Lucky 13: New Roo 'floating on air' after nerve-racking draft night

AS THE NAMES were read out in the first round of the 2021 NAB AFLW Draft, North Melbourne's recruiting team at the club's Arden Street headquarters grew increasingly tense.

The Kangaroos' first selection was pick No.13, the ninth in the Victorian pool, and one player they were more than confident would have been snapped up early was still available.

Down the highway in Geelong, the nerves were growing for inside midfielder Tess Craven, concerned her best and fairest season at the Falcons – in which the team made the decider – was for nought.

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But when No.13 was reached, and Craven was still available, North Melbourne couldn't read out her number fast enough.

"It was just my Mum and Dad watching (with me). I'm really close with them, I'm an only child, so it was good to have them there to have the moment with them," Craven told womens.afl.

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"A lot of nerves, especially with the first couple of picks when you don't hear your name and start overthinking, but the relief when you hear your name is just pure happiness and elation. I like to describe it as floating on air, because your dream has come through.

"I'm an overthinker by trade, so you start stressing and wondering if you've got your hopes up for nothing. I tried to remain calm, and Mum and Dad were telling me to have faith in myself and be confident, so I was trying to keep my head up. 

"When my name was called, it was just pure relief. You don't need to be a high pick, just going to a club is amazing and very special."

As to why Craven slipped? A foot issue may have been a sticking point for some clubs, holding her out of any possible VFLW footy.

"It's a stress response in my left foot. It's been handled very conservatively, just because I had the draft coming up and no footy to really rush back for," she said.

"We just wanted to look after it and make sure it's good for whenever pre-season is. I only felt it immediately after the (NAB League) Grand Final, so I didn't have to stress about it during it."

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Craven believes she's played for around 13 straight years, having started at Auskick level, playing junior footy at Drysdale before graduating to the Falcons.

She'll now be working with one of the best and deepest AFLW midfields.

"I really wanted to get to the highest level, whatever that was. I don't know if Mum's made this up, but she said she was dreading the day she'd have to tell me there was no AFL for me to play in. Luckily that day never came, so it has been a goal since it's been around," Craven said.

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"I feel incredibly honoured. I've looked up to those girls for a long time, Jassy Garner, Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, even Emma King's ruck work. The opportunity to learn from them and pick up little tricks and tips, it's such a unique opportunity, and I'm very grateful to have it."

North Melbourne was so confident Craven would be taken before their selection, she hadn't even met with coach Darren Crocker, instead having her pre-draft interview only with list manager Rhys Harwood.

Once the immediate hubbub of the draft settled, she was able to jump on a video call with Harwood, Crocker and footy ops manager Nathan Hrovat.

"At the time (of the pre-draft club interview), I think they thought they weren't going to get me, so it was really cool to talk to [Crocker]. They seem really happy to have me, and I feel very welcomed," she said.