The AFLW Draft opens the door for aspiring female footballers to reach the professional level, and for four Sandringham Dragons last night, that dream became a reality.
Along with Zoe Barbakos, who had prior to the draft been recruited by Hawthorn, Sofia Hurley, Bridie Hipwell, J’Noemi Anderson, and Keely Coyne were all taken within the top 30 picks of the AFLW Draft.
For the first time in Dragons history, two players were taken in the top 10, Sofia Hurley at Pick 5 to the Sydney Swans and Bridie Hipwell at Pick 10 to the Hawthorn Hawks.
The Dragons were equal second on the night for the number of players drafted, equal with fellow NAB League club, Dandenong Stingrays, and VFLW side Casey Demons.
The tally increases to 14 Dragons recruited to an AFLW side since the inception of the competition.
Read below to find out the key information about each Dragon taken in the 2022 AFLW Draft:
SOFIA HURLEY – PICK 5 – SYDNEY SWANS
Hurley established herself as the dominant talent at the Dragons going into season 2022. Coming off the back of a pre-draft year best and fairest at the club, she had even more to prove going in to her draft season.
Hurley cultivated her best season to date, averaging 25.6 disposals, 9.3 tackles, and 4.2 insides 50s a game in the NAB League, taking out her second best and fairest for the Dragons in season 2022, back-to-back wins for Hurley.
Featuring in the Vic Metro side for a second year running, Hurley also showcased to scouts what she was capable of against the best talent in the country, averaging 22.7 disposals and 6.3 tackles across three games in 2022.
To top it all off, Hurley was named in the All-Australian Under 18 NAB Academy squad, a prestigious group of girls who had announced themselves as rising stars of the next generation.
Hurley played in the exhibition game for the Australian side which saw them face the Young Guns at Punt Road Oval.
Hurley nominated the New South Wales region as her preferred destination heading in to the AFLW Draft, which was no surprise to many when the Swans read out her name at Pick 5.
Hurley joins Pick 1 of the draft, Montana Ham, in what will be a deadly combo in the Sydney midfield.
The two spent time together during Vic Metro and All-Australian outings, forming a great friendship throughout their time in the two programs.
Hurley is a fantastic ball user, with the ability to compose herself under contested pressure and create pockets of open space that lead to unrestricted flows in transition.
Her versatility as a midfielder/forward will provide her will terrific development opportunities and will without a doubt have eyes on her come the next AFLW season.
BRIDIE HIPWELL – PICK 10 – HAWTHORN HAWKS
Hipwell was always one to watch out for in the draft.
A talent with major upside, Hipwell was always a dominant threat across all levels she played across, starting back in her junior career.
Playing as a rolling half-forward/midfielder across her time at the Dragons, Hipwell was always an influential link-up player across the ground, averaging 5 inside 50s per game across her 2022 season.
Hipwell was also averaging 13.5 disposals, 3.2 marks, and 5 tackles per game across the six games she played in the 2022 NAB League Season.
A wrist injury in Round 8 of the NAB League season meant Hipwell was to miss the remainder of the Dragons season, along with two out of three Vic Metro games in the AFLW Under 18 Championships.
Along with Hurley, their trajectory towards the elite level was identical, with Hipwell also named in the All-Australian Under 18 NAB Academy squad.
Hipwell was one of the best on ground in the exhibition game, catching the eyes of recruiters following her impressive performance.
Due to her wrist injury, Hipwell was projected to drop down the order somewhat, around the pick 15-20 range.
The Hawks saw Hipwell’s ultimate potential, taking her at Pick 10 of the AFLW Draft, alongside fellow top 10 Hawthorn picks Charlotte Baskaran and Jasmine Fleming.
Hipwell played with Baskaran and Fleming during her time at Vic Metro and NAB Academy, creating strong bonds with her new, fellow teammates.
The tall half-forward will play a pivotal role for Hawthorn in their inaugural season, providing a great leap and mark and the ability to impact the contest further up the ground.
Hipwell is currently completing Year 12, which will see a program implemented for her to balance her studies and football.
J’NOEMI ANDERSON – PICK 16 – ST KILDA SAINTS
Anderson has been around many clubs and states throughout her journey to the AFLW.
The girl from the Northern Territory played all her games for the Dragons in 2021, however, whilst listed in 2022 didn’t register a game played.
In 2021, Anderson averaged 9.3 disposals, 5.5 kicks, and 3.8 tackles across four games for the Dragons in the shortened Covid-affected season.
Anderson has played for the Gold Coast Suns Academy, playing one game in 2021 where she tallied 11 disposals.
Anderson made her most prolific impact in the AFLW Under 18 Championships for the Allies, playing four games across two years.
In 2022, Anderson averaged 14.5 disposals, 2.5 marks, and 4 tackles across the two games for the Allies.
The Saints have picked up Anderson at Pick 16, returning back to RSEA Park where she spent a block of her development at the Dragons.
Anderson was the only top 20 pick for the Saints, joining late-round picks Hannah Stuart and Deanna Jolliffe from the Southern Saints and father-daughter recruit Caitlin Matthews.
Anderson is a fantastic contested ball winner, with the ability to create an impact within their centre and outside stoppages, a great asset for the Saints.
KEELY COYNE – PICK 29 – WESTERN BULLDOGS
Coyne has been a big improver across 2022, adapting her game style to maximise her impact in and around the contest.
With a smaller stature of 162cm, Coyne is often one of the harder inside midfielders to play against, having the ability to run through a contest unnoticed.
Coyne produced her best work yet for the Dragons in season 2022, combining as an inside and outside midfielder in spurts throughout the course of the season.
Coyne averaged 21.2 disposals, 5.1 tackles, and 3 inside 50s per game in the 2022 NAB League season and finished third in the club’s Best and Fairest.
Coyne was selected for the Vic Metro squad for the second year running, playing all three games across the national championships this year.
Across those games she averaged 14.3 disposals, 8 kicks, and 2.7 tackles, playing more of a forward role, a new position for Coyne across those games
Coyne was picked up to the Western Bulldogs with Pick 29 of the AFLW Draft alongside Pick 21, Rylie Wilcox.
Similar to Coyne in size and position, both these girls played together throughout their time at Vic Metro in the National Championships.
Coyne’s agility and disposal efficiency give the Bulldogs a dynamic aspect to develop on the field.
Coyne is a real threat to opposition teams and can be developed into any position across the ground given the right amount of time.