TOUGH Richmond utility Holly Whitford has been ruled out of the 2021 NAB AFLW season due to a foot injury, with Hannah McLaren finally earning her chance at the top level.
McLaren, the daughter of respected former AFL umpire Scott, has been overlooked in three drafts after a strong junior career as Oakleigh Chargers captain.
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She was an elevated train-on player with the Tigers in 2020 but was ultimately not needed to play, and has also represented the club at VFLW level.
"We are shattered for Holly, who has worked diligently to overcome her foot troubles," Richmond head of women's footy Kate Sheahan said.
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"Unfortunately, we have reached this point in the year, and her timeline for recovery is still distant. As such an integral part of our squad, it is important we made Holly’s long-term physical health a priority.
"It’s disappointing but has presented a fantastic opportunity for Hannah to be available for selection, while Holly remains heavily involved in our program and completes her rehabilitation."
The 20-year-old McLaren is a tall defender who is steady overhead and strong in one-on-one contests. She will wear the No.29 guernsey.
As AFLW lists number 30, clubs have the ability to replace a player who has been ruled out for the entire season up until the first round.