The AFLW Draft is fast approaching and seven Queenslanders will be attending the first AFLW Draft Combine. Talents Kalinda Howarth, Gabrielle Collingwood and Ariana Clarke took a break from proceedings, to take us inside the first AFLW Combine.
A super talent with incredible natural football ability, Howarth looks set to be one of the highest Queensland selections come draft time.
The Gold Coast SUNS Academy talent is attending the combine to cheer on her fellow Queenslanders, even though a quad strain has kept her from taking part in the testing. So for Howarth, her main event was her interview with the Brisbane Lions
“It was quite professional and serious, which is something different for us, but yeah it was a good experience,” said Howarth.
Howarth got a taste of the big time only a couple of weeks ago when she played for the Allies in the U18 National Championships, an experience she considers one of the best in her footy career.
“I’d never been to Etihad before and especially to come out and play in front of probably one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever played in front of, with the roof closed, it was incredible,” she said.
“Just knowing the legends that have walked out on this field, the games that have been played, it was just an incredible experience.”
Though Howarth admits she’s a bit nervous heading into the draft, considering the magnitude of what’s to come, but it’s not the overriding feeling.
“I’ve dreamed about it for a while now, so it’s more excited, a little bit of nerves, but hopefully I hear my name get called out in the draft on the 18th of October,” she said.
On the topic of the draft, Howarth thinks there is an abundance of talent ready to take to the AFLW next season, but Isabel Huntington stands out as the favorite for the number one pick.
“I think she’s going to rip it up in the AFLW next year,” said Howarth.
Attacking midfielder Gabby Collingwood sees her best position as a half forward that rotates through the middle and kicks goals. A natural endurance athlete, Collingwood is looking forward to the 2k time trial, an event that could set her apart if things go to plan.
“We had other testing today like the yo-yo, agility the vertical jumps and stuff like that, but I’m really looking forward to the 2k,” said Collingwood.
“I’ve always had the endurance side to footy, which has always helped me.”
The developments over the last two years that now put her in a position to possibly be drafted still astonish the University of Queensland product, considering it wasn’t long ago that there was no AFLW to be drafted to.
“It is amazing. I couldn’t believe, when I watched my first ever AFLW game at the start of this year, I was just so amazed,” she said.
“It’s all really hitting me now I’m at the combine, that wow, I could actually be drafted.”
Given how far she’s come and what’s on offer, Collingwood isn’t about to go home wondering either.
“Being here I won’t take anything for granted, I’ll put in everything I’ve got,” she said.
While Collingwood is looking forward to the 2k time trial, Ariana Clarke really enjoyed the agility test.
“That was probably my best test,” she said.
“I was hoping we were going to have football skills and some goal kicking, because I rate myself quite highly on my ability to kick, handball and stuff like that.”
Along with a lucky few of the prospects attending the combine, key defender Clarke was blown away by the experience of being part of the National Women’s Academy throughout the year.
“We went to Melbourne in April and the theme of the week was life as an AFLW player,” said Clarke.
“(We) would have a skill session and go to the gym afterwards and (have) recovery with ice baths and go to bed on time and all that type of thing.
“That was really my highlight of the year.”
Even though it’s competitive out on the testing track, according to Clarke there’s also a feeling of comradery.
“We’re all screaming at each other and encouraging everyone, so we’re all together,” she said.
Clarke is another one that’s positive about what this year’s group of young players can bring to the AFLW going forward.
“There’s a good solid, consistent crop of us that have been training really hard and been playing good football over the past few years,” she said.
“The coaches that are here, they understand that, and they want good people to come to their clubs and there’s definitely a lot of good people here.
“I reckon more than half will get picked up.”
By Sean Melrose