highly-rated small forward Sophie Abbatangelo, before adding the AFLW’s leading goal kicker Darcy Vescio to her list.
With both height and athleticism on her side, Perera will make an excellent addition to any of the Victorian teams, whether as the number one key defender or in a lock-down role on the second or third forward.
Draft notes: Victorian selectors will likely hold off senior key defenders until later on in the draft, but once teams have picked up the best young talent and addressed some personnel issues, Perera will be a name all four Victorian clubs should target. She is arguably the most versatile key defensive option in the Victorian draft, and is likely to be snapped up in the later rounds.