Four players from the NFNL realised their football dream when they were selected in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft.
Former Bundoora Park junior Jessica Fitzgerald and South Morang and Diamond Creek Women’s young star Alyssa Bannan were both selected in the top five picks.
Fitzgerald was taken by the Western Bulldogs at pick No.2, while Bannan was snapped up by Melbourne with the No. 5 pick.
Darebin’s Georgia Hammond and Melbourne University’s Elizabeth Keaney also found their way onto AFLW lists, with Hammond selected by North Melbourne at pick No.44, while Gold Coast snared Keaney at pick No. 58.
Fitzgerald began her football journey with Bundoora Park and was a member of the club’s under-9 team in its inaugural season in the NFNL in 2011.
The following year she was a member of the Thunderbolts’ Under-10 Red premiership side and was named in the team’s best players in the grand final win over Northcote.
After taking a break from the game she continued her football journey with St Mary’s, before moving on to the Northern Knights – where she has developed into one of the game’s most exciting midfield prospects.
She was best afield in the Knights’ NAB League Girls grand final win in 2019 as a bottom-age player, and was named among the club’s best players in two of three games in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
At the Bulldogs she will team up with close friend Gabby Newton – last year’s No.1 draft pick from Montmorency and Yarrambat – along with fellow NFNL alumni Kirsty Lamb, Deanna Berry, Bailey Hunt, Britney Gutknecht and Elisabeth Georgostathis.
Speaking on the Western Bulldogs website, Bulldogs AFLW Head of List Management & Recruiting, Mick Sandry said Fitzgerald had long been on the club’s radar.
“Jess has been a player we’ve watched closely for the last few years and her development has been exceptional,” Sandry told westernbulldogs.com.au.
“Jess has elite football IQ, is a hard-working midfielder, and she has been noted by teammates for her on-field leadership, so we are looking forward to what Jess can bring to our group.
“She is composed with the football and is elite by foot. She is known for her ability to break open packs and exit stoppages.”
Welcome to the 🔴⚪️🔵 Jess Fitzgerald!
A talented, ball-winning midfielder, Jess was best on ground in the 2019 NAB League Grand Final.
— WesternBulldogs AFLW (@BulldogsW) October 6, 2020
Bannan has long been regarded as one of the draft’s most exciting prospects.
At 177cm and with great agility at ground level, she is a key forward with strong hands, who will also be able to push further up the field.
A member of the 2020 AFL Women’s Academy, Bannan has been a dominant force for the Northern Knights and was a member of the club’s 2019 NAB League Girls premiership.
She was named among Vic Metro’s best players in three of their four matches at the 2019 AFLW U18 Championships and was an integral part of the NFNL’s historic Under-15 Girls team which claimed the title at the AFL Victoria Metro Junior Championships in 2017.
Bannan won the NFNL Under-14 Girls Best and Fairest in 2016 and has proven her talents extend beyond the football field.
She tied for the Section 2 netball best and fairest while playing for Craigieburn during the 2019-20 NFNL Summer competition and has also been one of the league’s leading boundary umpires in recent years.
Melbourne AFLW coach Mick Stinear said he was thrilled to be able to select Bannan with the club’s first pick in the draft.
“We’re super excited to have Alyssa join the club,” Stinear said.
“Her athletic profile is really impressive. She’s a tall marking, leading forward, with great acceleration.
“She’s got good goal kicking capabilities and averaged two or three goals during the NAB League season.
“She’s just a brilliant person with a real appetite to improve. We’re getting a real star at pick five.”
A key forward, with aerial excellence + athleticism. 👌
Our first selection in this year’s #AFLWDraft is Alyssa Bannan!
— Melbourne AFLW (@MelbourneAFLW) October 6, 2020
Hammond’s selection was a reward for persistence.
The 28-year-old forward has played with Darebin since 2011 and has been a permanent fixture in the Falcons VFLW team since the competition’s inception in 2016.
She was also shown the ability to play as a back-up ruck and can be shifted to defence if required.
Hammond represented the Falcons in two matches in the NFNL Women’s Division 1 competition in 2017 and 2018, which included a four-goal haul against La Trobe University in the competition’s inaugural year.
North Melbourne AFLW list and performance manager, Rhys Harwood said Hammond’s versatility was one of her key features.
“Georgia is a strongly-built key-forward, who finishes her work around goals, but also offers flexibility around the ground,” Harwood told www.nmfc.com.au.
“She is a strong one-on-one player and provides a really strong target for her team.
“We were really impressed with her form through our AFL Train-On program last year, and she was due to play for our VFLW side this season after a strong season with Darebin.”
With pick 44, we’ve selected Georgia Hammond.
Welcome to North, Georgia! #AFLWDraft
— North Melbourne AFLW (@NorthAFLW) October 6, 2020
Keaney only began playing football in recent years after switching to the game from field hockey.
The 28-year-old defender was drafted from VFLW club Southern Saints but began her football career with Melbourne University.
In 2017 she played eight matches in the NFNL Women’s Division 1 competition, which included a best-on-ground performance in the Mugars elimination final win over Kew.
After an impressive 2018 campaign with the club’s VFLW side, she made the move to the Saints and continued to shine, so much so that she attracted the attention of Gold Coast’s recruiting team.
— Gold Coast Suns (@GoldCoastSUNS) October 6, 2020
The NFNL congratulates Jessica, Alyssa, Georgia and Elizabeth and their home clubs on their selection in the draft and wishes them the best of luck in their AFLW careers.