FIRST there was Tayla, Daisy and Erin who burst on to the NAB AFLW scene instantly establishing themselves as household names and now there’s a new wave of stars rising through the ranks.
In the fifth instalment of the competition this new crop of exciting talent oozes limitless potential, strong leadership qualities and already have a swag of impressive accolades to their name.
Here, we cast our eye right around the country and zero in on five emerging AFLW stars.
Victoria: Olivia Purcell - Geelong
The 20-year-old ball-magnet has set herself lofty standards right at the beginning of her AFLW career, finishing second in the Cats' best and fairest in 2019 then going one better to claim the award in 2020.
The Geelong product averaged 20 disposals per game across six matches last season, earning All-Australian honours, and it’s her hunger for the ball which continues to impress Cats coach Paul Hood.
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"Her cleanliness at ground level, obviously as an inside midfielder it’s really important that when you get to the ball you take it with you as often as you can and Olivia is fantastic in that department," he said.
"She’s got really clean hands, she really narrows her focus when she approaches the footy, is very courageous, looks at that ball and goes and gets it.
"Liv is just so competitive and loves being involved in the game. She regularly plays at a consistent level and as a club, we’re looking forward to supporting her continued growth and emergence in the years to come."
Selected with pick No.14 in the 2018 NAB AFLW Draft, Purcell quickly impressed and has immersed herself in a young Geelong group striving for success.
"Liv is one of seven players we drafted in 2019 and in a few years' time, when they’re hitting physical maturity, certainly that group will be a force to be reckoned with and with five more draftees last year our future is looking pretty bright," Hood added.
WA: Isabella Lewis - West Coast
With a successful background in trampoling, Eagles young gun Isabella Lewis has landed in footy and is progressing in leaps and bounds.
The 18-year-old, who progressed through the WAFL before West Coast selected her with pick No.3 in last year’s NAB AFLW Draft, has quickly earned a reputation for her elite running power, speed and ability to apply pressure.
West Coast AFLW operations and welfare manager Michelle Cowan said Lewis’ elite work-rate helped earn her a debut in the Eagles’ 2021 season-opener against Adelaide.
"Isabella was holding her own at Claremont Football Club in the WAFL as a 17-year-old girl coming from trampolining. Seeing her in pre-season when she first came to the footy club, her work-rate was what really stood out to me initially," Cowan said.
"She was really hungry to be the best she could be and her football ability really surprised me for such a young girl coming from another sport.
"Her versatility is really handy when you’re trying to pick a team as well."
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This campaign will see Lewis playing on a wing and spending some time as an inside midfielder as she continues to work on contested ball and fine-tuning her skills and game fundamentals.
"She provides great flexibility for us. I can see her running off half-back, I can see her playing in our forward line, she’s just really hard at it and really clean which is great for an 18-year-old," Cowan added.
"We see Isabella having a long future at our footy club because of the person that she is and the character that she is. She certainly has got development opportunities within her game but she’s got the right attitude to take it on, embrace it and be the best footballer that she can be.
"With that sort of attitude, Isabella can be anything."
QLD: Serene Watson - Gold Coast
She made history as the first player drafted by Gold Coast and Serene Watson is destined to further make her mark at the Suns, according to coach David Lake.
The 19-year-old rebounding defender, who measures in at 174cm, has not only impressed on-field but with her burgeoning leadership qualities and ability to capture the attention and respect of her teammates.
Lake said he’s blown away by Watson who has all the makings of a future great of the game.
"As a player, Serene has the potential to be one of the very best players and from a Gold Coast Suns perspective, one of our marquee players over a long period," Lake said.
"Our environment will be a massive reflection of her and the players who come through with her, you can see how someone like Serene might end up as club captain."
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As a key member of the Gold Coast backline, Watson has shown maturity beyond her years.
"She plays as a defender for us so there’s a massive element of trust there. Trust doesn’t mean you’ll win every contest, trust means you’ll turn up at every contest and try to win and I feel like I know I’ll get that. Her personality reflects her position in that sense," Lake said.
"Serene’s developed the tools of her trade. The work she’s done is a credit to her, last year she was a little girl playing AFLW and she’s worked really hard and now has the body of a strong footballer.
"Our reigning club champion Jamie Stanton’s been a really good influence on Serene, there’s a crew of them that train together and it’s paid off."
SA: Teah Charlton - Adelaide
This tackling machine from South Adelaide already had plenty of senior footy under her belt before the Crows swooped with their first selection in last year’s NAB AFLW Draft.
The 18-year-old who loves to kick a goal and demonstrates elite defensive pressure made her AFLW debut in the Crows' opening-round win over the Eagles.
"Teah’s been a really highly rated junior and we were tracking her progress over the last few years and it was evident she’d end up on an AFLW list," Adelaide coach Matt Clarke explained.
"She’s young and still developing her strength and speed but she has played in the senior competition for a couple of years for South Adelaide who have been pretty strong playing in Grand Finals and Teah’s experienced that.
"SANFLW to AFLW, it’s a reasonable step up, no doubt, but it’s been a nice stepping stone for her."
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Charlton’s knack to see ball, get ball is obvious.
"Teah’s very much an all-rounder, there’s not one standout feature but she just always ends up in the right place a lot of the time so she obviously understands the game intuition and knows where to get to to be involved in the play," she said.
"Her contest work on the ground but also aerially, she’s not a tall but plays reasonably tall for her height. Her tackling, those elements and footy nous, are her great attributes and clearly over the coming years she’ll develop her aerobic capacity and ability to get to more contest.
"Teah is a young player with a big future."
NSW: Alyce Parker - Greater Western Sydney
One of the youngest Giants, Parker has taken the longest strides and the highest leap as one of GWS’ premier midfielders.
At 20, she has already earned All-Australian honours (2020) and in just her second AFLW season also claimed the Gabrielle Trainor Medal as club best and fairest. And there will be plenty more accolades to come for one of the brightest stars of the competition, according to GWS captain Alicia Eva.
"It’s quite phenomenal to think Alyce is only 20 years old. She spends six months of the year on the farm and trains on the beach by herself," Eva explained.
"She doesn’t play footy all year round and we saw the game she had round one so for her to come out and have an immediate impact and be the contested bull she is off limited preparation each year is really impressive.
"It’s pretty scary to think what she will become as she gets more senior footy under her belt as she’s also a late bloomer in terms of her development."
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Eva said while Parker is already an established midfielder, she has the ability to go forward and be dangerous around goal.
"She also reads the ball so well, she can go back behind the ball and play a really important chop-out role. Alyce is multi-dimensional and I don’t think people have necessarily seen that yet and again it adds to the excitement of what’s to come for her," Eva said.
"She’s turning 21 this year and is already so mature, speaks so well and a lot of people across the AFLW competition have so much respect for her.
"As a Giants player right now, I feel really comfortable knowing girls like Alyce will take our club to some exciting things in the future."
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