By Ant Wingard
The 2019 NAB AFL Women’s Draft is just around the corner and represents the next step in the football journey for so many budding female footballers.
With the Gold Coast SUNS entering the competition for the first time in 2019, there are plenty of opportunities for the Queensland talent vying for a spot on either the SUNS or the Brisbane Lions’ list for the 2020 AFL Women’s season.
In Part One of this series, we take a look at the top Under 18 Queensland prospects who have nominated for the AFL Women’s Draft, which will take place at Victoria Pavilion, Melbourne Showgrounds on Tuesday, October 22.
The draft is the final stop on the road to the AFLW for many of the best underage footballers in the state. For many of the players who have nominated, 2019 has been another successful year with performances across the QAFLW, NAB AFL Women’s Under 18 National Championships and the QW Winter Series maximising their exposure to high levels of football.
Stay tuned on Monday for Part Two.
Hailing from North Queensland, Ahwang featured in every game for Queensland at the NAB AFL Under 18 National Championships in July. A tall wing, her acceleration is a clear standout in her game and she uses it to break from contests and propel the ball forward. Since relocating to the Gold Coast with the SUNS Academy, Ahwang has plied her trade with Bond University at QAFLW Level but struggled for consistent game time given her busy schedule. At the National Championships, Ahwang – a typical outside player – struggled in the wet against Victoria Metro but produced consistent performances against Victoria Country and the Eastern Allies where she averaged 4.5 tackles.
Dawes was one of Queensland’s most reliable midfielders throughout the Under 18 Carnival yet missed out on a second All Australian jersey. A real clearance player, Dawes’ strengths lie in her ability to find the ball and deliver it to teammates in space either by foot or hand. She averaged 16 disposals at the National Championships and has also shown a knack to hit the scoreboard, kicking two goals in Queensland’s win over Victoria Metro in 2018. A leader on and off the field, Dawes is calm with ball in hand and welcoming presence on and off the field.
Another Brisbane Lions Academy product, Gregory is a small-medium forward that possesses the ability to work further up the field. Gregory’s biggest strength is her marking and you would be hard pressed to find someone in the Queensland Under 18 side with as consistently strong hands as her. It was a standout for Queensland in the wet against Victoria Metro at Southport and helped set the tone for an improved team performance. At the goal face, Gregory kicked six goals from her eight games with Maroochydore at QAFLW level.
Heslop faces an extended stint on the sidelines after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier in September but remains a possibility to be drafted by the SUNS. A two-way midfielder, Heslop was Queensland’s best player across their two games against West Australia in Perth and produced three more consistent performances with the Big Q on the Gold Coast. Heslop positions her body well around the contest and doesn’t shy away from the physical facets of the game.
After missing most of the 2018 season through ankle and knee injuries, Hickie returned to the field early in 2019 and set about getting plenty of game time under her belt through the Lions Academy, QAFLW, Queensland Under 18 team and Winter Series. Throughout the season, she continued to add strings to her arsenal as the year rolled on. For Queensland, she was their primary ruck where she was a consistent performer across the National Championships. A handy tap ruck, Hickie averaged 15.3 hit-outs in Round 2 of the Championships and also spent time as a hit up forward. With Coorparoo, the rise of Hannah Hillman saw Hickie transformed into a versatile defender – a role which she excelled in. While teams will look at Hickie as a ruck prospect, her ability to play across the field will bode well.
A reliable rebounding defender, Moore is calm under pressure and while able to push further afield, she played almost exclusively in that rebounding role for both Coorparoo and Queensland. While she has still been able to play a bevy of games throughout 2019, her draft year has been hindered somewhat by injuries. Moore suffered a head knock in Queensland’s first game against West Australia, missing the subsequent match, while also injuring her ankle in Coorparoo’s QAFLW Preliminary Final win. When on the field, Moore’s best asset is her accurate kicking and she provides a calming reassurance with ball in hand when rebounding out of defence.
A two-way midfielder, Muir is capable of performing multiple midfield roles as well as plugging a role as a high half-forward or running half-back. For Queensland, she played mainly as a wing where she produced two standout games against Western Australia. In Round 2 of the National Championships, she moved into more of a midfield rotation but was an unfortunate omission from their final game against the Central Allies. A smooth mover with ball in hand, Muir is patient through the middle and her hard running ensures she puts herself in the right places during games.
Postlethwaite was the standout Under 18 player not already listed by an AFLW side throughout 2019. Named captain of the Queensland side earlier this year, the Moreton Bay junior went from strength to strength. A ball-winning midfielder, Postlethwaite earned her a second straight All Australian honours and was one of the team’s best across the entire carnival. At QAFLW level, she was a standout for the Roos despite her limited appearances and was duly named the competition’s Rising Star winner. Across Round 2 of the National Championships, Postlethwaite averaged 16 disposals and two clearances as a standout in midfield. Her ability to not only win the ball but take risks, evade defenders and break lines remain consistent facets of her game.
A Mackay junior, Randell relocated to the Gold Coast in 2019 to expose herself to a higher level of football and grew stronger as the season went on. A tough, lockdown defender Randell thrives under pressure and has shown an ability to play on either a tall or small forward. At the National Championships, she was an integral part of the Queensland defence and her strong form carried over to the run home in the QAFLW where she held a place in the strong Bond University line up.
Watson was another Queenslander to earn All Australian honours in 2019 and is capable of playing in multiple roles across the field. Her height, athleticism and football smarts make her an easy plug in any position but it’s either as a key defender or tall-medium forward where she is most consistent. With strong hands and a calmness under pressure, Watson was immense in Queensland’s contest against Victoria Metro where she collected 21 disposals and seven rebound 50s in a standout performance.
White made her way back on the field in 2019 after missing the 2018 season with an ACL injury. She played her first game back for Queensland in the state’s second contest against Western Australia and continued to improve and adjust as the year rolled on. A speedy forward-wing, White loves taking the game on and often finds herself with plenty of space to run into. While her speed and strengths hint at a game dominated on the outside, White is more than apt at the coal face and loves a tackle – something she proved at the National Championships where she averaged 3.7 tackles per game.
A strong defender, Zanker Close was named Vice Captain of the Queensland Under 18 team in 2019 and was a beacon of consistency across the carnival. Usually lined up deep in defence, Zanker Close moves across the ground with ease and her closing speed often affords her opposition little room to move. When needed, Zanker Close has the ability to move forward and present a target at the other end of the ground.
Please note opinions stated throughout this story are of the author and not of the AFLW competition or its clubs.
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