Irish trio withdraw from draft, delay AFLW pursuit for a year

THE THREE Irish prospects who tested at this month's NAB AFL Women's Draft Combine have withdrawn from Tuesday's draft. 

Olivia Divilly (pictured above), Vikki Wall and Saoirse Noonan were able to nominate for all of Australia in the draft, rather than the usual one state, but elected to delay their AFLW pursuit for a year. 

Divilly tested as well as or better than any other player at the Combine, posting the best result in the Yo-Yo test (17.2) and placing second in the 20m sprint (3.258 secs) and 2km time trial (7:48). 

There was significant interest in Divilly, at least two clubs were keen on Noonan – despite a knee injury preventing her from testing – and Wall displayed her explosiveness in finishing fourth in the 20m sprint.

The reason for their withdrawal is unclear, but AFLW rules differ to the AFL, where Irish players can speak to various clubs and choose where they want to sign at any time ahead of the draft.

That process also enables them to negotiate a higher wage where possible.

Female Irish players are subject to the same AFLW rookie rules as everyone else, whereby they must not have played Australian Football competitively for the previous three years.

They can, like their male counterparts, pick a club but it had to be by the August 30 deadline – well before the three Irishwomen tested at the Combine. 

Ireland's Orla O'Dwyer (Brisbane), Joanne Doonan (Carlton), Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood), Kate Flood and Aine Tighe (Fremantle), Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne), Mairead Seoighe and Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne), Grace and Niamh Kelly (West Coast) and Katy Herron (Western Bulldogs) took up that opportunity.

Dockers Flood and Tighe starred in their country's dominant victory in this month's AFL Europe Championships, with Seoighe and Doonan also competing in the tournament. 

By contrast, Irishman Cian McBride signed with Essendon after testing at the men’s Combine, which ran at the same time as the women’s.

The circumstances were different for another Irishwoman, Clara Fitzpatrick, who was able to sign directly with new club St Kilda after playing for its VFL affiliate Southern Saints.  

The likes of Divilly, Noonan and Wall are unlikely to slip under the radar in future years, with the inaugural AFL Europe Women's Combine to be held this year on December 7 and 8.

Former Carlton footballer Ciaran Byrne, who played 22 games for the Blues, is helping prepare and develop Ireland's female talent. 

The men's Combine has run for years and is scheduled for December 5 to 7.