Future stars: 26 players to watch in NAB League Girls 2022

THE NAB League Girls competition is building a reputation of producing the future stars of the AFL Women's competition – and this season's competition will be no different.

We saw Georgie Prespakis follow her sister Madison in taking the competition by storm in 2021, winning her second consecutive League best-and-fairest award for Calder Cannons before being drafted at pick No.2 by Geelong, where she has started impressively with 20 and 15 disposals in her first two matches, and winning a NAB Rising Star nomination in round one.

Oakleigh Charger Charlie Rowbottom was the No.1 pick for the Gold Coast Suns and has also made immediate waves, with a best-on-ground display in the come-from-behind win over West Coast at the weekend also earning a NAB Rising Star nod.

Altogether, the NAB League Girls competition produced 26 of the 59 players taken in last year’s NAB AFLW Draft, with many having already debuted and making a mark at the elite level.

We spoke to each of the NAB League Girls clubs to find out who the players to watch are in the 2022 season, which kicks off on Saturday with the first of 10 rounds.

>> CHECK OUT THE FULL 2022 NAB LEAGUE GIRLS FIXTURE

BENDIGO PIONEERS

TIA DAVIDGE

DOB: July 11, 2004
HEIGHT: 167cm
POSITION: Forward/Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Strathfieldsaye
COACH’S COMMENT (DANNY O’BREE): An extremely skilled and smart player, Tia has many strengths and can play any position on the ground but has a great nose for goals. We’re hoping our midfield performs well enough for her to really showcase her forward craft. She is also a talented cricketer who is playing in junior Victorian teams and will soon have a decision to make. 

ARKIE DONNELLY

DOB: October 22, 2004
HEIGHT: 170cm
POSITION: Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Sandhurst
COACH’S COMMENT (DANNY O’BREE): A well-skilled and pure midfielder who can play both inside and outside, Arkie is a competitor in all facets of the game. Will be a key to our midfield set-up but will also get the chance to rotate forward and kick some goals. Didn’t play for the Pioneers last year but had a taste with three games in 2020.

CALDER CANNONS 

ABBEY McDONALD

DOB: February 5, 2004
HEIGHT: 162cm
POSITION: Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Sunbury
TALENT OPERATIONS LEAD COMMENT (MATTHEW BURTON): Abbey is a talented, competitive footballer. She mixes aggression at the ball and opposition with her class in possession. She can play on all three lines and be effective in all positions. We are keen to see Abbey take the next step. Represented Vic Metro Under-17s and is in her third year at the Cannons. 

REESE SUTTON

DOB: June 22, 2004
HEIGHT: 161cm
POSITION: Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Sunbury
TALENT OPERATIONS LEAD COMMENT (MATTHEW BURTON): A classy footballer with great ball skills by hand and foot, Reese has worked incredibly hard on her speed and endurance and is looking to take her game to the next level. She is composed in pressure situations and has been voted as a co-captain by her peers, highlighting her strong leadership qualities.

Abbey McDonald in action for Vic Metro at the 2021 NAB AFLW U17 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos

DANDENONG STINGRAYS

MACKENZIE EARDLEY

DOB: January 13, 2004
HEIGHT: 183cm
POSITION: Key Defender
JUNIOR CLUB: Beleura
COACH’S COMMENT (NICK COX): Key defender who reads the play well with a strong pair of hands. Mackenzie has the ability to both lock down and create run and drive from the backline. Also has the flexibility to play up forward if needed. Entering her third year at the Stingrays and represented Vic Country in both the Under-19 and Under-17 National Championships last year.

AMBER CLARKE

DOB: December 22, 2004
HEIGHT: 171cm
POSITION: Midfielder/Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: Narre North Foxes
COACH’S COMMENT (NICK COX): Powerful athlete with elite speed who will split her time between the midfield and forward line. Amber had a strong bottom age year before missing the end of the season with a knee injury. Back fully fit and ready for a big 2022. Clocked the fastest time (3.19sec) in the 20m sprint at the 2021 NAB League Girls pre-season testing last year.

Amber Clarke and Mackenzie Eardley at the 2021 NAB League Girls testing day. Picture: AFL Photos

EASTERN RANGES 

MIA BUSCH

DOB: May 18, 2004
HEIGHT: 166cm
POSITION: Half Back/Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Blackburn
COACH’S COMMENT (TRAVIS CLOKE):  Mia is extremely quick and competitive and has great endurance in her running. Broke the yoyo record at the AFLW Combine before Christmas. In Hawthorn’s Academy and is likely to be prelisted by them, but I would consider her to be a top 10-15 pick in the draft if not. Won the Ranges’ best-and-fairest last season and made the Vic Metro squad. 

