Pick eight in the NAB AFL Women’s Draft went to the Melbourne Football Club. With that pick, they selected Darebin Falcons’ midfielder Elise O’Dea. O’Dea is the modern prototype for a midfielder. She has height, strength, sublime skills in space and the ability to find teammates in heavy traffic.
(Melbourne draftee, Elise O'Dea. Photo: AFL Photos)
With their next selection at pick nine, the Demons secured exciting youngster Deanna Berry. Berry had an outstanding season winning the National Youth Girls Championships with Vic Metro and playing off in the VFL Women’s grand final with Melbourne Uni. Berry plays predominantly through the midfield but can also play forward and is an exceptional mark.
At first glance of Melbourne’s list, you can see that they have loaded up on some of the best young talent in the country. Speaking after the draft, Women’s Football Operations Manager, Debbie Lee had this to say about their draft selections:
“We had a fair bit of planning so we’re comfortable with the girls we’ve got. There’s a fair bit of youth in there, mixed in with a few older heads so we think we’ve got a nice balance.” Lee said.
It has been suggested in some circles that the Demons have gone a bit too young with their list build. However, when you factor in the calibre of experienced players they have around them, only a brave soul would be prepared to put a ceiling on just how far they can go in 2017.
Players such as Daisy Pearce (marquee signing), Melissa Hickey (marquee signing), Karen Paxman (priority signing) and O’Dea are not only multiple premiership players for the Darebin Falcons, but also brilliant players in their own right.
Pearce is the most highly decorated player in the country and the complete footballer. Skilful, brave and a natural leader, Pearce is most dominant through the midfield. However, she is also an excellent reader of the play and often drops back or pushes forward when her team needs her. Hickey is easily one of, if not the best, defenders in women’s football. Hickey’s attack on the ball is second to none and she often sets up the play with her offensive run. Then there’s Karen Paxman who is one of the best endurance runners in the game. Whether it’s through the middle or off half-back, Paxman can burn off most opponents with her exceptional work rate.
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Along with Deanna Berry, the Demons’ core group of youngsters includes Lily Mithen (Geelong), Katherine Smith (Eastern Devils), Jasmine Grierson (Cranbourne), Ainslie Kemp (VU Western Spurs), Jessica Anderson (Melbourne Uni) and Sarah Lampard (VU Western Spurs).
Mithen and Smith in particular are potential future leaders for the Dees having captained Vic Country and Vic Metro respectively at Youth Girls level. Mithen is a courageous midfielder with silky skills who will slot seamlessly into Melbourne’s midfield. Smith had a sensational Youth Girls carnival, capped off with a best-on-ground performance in the grand final. She played in 10 VFL Women’s matches this year with the Eastern Devils including their semi final. Mature beyond her years and an excellent decision maker, expect to see Smith lining up in defence for the Dees and perhaps pushing up into the midfield.
Tasmanian recruit Emma Humphries will provide run and carry through the midfield, as will the Eastern Devils’ Pepa Randall. Youngster Sarah Lampard (VU Western Spurs) is another running midfielder, while basketball convert Brooke Patterson (Darebin Falcons) is fantastic in close. Highly rated former netballer Shelley Scott (VU Western Spurs) is another player that Melbourne will be able to rotate through the middle.
Lauren Pearce (another basketball convert) will lead the ruck after coming off a standout first season for the Darebin Falcons. Melbourne have a lot of versatility with their key position players. Expect to see Maddie Boyd (Geelong) and Laura Duryea (Diamond Creek) sharing ruck duties with Pearce and also holding down key positions in attack and defence.
Up forward, Melbourne are spoilt for choice. Richelle Cranston (Geelong) and Jess Anderson (Melbourne Uni) are both outstanding leading forwards. Anderson was Melbourne Uni’s leading goal kicker this season and Cranston represented the Western Bulldogs in the exhibition series. Forwards Ainslie Kemp (VU Western Spurs) and Sarah Jolly (Gippsland) are both very dangerous in front of goal. Then there’s rookie signing, Cat Phillips (Melbourne Uni). The former Ultimate Frisbee player is a superb athlete who can play wing and forward.
Joining Melissa Hickey down back is another experienced key defender in Mia-Rae Clifford (St Kilda). Clifford is rock solid defender for her VFL team, often being given the task of curbing the opposition’s best forward. We expect she will be given similar responsibilities in the Melbourne backline. Stephanie De Bortoli (Diamond Creek) is a rebounding defender, while Meg Downie (St Kilda) is another tall defender who can bolster the Melbourne backline.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Coming off her first year of senior football for the VU Western Spurs, Alyssa Mifsud was taken with the Demons fifth selection on draft day. At just 22 years of age, Mifsud is an exciting prospect. She has all the hallmarks of a key forward; height, strength and great hands. However, it’s Mifsud’s versatility that sets her apart. Applying those same physical attributes, she makes a formidable midfielder as well. As an athlete she is diligent in her preparation, we expect her to take giant strides in 2017.
Grierson represented Vic Metro in this year’s National Youth Girls championships and was part of their grand final winningside on the MCG. She also managed four VFL Women’s games for Cranbourne late in the 2016 season and kicked six goals. Grierson is a natural footballer with fantastic skills and has the height to hold down a key position. She was likely recruited as a long-term prospect for Melbourne, but her fantastic work ethic could see her make an impact in 2017.
Harriet Cordner & Aliesha Newman:
Signed as a rookie and free agent respectively, both Cordner and Newman have an athletics and soccer background. Natural athletes, we look forward to seeing how they slot into the Melbourne lineup in 2017.
M: Daisy Pearce - Darebin Falcons
M: Melissa Hickey - Darebin Falcons
P: Karen Paxman - Darebin Falcons
8: Elise O'Dea - Darebin Falcons
9: Deanna Berry - Melbourne Uni
24: Richelle Cranston - Geelong Magpies
25: Lauren Pearce - Darebin Falcons
40: Alyssa Mifsud - VU Western Spurs
41: Shelley Scott - VU Western Spurs
56: Katherine Smith - Eastern Devils
57: Emma Humphries - Burnie Dockers
72: Stephanie De Bortoli - Diamond Creek
73: Lily Mithen - Geelong Magpies
88: Ainslie Kemp - VU Western Spurs
89: Mia-Rae Clifford - St Kilda Sharks
104: Brooke Patterson - Darebin Falcons
105: Jessica Anderson - Melbourne Uni
120: Madeleine Boyd - Geelong Magpies
121: Pepa Randall - Eastern Devils
134: Sarah Lampard - VU Western Spurs
135: Jasmine Grierson - Cranbourne
145: Sarah Jolly - Gippsland Galaxy
R: Catherine Phillips - Melbourne Uni
R: Harriet Cordner
FA: Meg Downie - St Kilda Sharks
FA: Laura Duryea - Diamond Creek
FA: Aliesha Newman
M: Marquee Player, P: Priority Pick, R: Rookie, FA: Free Agent