With the 2018 AFL Women’s draft to be held on Tuesday, the latest page in the history books of women’s football at Essendon is set to be written.
From 12pm at Marvel Stadium, all eyes will be glued to the live stream as the Bombers’ VFL Women’s players hold their breaths and cross their fingers in the hope of becoming the club’s inaugural draftee to one of the 10 AFL Women’s teams.
Here are five of the players in draft pick contention after outstanding seasons in the red and black…
18-year-old key forwards rarely come with a skillset and game sense as ready-made as the Northern Territorian. Ponter hits hard on the lead and if she gets both hands on an incoming ball, you can put your house on that mark sticking. Adding to her impressive arsenal is a long and straight right boot as well as sure and nimble feet and quick hands at ground level. The niece of Essendon legend Michael Long kicked six goals in as many matches in a team that struggled to score early in the season.
Neaves came to Essendon as a forward/winger who had been a part of the inaugural Western Bulldogs team alongside captain Lisa Williams and leadership group member Lauren Morecroft. However, she rediscovered herself in the backline where her strength and naturally attacking game style was just what the fledgling defence needed. The 21-year-old took out third place in the Best and Fairest Award – a second chance at an AFLW career would take an outstanding season to the next level.
As Essendon’s inaugural Best and Fairest winner, a VFL Women’s Team of the Year selection at forward pocket and AFL Victoria Women’s Young Guns representative, Bullas established herself as one of the state’s best and most relentless young midfield competitors in 2018. In a young on-ball division, Bullas played beyond her years. Her consistency and appetite for the contest made her one of the Bombers’ most important players. At just 22 years of age, Bullas is showing signs of being able to compete at the highest level at the start of her career – which should only help her chances come draft day.
Another youngster who made her bones in a senior position in Essendon’s first year, Ugle combines inside and outside midfield skills. The 22-year-old’s fearlessness at the ball and pace made her dangerous in multiple roles while her level-headedness in the heat of battle would be an invaluable asset in any AFL career. The sister of former Collingwood player Kirk Ugle moved between wing and the engine room across her first season. The pint-sized West Australian finished second in the Bombers’ Best and Fairest count.
In just her first season of senior football, the inaugural Calder Cannons TAC Cup captain found a position in the backline and from round one to round 16 and she made it her own, playing 14 games. The 18-year-old brought the tenacity required to compete under pressure in defence, while also being an eager student in her craft off the field. With clubs always looking to secure the best young talent at draft time, Caruso may well be a smoky chance at an AFLW berth.
Winger Jess Trend was selected by North Melbourne in August as part of the expansion club’s open-age signings, while GWS trio Tanya Hetherington, Maddy Collier and Tait Mackrill will all return to the AFLW field next season.
The 2018 AFL Women’s draft will be live streamed via the AFLW Facebook page & webpage and the official AFLW app from 11.45am on Tuesday.