BRIDGET DEED

DOB: March 7, 2003
HEIGHT: 168cm
POSITION: Inside Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Mt Evelyn
COACH’S COMMENT (TRAVIS CLOKE): Last year’s co-captain will take on the role alone this season. Excellent ball-winning ability and foot skills, especially in the 20- to 35-metre range. An excellent decision maker, she played VFLW for Hawthorn last season and has signed with Casey Demons as a train-on player for Melbourne AFLW. Fingers crossed she gets an opportunity.

GEELONG FALCONS

MIA VAN DYKE

DOB: December 29, 2004
HEIGHT: 178cm
POSITION: Key Defender/Key Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: St Josephs
COACH’S COMMENT (PAUL CORRIGAN): A very athletic and versatile player, Mia is strong overhead and clean at ground level. She has a terrific work ethic, fantastic skills by foot and reads the game well. Has good leadership qualities. Going into her fourth season of NAB League Girls football and also represented Vic Country Under-17s last year. 

ASH VAN LOON

DOB: August 11, 2004
HEIGHT: 168cm
POSITION: Inside Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: St Marys
COACH’S COMMENT (PAUL CORRIGAN): A strong inside midfielder with natural ball-winning ability. Winning the contested ball is a real strength of her game and she is also a strong tackler. Ash has a high workrate and brings her teammates into the game by getting the ball to the outside. She is a student of the game and is very self-driven.

Vic Country's Ash van Loon handballs during the 2021 NAB AFLW U17 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos

GIPPSLAND POWER 

YASMIN DUURSMA

DOB: March 30, 2004
HEIGHT: 172cm
POSITION: Midfielder-Half Back
JUNIOR CLUB: Foster
COACH’S COMMENT (RHETT McLENNAN): Has an incredible work ethic married with great athletic talent. Yas has turned her hand to football in the past two years with aplomb. She works hard on her deficiencies to match her natural talent of being able to run and carry. The sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier Duursma, she has clean hands and excellent vision in close.

INDIANA MAKAI

DOB: June 26, 2004
HEIGHT: 162cm
POSITION: Midfielder/Small Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: Drouin
COACH’S COMMENT (RHETT McLENNAN): The cleanest player below the knees at our club, boy or girl. Indiana has great skills and vision with very good hands for a player her size. She is very unassuming on the field but is one for the purist football fans to watch as she rarely makes a mistake. Got a taste in eight games for the Power last year.

GWV REBELS 

KALANI SCOULLAR

DOB: July 26, 2004
HEIGHT: 192cm
POSITION: Ruck
JUNIOR CLUB: Ballarat
COACH’S COMMENT (DAVID LOADER): A genuine ruck or key forward who has great influence on games. Kalani improved massively each game in 2021 as a dominant tap ruck and a fantastic marking target up forward. She is a member of the AFL Academy and has continued to grow and develop her game, which will see her become one of the dominant talls in the league.

PAIGE SCOTT

DOB: May 14, 2004
HEIGHT: 179cm
POSITION: Midfielder/Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: Carisbrook
COACH’S COMMENT (DAVID LOADER): A powerful inside midfielder with massive impact when she goes forward. Paige is an AFL Academy player with real power, is terrific in contested situations and regularly hits the scoreboard. She is extremely powerful overhead for her size and often outmarks taller opponents. We look forward to Paige having a terrific season.

Vic Country's Paige Scott in action during the 2021 NAB AFLW U17 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

KEELEY SKEPPER

DOB: March 15, 2004
HEIGHT: 163cm
POSITION: Outside Midfielder/Half Back
JUNIOR CLUB: Shepparton United
COACH’S COMMENT (MARK BROWN): Entering her fourth season with the Bushrangers, Keeley is a natural footballer with elite kicking skills and an innate ability to position herself as first receiver. Has the ability to cut an opposition to pieces with her precision by foot. Represented Vic Country in both the Under-19 and Under-17 National Championships last season. 

ZARLIE GOLDSWORTHY

DOB: November 18, 2004
HEIGHT: 169cm
POSITION: Inside Midfielder/Half Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: Lavington
COACH’S COMMENT (MARK BROWN): An elite junior soccer player with the NSW Institute of Sport who has made the switch to football. Zarlie is a powerful athlete who is brilliant one-on-one. Will find plenty of the football through the midfield and has the capacity to push forward and hit the scoreboard.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS

RYLIE WILCOX

DOB: December 3, 2004
HEIGHT: 154cm
POSITION: Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: Fitzroy
COACH’S COMMENT (LEIGH CLARKE): Exciting mid/forward who is explosive with her leap, speed and agility. Rylie is a similar player to Carlton’s Georgia Gee, being able to play both as a small forward or push up the ground to impact the midfield. Has line-breaking speed and clean skills and is developing a real classy touch.

