How a break from footy helped potential No.1 pick

A BREAK from football made potential No.1 pick Gabrielle Newton realise just how much she loved the sport. 

Newton, who goes by "Gabby", played her junior footy for Yarrambat in the outskirts of Melbourne's north-east. 

She's now a good chance to be picked up by the Western Bulldogs with the first pick in Tuesday's NAB AFLW Draft. If not, Carlton and St Kilda await. 

>>The 2019 NAB AFL Women's Draft will be live streamed on womens.afl, the AFLW App and the AFLW Facebook account from 10.40am AEDT on October 22. 

Gabrielle Newton at the NAB AFL Draft Combine. Picture: AFL Photos

When Newton could no longer play with the boys in juniors, she turned her full attention to basketball (which she had played for fun up until that point), making state underage sides in the process. 

She pulled on the boots for a few school games for Greensborough College, and caught the footy bug once again. 

Around the same time, the now-NAB League was just being established for elite under-18 girls in Victoria ahead of the 2017 season, so Newton tried out for the Northern Knights and was successful. 

She was back, and even made the grade for Vic Metro as a 16-year-old despite her extended break. 

"In the first year I made it, I didn't even think I had a chance, because I'd had so much time off footy and I was getting back into it. That was my taste of elite footy, I guess," Newton said. 

"From there, the next two years making [Metro] was realising how much of an honour it is. To be a part of it for so long was huge."

Newton really burst onto the scene last year as a strong leading forward, dominating games despite being a year under the draft age. 

Despite that form, the Collingwood supporter has grown up idolising midfielders Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas (she was "heartbroken" when he moved to Carlton), and actually identifies as an onballer. 

"Most people think of me as a forward, but I feel like I play my best footy in the midfield," Newton said.

"I also feel comfortable playing in the backline and forward. I do like to think of myself as versatile, but honestly, I'll play wherever's asked of me."

Gabrielle Newton of the Northern Knights and coach Marcus Abney-Hastings celebrate their Grand Final win. Picture: AFL Photos

Newton said she felt out of her depth when playing her first ever senior match this year, for Carlton in the VFLW after her under-18 commitments with Metro had finished. 

Despite that, she was actually named in the Blues' best, and followed up with 17 disposals and 15 tackles against Geelong a week later.

"It was a bit of a shock playing against Melbourne Uni, they were such a polished team and they had some really fit and strong girls," Newton said. 

"I rely a lot on my ability to read the game. I nailed that in NAB League and Metro, I felt like I could do it easily, and then it was very different when I got to VFLW. 

"Normally I'm able to be where the ball is going to be, but I was [initially] in all sorts. Once I was comfortable, I got that back. 

"Getting that experience in senior footy has made me feel better going into the draft." 

The musical-loving, Greensborough College school captain already has early entry to university next year, looking to complete a bachelor of science at La Trobe University. 

With such a full schedule, she gave her job at Bakers Delight away despite the lure of finger buns, custard scrolls and fresh "crunchy" bread rolls. 

"Last year I started having training pretty much every night, so it just didn't work. My family always say I got fired, but I did not get fired. Let the record state it was a mutual agreement not to work anymore," she said with a grin.

Newton is appreciative of the AFLW being brought forward when it was initially slated to next year. The first season was instead held in 2017. 

"I was told when I was playing with the boys there was going to be AFL Women's in 2020, and I thought it was cool, because I'd be 19 by then," Newton said. 

"Then when it came earlier, it was perfect, I got to watch it and see it grow before entering.

"It's made me appreciate it more, seeing what those women go through, working full-time or part-time and going to uni. It's so huge and so exciting."