PERHAPS the most eye-catching player in Brisbane's perfect start to the NAB AFL Women's season has been exciting young defender Nat Grider.
In just her 10th and 11th career games, Grider has not only defended well but chalked up successive career-highs with 16 disposals against Richmond and 20 against Gold Coast in Sunday's landslide QClash win.
The 20-year-old has transformed from a lockdown key defender in her first two seasons to someone capable of running off and creating.
Against the Suns she helped lay the platform for victory, spotting up four-goal star Jesse Wardlaw with a lovely pass for the game's opening goal.
Her performance earned her eight votes from the coaches in the AFLCA AFLW Champion Player of the Year award.
Speaking to womens.afl, Grider said All-Australian teammate Kate Lutkins had provided the perfect teacher and sounding board to develop her game during the pre-season.
"I look up to her so much," Grider said. "I just ask her the little things: 'what should I do here if I'm playing on this opponent? What's the best way to play here?'
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"I look at the things she does at training and the things she does off the field and just those little parts she adds to her game that make her such a good defender and such a good player for us."
Grider is a terrific athlete who has improved her endurance over the past couple of pre-seasons to complement her smooth stride and languid left-foot kick.
Describing herself as "not always the greatest" junior player, she is the youngest in a backline full of experience alongside Lutkins, captain Emma Zielke, Bree Koenen and Shannon Campbell.
"As a player I think I've always restricted myself in my abilities and I'm trying to find that self-confidence to take the game on and use my weapons, which I'm slowly developing," the Lions Academy product said.
"My run is becoming a big part of my game now and my teammates are really supportive.
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"I think our whole backline has a license to run. The good backlines are the ones that create that turnover and get that run forward.
"You have so much faith in everyone around you. I know if I go and run off I've got the best defenders in the comp behind me to back me up."
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