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Young AFLW players rising through the ranks, changing the calibre of the game


March 20, 2020 07:30:00

St Kilda teenager Georgia Patrikios was in just her third AFLW game when the experienced Melbourne Demons decided to tag her.

In her third game.

The 18-year-old impressed many with her game smarts as she helped the Saints wind down the clock for a historic first win, but it was her ability to take on players and beat them that led to her being picked up at number five in the 2019 draft.

She started playing football at Auskick but partly attributed her skills to her time in jazz, hip hop and tap dancing classes.

“It’s something I’ve sort of had in my game since I was a bit younger I think, doing dancing at a young age sort of set me up to have that step,” Patrikios said.

Flashes of skill are one thing, but what has impressed many is the Rising Star nominee’s ability to become such a key part of St Kilda’s AFLW campaign at such a young age: not many 18-year-olds are tagged.

“She’s a very classy footballer, her ball use is extraordinary and just her vision and her ability to see the game is a step ahead of everyone else,” said Saints coach Peta Searle.

“She’s made an impact, she’s been pretty important.”

Patrikios is not the only teenager lighting up the league: Fremantle’s Roxy Roux and Carlton’s Lucy McEvoy have also made a big impact.

In round five of the AFLW, coaches association votes rated 19-year-olds as best on the ground in three of the seven matches — Geelong’s Nina Morrison, Fremantle’s Sabrina Duffy and the Giants’ Alyce Parker.

First-year St Kilda player Caitlin Greiser is now the leading goalkicker in AFLW this season, with 10 goals including three in round six.

Duffy is second on the list, with Brisbane 20-year-old Jesse Wardlaw equal third.

Unlike their predecessors, the new generation knew AFLW was an option in their early teens and have trained and prepared for it for years, coming through the National Talent Academy and playing national championships and women’s football.

“I think the academy just really helped my professionalism coming through. I knew what the standard was going to be as I’d trained with the AFLW clubs through the academy,” Patrikios said.

Expansion concerns

AFLW has undergone rapid expansion, including the addition of six teams over the last two seasons, which took the total to 14.

The move had its detractors, with commentators and even some AFLW coaches concerned it would spread the talent too thin.

AFLW national talent coach and Geelong player Aasta O’Connor disagreed with the notion and said the quality and depth of talent in the new generation hadn’t been seen before.

“Can they come in and change the game over the next couple of years? Absolutely they can. They can come in and change the game,” O’Connor said.

“Our young people coming in, hopefully they can change some opinions because they can dead set play. As an older player, it’s really quite scary how good they are coming in.

“We’ve always had really talented athletes, we probably just have a deeper talent base now. In terms of their natural skill level, their ground ball ability and the way they weave through traffic, they look really composed with ball in hand and that’s just simply because they’ve been playing for longer.”

O’Connor also said the physical requirements of AFLW meant younger players could make an impact quickly.

“Young women come into the game like Lucy McEvoy; she’s ready to go, strength-wise she can match it with the strongest, [most] mature bodies in the AFLW.”

“It’s probably not the same say in the men’s, say a Patrick Dangerfield, he’s had 10 more years in the gym so he’s going to be able to compete harder for longer — in the women’s game we are able to see these young girls come in and have impact straight away.”







First posted

March 20, 2020 05:23:25

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