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Draft Day – When Football Dreams Came True

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AFL’s Number 1 Draft Pick Nicola Barr is heading to the GWS Giants. Photo: GWS

Wednesday October 12 was a good day. We all woke up to our news feeds full of all things women’s football. Twitter posts, retweets, Instagram pics, series of uplifting hashtags like #leadtheway #changeishere and #dreambigger were on high rotation. You got the feeling this national draft was going to be big and make a bunch of women smile. And boy, did they smile. 

The draft was held at the NAB Arena at Docklands in Melbourne, with each club presenting their first round picks to the rest of the league. One by one, pick by pick, the eight teams set to feature in the inaugural women’s season assembled before our very eyes. 

For those players already signed and drafted to an AFL club were there for moral support ready to embrace and welcome their new team mates with open arms. Tears of elation and sighs of relief were as prevalent as the names were read out.

Watching their daughters go from a teeny tiny tot Auskickers to a fully-fledged AFL player, the word pride is an understatement. 

Mums and Dads clinched to their daughters overcome by emotion for this day meant so much for them too. Watching their daughters go from a teeny tiny tot Auskickers to a fully-fledged AFL player, the word pride is an understatement. 

So who ended up where? Fair to say it was an even spread with all eight clubs selecting players who have proven their skill and worth at state level. 

 

GWS 

There’s a particular honour that goes with being the code’s number one draft pick and that’s even more special when you’re the competition’s inaugural number one draft pick. Remember this name, Nicola Barr, because not only is she the one to watch next year, it’ll also be a cracking trivia question for generations to come! Greater Western Sydney had the first pick and selected the 20-year-old from Sydney University, yet another draftee switching sporting codes choosing AFL over soccer. 

Nicola Barr is the inaugural Number 1 draft pick heading to the GWS Giants.

Nicola Barr is the inaugural Number 1 draft pick heading to the Giants. Photo: GWS

 

Adelaide 

The Adelaide Crows number one pick went to former lifesaver Ebony Marinoff, a bubbly 19-year-old who says

“It’s time to hang up the bathers, get out of the water and play footy”. 

As Ebony posed for a pic on stage, coach Bec Goddard sang her praises describing Ebony as a “a great human being”. The pair reminisced her match winning goal in Adelaide’s two-point win over NSW when the left-footer ever so coolly slotted a drop punt from a tight angle whilst Adelaide player and back-to-back Goal of the Year winner Eddie Betts looked on. 

 

Carlton

Keeping it in the family, the Carlton Football Club drafted identical twins Sarah and Jess Hosking who’ve made their switch from netball. 

Jess said “it’s time to replace the netball dress with a Carlton geurnsey and I couldn’t be prouder”.

Sarah who practices as a massage therapist exploded onto the women’s football scene after being introduced to AFL through a talent search in March this year. Fair to say the hashtag #twinning was heavily trending once the two names were drafted. 

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Twins Sarah and Jessica Hosking picked by Carlton

 

Western Bulldogs 

The Western Bulldogs picked up ruck Aasta O’Connor who saw the entire 2016 season on the bench due to a knee injury. The positive minded 29-year-old turned lemons into lemonade when she landed a job working with the AFL building the administration side of the women’s league and worked with Channel 7 commentators in the broadcast of the exhibition matches. 

As her name was read out at pick 41, Aasta was filled with joy. 

“To be part of a club with such pride and values – I’m stoked. I was on holidays in Osaka a few weeks ago trying to find a television to watch the AFL Grand Final. To see the Bulldogs win with such emotion reinforced why I love this game so much”.

 

Melbourne

As a whole, it was emotional day for many but it wasn’t until Melbourne women’s football operations manager Debbie Lee announced their number one draft pic in Elise O’Dea. 

Before I continue, it must be noted that Debbie Lee is a pioneer for women’s football and has been campaigning for this day since she was a youngster getting around on the footy field. A mentor for so many of these women, a reality check for herself. Fighting back tears, Debbie announced Elise’s name and embraced her with an enormous hug. The room erupted into an applause, some onto their feet. Elise, also struck by emotion, paused, took a deep breath and with a huge smile said..

“I thought the best thing I could dream for was being picked in first round but to have it presented by Deb was actually even better.”

 

Fremantle 

Fremantle secured their number one pic in Hayley Miller. Michelle Cowan had coached Hayley in the exhibition series for Melbourne and was thrilled to continue their relationship.

Hayley, describing herself as softly spoken and reserved and “not afraid of telling anyone on the field what they need to be doing”.
 
As a coach Michelle understands her players and knows how to get the best out of everyone”.
 

Collingwood

At pick number 6, Collingwood selected defender Nicola Stevens but it was Nicola’s father who surprisingly was swept up in the emotion.

“I’ve been close with my dad for a number of years and I could see he was wiping tears from his face even before my name was called out. He’s just so incredibly proud to see me out there and bouncing back from injury wearing an AFL jumper”

 

Brisbane

The number 2 overall draft pic for the Brisbane Lions went to midfielder Emily Bates who is one of a few Queenslanders who played in all five of the exhibition games over the past four years. 

Currently studying a bachelor of exercise and sport science, the first word to come out of Emily’s mouth once drafted was “Finally!”. 

Coach Craig Starcevich describes Emily as a “prolific ball winner and will bring leadership to the table.  

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Emily Bates facing the media after being selected for the Brisbane Lions

 

So where to from here for the 200 women who now have homes at AFL clubs? A couple of social gatherings with their new team mates (Twitter and Instagram have been inundated with team selfies the past 24 hours) and then it’s down to business. Training schedules, meet and greets with club officials, recovery, uniforms, nutrition plans – all in the makings of a new team from scratch. 

As I exited the NAB building once the draft was complete I overheard a conversation between a younger sister and one of the women drafted. The conversation went like this;

“I’m so proud of you sis” 

To which the now AFL player replied;

“Be careful what you wish for – you’re next” 

Two sentences – enough proof to know this day has changed women’s football forever.
 

Read also “Play for the Little Girl – Why the Women’s AFL League is a Big Deal

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