On the charge: Ball-hungry midfielder rocketing up draft boards

AMANDA Ling was overlooked in last year's NAB AFLW Draft.

Nine months later, the 19-year-old inside midfielder from the Oakleigh Chargers is in the conversation for the top handful of Victorian selections in the state-based draft.

Born in Malaysia, Ling's family moved to Australia when she was about three, and she grew up initially playing basketball.

DRAFT HUB All the latest news and videos

The disappointment of last year has fuelled Ling's standout 2021, including a best-on-ground medal in the Chargers' NAB League premiership win.

The difference in years could not be starker when the number of pre-draft club interviews is considered: in 2020, Ling spoke to just one club, whereas this year, she has interviewed with seven of the eight Victorian teams.

But how has the turnaround come about?

Amanda Ling with her Grand Final medals after Oakleigh Chargers defeated Geelong Falcons in the 2021 NAB League Girls Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

A lot is down to finally having a consistent season under her belt.

"I started when I was in year eight, some of my mates needed players at their local footy club (Whitehorse Suns), so I went down. It was only supposed to be one year," Ling told womens.afl.

"It turned out I wasn't that bad at it. I represented Victoria in a multicultural team, and David Rodan helped connect me with the Oakleigh Chargers' under-15 program."

>> Watch the 2021 NAB AFLW Draft LIVE via womens.afl and the AFLW Official App on Tuesday, July 27 from 6.45pm AEST

Ling played four games for the Chargers in the then-TAC Cup when she was 16, but a hamstring injury during pre-season ruined her chances of selection for the squad as a 17-year-old.

Then came 2020, and while she made the cut, just two games were played, which made it difficult come draft time considering she missed the entirety of 2019. 

Improving her game started with a rigorous training regime pre-draft over lockdown (the seemingly endless edition) and set the foundations for her 2021 season. 

EXPLAINER Everything you need to know about the AFLW Draft

"I thought my game as a whole, I needed to be a bit cleaner and get that endurance up. With the season being called off, I found it an opportunity to really work on my game to try and put me in a better position," she said.

"I was doing year 12, so I'd get up early, go for a run, and do a kicking session after school with my sister, and I'd do it every day. Mum was like, 'you have to give it a break', but we were in lockdown, so there wasn't much else to do."

She made a mature decision to knock back an offer from the Western Bulldogs VFLW team for 2021 and return to the Chargers as a 19-year-old, given the competition had lifted its age limit due to COVID-19.

AFLW Draft Prospect: Amanda Ling

00:34 Jun 7. 2021. 2:03 PM

Check out the best highlights of Amanda Ling

"Ask my mum, I didn't know what I was going to do. It was a hard decision to make, but at the end of the day I thought to myself, what do I have to focus on, and am I ready for the VFL stage or the women's competition yet?" Ling said.

"I didn't think my skill set was there yet. I thought I could refine a couple things and get things built to the to the level that I think it should be before I go out and play VFL. 

"I think it worked out well this year, going through the whole season and then having an opportunity with Port Melbourne (post-NAB League season)."

TOP PROSPECTS Bios, highlights, more

Ling, who is studying health and physical education at Deakin University, looks up to the likes of Monique Conti and Jess Hosking, citing their hunger for the ball and four-quarter attack as inspiration.

So, going back to where it all began, how did "just one season" turn into a bid to be drafted?

"First of all, the team environment. Basketball, you're only on the court with four others, so it's better running out with 18," Ling said.

"I also enjoy the physicality of the game, that was the challenge for me in basketball, it's a contact sport, but nothing like footy. I really like that challenge and I've loved it ever since that first year. It's not like any other sport."