Despite falling from the heights of the 2018 VFLW premiership to missing the 2019 finals, Hawthorn still produced the most draftees of any VFLW club at last month’s NAB AFL Women’s Draft.
The Hawks finished seventh on the Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s ladder this year – just two premiership points outside of the top six teams for finals – but still had seven players selected by AFLW clubs for the 2020 season.
That tally was one more than the next best total of beaten 2019 grand-finalists the Western Bulldogs and two more than the Geelong Cats – Hawthorn’s vanquished opponents in the previous year’s decider.
23-year-old midfielder and 2019 Hawks VFLW best-and-fairest winner Rosie Dillon was the first player drafted from the club with pick no.24 to St Kilda and joins 31-year-old teammate Tamara Luke (pick no.33) at the Saints ahead of their inaugural AFLW season.
Talented youngsters Laura McClelland (pick no.25 to Richmond) and Serena Gibbs (no.44 to Carlton) were also taken after representing Hawthorn in a handful of games this season, while mature-age players Jordan Membrey (no.74 to Collingwood), Talia Radan (no.92 to West Coast) and Chantella Perera (no.101 to West Coast) were all late picks in the draft.
A key figure in their graduation to the elite level is Hawthorn’s 2017-19 VFLW senior coach Paddy Hill, who recently took up a position combining an assistant coaching role for St Kilda’s AFLW team and the senior coaching post at affiliated VFLW team the Southern Saints.
After three seasons and a premiership, inaugural VFLW Coach Paddy Hill is leaving the Hawks to start a new chapter with the Saints.
Thanks for everything, Paddy! 💛
— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) October 4, 2019
According to Luke – the 2019 Hawks VFLW captain and influential ruck – Hill has been instrumental in developing her as a footballer since she crossed to the sport from netball ahead of the 2017 season.
“I think Paddy going over to St Kilda probably gave us a bit of a chance (to be drafted),” Luke said at the AFLW Draft after being selected. “He’s put in good words for us, obviously.
“I’ve only been playing footy for the last three seasons… and I’ve developed from someone who couldn’t kick very well in the first season to being able to kick now.
“I think in the first couple of seasons (at Hawthorn) I really struggled with the fitness component of footy – just the longer distances, while netball is more short, sharp and explosive stuff – and the game style and the structures are so different to netball.
“It’s been good just for my own personal development to put myself out of the comfort zone and learn.”
An incredible day, with seven VFLW Hawks set to live their AFLW dreams. 🙌🙌🙌
Congratulations, girls. ⭐️
— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) October 22, 2019
Luke said the presence of some experienced teammates at the VFLW Hawks had also accelerated her education in a new game.
“We’ve had some really experienced girls (at Hawthorn) that have played hundreds and hundreds of games,” Luke said. “You just have to ask them questions and they know everything.
“It’s been really good to have the likes of ‘Hutch’ (Meg Hutchins) and ‘Wotto’ (Lou Wotton) there, but there are also some younger girls who have played a lot of footy as well.
“Everyone has a good footy brain at Hawthorn, so it’s been really good to learn off them.”
Now, Luke will also have a chance to pick the brain of St Kilda’s highly respected senior coach Peta Searle – who this year guided the Southern Saints to the VFLW preliminary final.
“She has such a good reputation,” Luke said of Searle.
“I think the development of the Saints over the last couple of seasons with her in charge has been massive, so I’m very excited to see what she has in store for us.”