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Canberra high flyers set to make their mark in the AFLW

Michael Weaver 23 October 2019
Maggie Gorham

Maggie Gorham in action for the Belconnen Magpies during the Canberra women’s first grade grand final this year. She has been drafted by the GWS Giants in the AFLW. Photo: Wodshots Photography.

At 28 years of age, Queanbeyan Tigers’ captain Hannah Dunn was labelled a ‘mature-age’ draft pick for the 2020 AFL Women’s competition.

At 18, Belconnen Magpie Maggie Gorham is one of the young guns.

Yesterday, they took one giant leap closer to realising their dream of playing at their chosen sport’s elite level. Both were selected as two of six AFL Canberra players drafted into the AFLW’s fourth season in the expanded 14-team competition for 2020.

Four years ago, Dunn packed little more than her football boots while being courted by the GWS Giants in the first season of the AFLW. Next week, she will pack her bags, leave her job at the Department of the Senate at Parliament House and move to the Gold Coast as the Gold Coast Suns’ first pick in the AFLW draft.

Gorham, the AFLW’s number four draft pick, has just finished high school and was eyeing off a career as a teacher of disabled children. But after kicking 29 goals in 17 games, and being named this year’s best and fairest player in the Canberra league, Gorham became the second Belconnen player to be selected as the Giants’ first pick of the AFLW draft, following in the footsteps of Jodie Hicks in 2017.

She told Region Media that after her success in the AFL Canberra competition, she’s set her sights on a new career as a professional footballer.

“There are so many awesome women playing football in Canberra, so after winning the best player award, I realised that maybe I should just give it a crack,” Gorham said.

“I’m pretty sure the Giants want me there a week before pre-season, so I might be living on my brother’s couch for the first few weeks until I can find a permanent place to stay.”

Gorham, who first started playing Australian rules when she was 12, admits it will be a big learning curve as she adjusts to life in the AFLW.

“Seeing all the big names in the draft, you think that’s so cool, but I soon realised that I’m going to be up against them very soon, so it’s all been pretty crazy really.”

For Hannah Dunn, the wait to realise her dream of playing in the AFL was worth it.

“I think at my age, if there was a year to get picked up, this was the year with all the expansion teams coming in,” Dunn also told Region Media.

“They said in the draft that I’m a mature-age pick and I thought about it and was like, well, you are getting close to 30!”

Hannah Dunn

Queanbeyan Tigers’ captain Hannah Dunn after winning this year’s AFL Canberra women’s premiership. She has been drafted to the Gold Coast Suns. Photo: Wodshots Photography.

Dunn, a midfielder, said getting knocked back in the AFLW draft only spurred her on.

Dunn played for Norwood in the South Australian league (SANFL) this season, finishing third in the best and fairest count before returning to Queanbeyan and claiming the best-on-ground medal in the Canberra first grade women’s grand final win.

Dunn was drafted as the Gold Coast Suns’ second selection at pick 22 overall. She said there were a few nervous moments when the draft was being read out on Tuesday.

“I had to work and was watching the draft with Ella Ross, who played for the Giants in their first year. I went down to her office and we sat out the back and watched it together. We tried to make it as special as it can be at work. There were a few high fives.

“I’m super excited that it’s official and all the hard work over the last couple of years has paid off,” she said.

Dunn credits AFL Canberra and the development program put in by Queanbeyan Tigers’ general manager Adrian Pavese as the reason she was drafted this year.

The Queanbeyan Tigers claimed the trifecta with three of their 2019 premiership players securing their spots onto AFLW lists.

Joining the Dunn at the Gold Coast is Lexi Hamilton, taken at pick 38. Hamilton represented NSW/ACT in the 2018 NAB AFLW National Championships where she won All Australian honours.

Canberra first grade women’s leading goalkicker, Jacqueline Parry, rounded off the Tigers’ success as the Melbourne Demons’ first pick (54th overall).

Former Eastlake Demons’ star, Najwa Allen was taken by the Adelaide Crows as pick 37 of the draft after an incredible year with Norwood in the SANFL.

Former Belconnen Magpie’s captain Talia Radan was swooped on by the West Coast Eagles, being drafted with pick 92. Listed with the Melbourne Demons in 2019, she has recovered from a shoulder reconstruction.

AFL Canberra’s ACT and SNSW Talent Manager Cameron Bernasconi said it was a great day to reflect on the depth of women’s AFL in Canberra.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for these players to reach the AFLW and also a great reward for the local competition showcasing players can reach this level of the sport whilst still living here in the ACT,” said Bernasconi.

“We wish all of the girls good luck. They are sure to do the Canberra region proud.”

Lexi Hamilton

Queanbeyan Tiger Lexi Hamilton will also join Hannah Dunn at the Gold Coast Suns in the AFLW. Photo: Supplied.


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