AFL Women’s league now viable goal for elite athletes

Nat Exon from Carlton will try her hand at her third sport at the elite level. Picture: Wayne Ludbey
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By Will Hogan

Each of the eight AFLW clubs have finalised their playing lists for 2017 with many choosing professional athletes from other sports to be part of the inaugural season.

Out of the hundreds of girls to don the boots next year, 22 are elite athletes in other sports including Kate Shierlaw (Basketball/Athletics) and Nat Exon (Soccer/Athletics) who have competed at the highest level in multiple sports.

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Olympian Kim Mickle is one of the 22 professional athletes who will compete in AFLW in 2017. Picture: Perth Now

Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves believes the introduction of the women’s league will only lead to more poaching of elite athletes in order to boost the profile and talent pool of the game.

“You’re going to see a lot…Erin Phillips is going to be with Adelaide. She’s currently in the WNBA in America with the Dallas Wings…so she’s coming across,” Groves said.

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Paul Groves believes the scope to sign multi-code athletes will be quite large in upcoming seasons. Picture: Western Bulldogs website

Poaching of elite athletes between different modes of sport is not unusual in the modern landscape, however Groves believes the high profile nature of AFL will make changing codes at any age an attractive proposition for female athletes.

“I think it’s now going to be a viable goal for a young girl to make the AFL, that’s a scary prospect for other sporting bodies,” Groves said.

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Statistics: AFL website
Picture: Erin Phillips in action in the WNBA. Source: Elaine Thompson AP

At amateur level, Monash Blues player Jacqui Allit says the abundance of girls wanting to play in the inaugural women’s VAFA was overwhelming.

Allit is excited about the prospect of young girls now having a clear pathway to play professionally.

“I represented netball at state level but never really had the opportunity to try football until I moved to boarding school and I have never looked back,” Allit said.

“I truly believe girls can now set targets on playing AFLW from an early age just like boys do and we are going to see some phenomenal athletes in the years to come,” Allit said.

AFLW begins in January of 2017 and will run until the end of March.

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Brianna Davey is one the numerous converts from soccer to AFLW. Picture: Andrew Tauber

 

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