NEED IS THERE: Grafton Tigers hosted one of several AFL women's exhibition matches last season at Ellem Oval.
NEED IS THERE: Grafton Tigers hosted one of several AFL women's exhibition matches last season at Ellem Oval. Debrah Novak

AFL North Coast heralds new era with inaugural women's draft

AFL WOMEN: After breaking new ground with the introduction of senior Women's AFL opportunities in 2017, AFL North Coast is ready for another watershed moment in the growth of the sport in the region.

The organisation is in the final stages of preparation for its inaugural AFL Women's draft ahead of the upcoming AFL women's season this winter.

The draft will be held in just under a fortnight on Saturday, February 3 to coincide with the first round of the 2018 AFLW season.

The draft is expected to be a major turning point for women's Aussie rules on the North Coast, and will be the first time a draft has been conducted for any female sport on the North Coast.

It is just the next stage of growth for the organisation which introduced a Youth Girls' competition last year, and football operations manager Paul Taylor said it was a natural progression.

"In 2017, we introduced a hugely successful Youth Girls' competition and the girls loved the chance to play footy,” he said. "From there we received so many calls from women wanting to play that put a plan in place to start a women's competition this season and the response has been overwhelming.”

With over 60 women having played in demonstration matches during the 2017 season, the purpose of the player draft is to distribute the talent as evenly as possible across the four teams to ensure that the competition flourishes and grows.

The inaugural season will be open to any woman aged 16 years or older with no previous experience necessary. Teams will operate under the banner of the existing senior clubs, with Grafton Tigers, Port Macquarie Magpies, Sawtell- Toormina Saints and Coffs Breakers all committed to running a women's team.

One budding talent who will be front and centre of the draft is Grafton Tigers junior star Lily Doyle.

Doyle has been playing trial matches for the ACT/NSW representative squad this weekend alongside Lawrence AFL star Georgia Breward, and after outgrowing the junior Tigers ranks, is ready for a new challenge.

"Lily has gotten to the point where she can no longer play juniors with the boys because of her age,” her father, Mick Tanner, said. "The draft is naturally the next step for her.”

Taylor said the organisation hopes Doyle is not the only budding junior player who realises a pathway through the women's competition.

"We will now have a complete pathway for girls, starting at Auskick and going right through to women's footy, including opportunities for talented players to pursue their dreams,” Taylor said.

"The success of the AFLW competition means it is not an unrealistic goal for a lot of these women.”

To learn more about the women's competition, or to nominate for the draft, please contact the AFL North Coast's Northern NSW office on 66596000.