Four Indigenous stars were among the AFLW draftees in 2020, including a former Docker who has returned to her old club after an injury put her career on hold.
Larrakia woman Stephanie Williams is now a member of Geelong’s AFLW team.
Williams, who has been mainly based in Victoria since the age of 11, going to school at Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville and then Geelong College where she is now in year 12, has been dazzling opponents and crowds in both Victoria and the NT.
The hugely talented Larrakia forward would return home to the top end and represent the Darwin Buffaloes’ under-18 side in the NTFL, whose season runs over the summer, before coming back to Victoria for the start of term one of school.
She played for St Josephs in the AFL Barwon under-18 competition, and for the Central Allies at last year’s NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships.
Williams has established a reputation for her agility, marking skills and strong leads.
She played basketball and netball before switching codes at Worawa.
“Growing up, footy wasn’t what it is today, it was a male-dominant sport. There was alcohol around it, it was mainly only men watching the game, so I never felt too comfortable with it,” she said in a recent interview.
“I’d grown up with a single mum, and she’s not too big on footy, so I wasn’t taught how to kick a footy by my dad. When I got to Worawa, a girl there said, ‘my dad showed me how to kick, I can teach you’.
“Ever since then, I’ve never wanted to go back. I have a whole oval to run in and feel free, it’s been a good way to express myself and feel like I belong in a community and team environment. It’s a sisterhood, and everyone celebrates the little wins.”
Williams’s subjects at school include legal studies, English, PE and art, and she is an enthusiastic photographer. She is also a boarding school captain and prefect at Geelong College.
She can speak three languages and understands many more, from areas as diverse as the Tiwi Islands to the desert of central Australia.
“I hope when I finish school and have further education, I can go and help my community in some way, or Indigenous communities in general,” Williams said.
“Hopefully I’ll work in education as a teacher or principal. Because of the Indigenous languages I know, I want to be a bridge for that literacy gap and the foundations of learning.
“Once you’re educated and empowered, you can be a leader. You know the world and you feel so much more knowledgeable for it, and you can help create more leaders and spread that empowerment.”
New Fremantle Docker Mikayla Morrison has been wowing crowds for Swan Districts in the WAFLW.
The 18-year-old displayed incredible talent when she starred in the midfield in a 4.6 (30) to 1.7 (13) victory for the WA under-18s against the WAFLW All-Stars recently.
Morrison has been a versatile player this WAFLW season, dominant in the Swan Districts midfield, and also kicking 10 goals from the eight games in which she played as a small forward.
Without an under-18 national carnival this year because of COVID-19, Morrison used her form in the state league to impress talent scouts, and was soon on the Dockers’ radar.
WA under-18 women’s coach Beau McDonald told local media that Morrison had quick reaction times, was agile and had a great kick, all attributes which would serve her well in the top level.
“She can do a lot that you want a footballer to do,” he said.
“Where we’ve been working really hard with her is to improve her fitness so she can do it more often in games.”
Former Dockers player Tiah Haynes has made a remarkable comeback to the AFLW and her old club after grave knee and shoulder injuries.
Tiah Haynes once said she models her game on Cats’ captain Joel Selwood, but she is also related to Geelong legend, the late Polly Farmer, and Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams.
Her return to the WAFLW with Subiaco in round 1 of the state’s league season in 2020 was the stuff of fairy tales, with a stellar performance leading the club to victory.
The 27-year-old had played for the Dockers in 2017 before injuries saw her delisted at the end of 2018.
She captained the Lions throughout 2020 and was drafted by Fremantle back into the national competition.
Northern Territory footballer Janet Baird is heading east to the Gold Coast Suns for the 2021 AFLW season.
The 20-year-old missed out in last year’s AFLW draft, but joined the Suns as a train-on player for the 2020 season and impressed officials.
Baird played in the NT All-Stars match a few weeks before the AFLW draft, where she was one of the most influential players on the ground.
The 2018 national NAB AFLW Academy member is a versatile half-back flanker who can also provide run in the midfield and has no trouble finding the goals.
Known for precise ball movement and her capacity for potent bursts of speed, the 167cm tall Baird is also an exceptional intercept marker – making her incredibly valuable in defence.
Playing for the Palmerston Magpies in the NTFL women’s competition, Baird played 14 matches in the most recent season, being named in the best on nine occasions.
She has been playing football since she was 13 and became the youngest player to win the NTFL Women’s Best and Fairest award in 2019, after winning the Rising Star award in 2018.
In 2019 Baird also played for the NT Thunder in the VFLW competition.
By Giovanni Torre