PHOEBE NELSON

DOB: December 27, 2004
HEIGHT: 180cm
POSITION: Wing
JUNIOR CLUB: Fitzroy
COACH’S COMMENT (LEIGH CLARKE): An athletic tall outside midfielder who plays on the wing and has fantastic positional awareness of her role. Has grown over the break to now be 180cm. Also plays Premier cricket so could have a decision to make, but her footy IQ, coachability, height and mobility should see her to develop into a multi position asset for any AFLW team.

Vic Metro's Rylie Wilcox in action during the 2021 NAB AFLW U17 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 

CHARLOTTE TAYLOR 

DOB: January 18, 2004
HEIGHT: 177cm
POSITION: Midfielder-Key Position
JUNIOR CLUB: Old Marcellin
COACH’S COMMENT (JASON DAVENPORT): A strong and powerful inside midfielder who is versatile enough to play in a key position and can heavily influence a game in multiple ways. Played six matches last year as a bottom ager, including the winning Grand Final and also represented Vic Metro in the Under-17 National Championships. 

ERIN WOODFORD

DOB: August 29, 2003
HEIGHT: 171cm
POSITION: Half Back
JUNIOR CLUB: Blackburn
COACH’S COMMENT (JASON DAVENPORT): A natural footballer who reads the play as well as any half-back in the competition. Erin has a massive running capacity that allows her to outnumber and cause turnovers as a defender. Played all 11 games in last year’s premiership season, being named in the best five times, and is poised to take the next step this season.

Oakleigh Chargers' Charlotte Taylor in action against Gippsland Power in 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

BRIDIE HIPWELL

DOB: June 15, 2004
HEIGHT: 174cm
POSITION: Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: East Sandringham
COACH’S COMMENT (WAYNE CRIPPS): Excellent athlete whose biggest strength is her marking, but she is just as effective at ground level with her ball-winning capabilities and willingness to use her legs to take the game on. Going into her third season at the Dragons and represented Vic Metro at the Under-19 and Under-17 championships last year.

SOFIA HURLEY

DOB: January 30, 2004
HEIGHT: 165cm
POSITION: Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Port Melbourne
COACH’S COMMENT (WAYNE CRIPPS): A competitive beast but also another excellent athlete. Sofia is extremely clean at ground level with strong evasive skills and a willingness to take the game on with her speed. Also played for the Dragons in 2020-21 and Vic Metro at both national championships last season.

TASMANIA DEVILS

CLAIRE RANSOM

DOB: February 21, 2004
HEIGHT: 168cm
POSITION: Midfielder/Wing
JUNIOR CLUB: North Hobart
COACH’S COMMENT (JEROMEY WEBBERLEY): Claire has some outstanding attributes. She is a great decision-maker in possession and has neat skills by hand and foot, making her a fantastic connector of play. Her endurance is another feature. Off the field, Claire is the ultimate professional and an ideal choice as vice captain of our team. 

CANDICE BELBIN

DOB: July 14, 2004
HEIGHT: 162cm
POSITION: Midfielder/Half Back
JUNIOR CLUB: East Devonport
COACH’S COMMENT (JEROMEY WEBBERLEY): Candice played most of last season in defence. While she was in the AFL Academy last season, she didn’t get to take part due to COVID restrictions. This season she will move into the midfield, which will highlight her clearances and contested possession-winning ability. Tackling and chasing are other highlights that make her a fantastic teammate.

Tasmania's Candice Belbin in action against GWV Rebels in 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

WESTERN JETS 

CHARLOTTE BASKARAN

DOB: December 9, 2004
HEIGHT: 165cm
POSITION: Midfielder
JUNIOR CLUB: Aberfeldie
COACH’S COMMENT (ROBBIE CHANCELLOR): A skilful ball user whose outside run and carry stands her out from the pack. Comfortable playing as an inside or outside midfielder, she has the unique ability to win the ball in the contest and use her speed to break away. A natural leader, Charlotte has been driving the standards during pre-season and is set for a big 2022. 

MONTANA HAM

DOB: March 29, 2004
HEIGHT: 180cm
POSITION: Midfielder-Forward
JUNIOR CLUB: Keilor
COACH’S COMMENT (ROBBIE CHANCELLOR): A powerful clearance player who can also push forward and hit the scoreboard. Her contested ball-winning ability sets her apart in the midfield. Capable at ground level but also a threat in the air, Montana's ability to impact the game in a variety of ways and her flexibility as a player is a coach's dream. 

Twitter: @BRhodesVFL