AFLW: Four Hunter players in Giants squad for inaugural women's AFL second-tier series

PIONEER: Nelson Bay's Pippa Smyth paved the way for Black Diamond AFL women's players when she was picked up by GWS Giants in last year's AFLW draft. Picture: Marina Neil

PIONEER: Nelson Bay's Pippa Smyth paved the way for Black Diamond AFL women's players when she was picked up by GWS Giants in last year's AFLW draft. Picture: Marina Neil

Pippa Smyth has no doubt there is plenty of talent in the Black Diamond AFL women’s competition.

Opportunity, however, to showcase that talent has been limited.

But a new second-tier representative series is set to propel three more Hunter-developed players into the eyes of AFLW selectors.

Last year, 22-year-old Smyth became the first woman drafted to the national league from BDAFL when she was picked up by the GWS Giants.

Now, she is one of four Hunter-grown players selected for the Northern Giants to contest the inaugural AFLW Winter Series for north-eastern states.

Her former Nelson Bay teammate Lisa Steane, who is now playing alongside Smyth for Macquarie University in the Sydney competition, plus Newcastle City pair Meghan MacDonald and Sarah Halvorsen are also in the squad.

NATURAL TALENT: Sporting allrounder Sarah Halvorsen, in action for Newcastle City in last year's Black Diamond AFL women's grand final, has been picked in the Northern Giants squad. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

NATURAL TALENT: Sporting allrounder Sarah Halvorsen, in action for Newcastle City in last year's Black Diamond AFL women's grand final, has been picked in the Northern Giants squad. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

The squad trains together over a two-month period and features 12 AFLW listed players, including Alicia Eva, Ellie Brush, Erin McKinnon and Nicola Barr.

Their first of three games is against the Gold Coast Suns at Tom Wills Oval on Saturday. They also play the Brisbane Lions and Southern Giants throughout the series.

“There’s as much talent in Sydney as there is in Black Diamond, it’s just a bit more developed I suppose,” Smyth said.

“There’s enough talent in the Black Diamond AFL, they just need exposure. They’ve just got to get to know of them and watch them, so this is perfect for that.

“For me, this winter is just about developing as a player and in other positions.”

Steane has been a stand-out player in the Hunter-Central Coast competition since it began and has relocated to Sydney to pursue her dream of playing at the elite level.

The 23-year-old plans to make the most of any game time in the winter series.

“A lot of us for have been complaining for a while that we don’t really get many opportunities to play at a higher level,” Steane said. “It’s just such a perfect opportunity for that.

“In ACT and NSW we don’t get a lot of exposure, we don’t have a lot of representative football and the level isn’t as high as the VFL, so I think this is a really good stepping stone.”

Lisa Steane in action for the Nelson Bay Marlins during the 2016 Black Diamond AFL women's grand final. She was named best and fairest.

Lisa Steane in action for the Nelson Bay Marlins during the 2016 Black Diamond AFL women's grand final. She was named best and fairest.

Seeing Smyth drafted for the Giants was also pivotal for Steane, who was GWS a train-on player in the first AFLW season.

“There were so many times I heard people say, ‘They don’t look at the Black Diamond’, and ‘No one is going to get picked from the Black Diamond, we’re too far out and don’t have enough exposure’,” Steane said.

“Then she got picked and it gave everyone hope. She put in so much work and so much effort. If you put the work in then you can get rewarded.”

Smyth, Steane and 29-year-old MacDonald have all played AFL since the Black Diamond women’s competition began in 2015 with six teams.

Twenty-two-year-old Halvorsen, who is also a stand-out rugby sevens player, is in just her second season.

“Already, just that experience at a higher level of coaching has been really good,” Halvorsen said.

“The girls are a really good standard down there, so it’s just good getting the experience and improving my own game.

“At the moment, I’m just seeing where it takes me and not getting ahead of myself.”

The BDAFL women’s league has swelled to 16 teams this year and football operations manager Garry Burkinshaw said the winter series was a “fantastic opportunity” for the four players but was also “a little disappointed at we didn’t get more named”.

“The Giants are running it, so if Sarah and Meaghan, Lisa and Pippa have strong series, then that puts them right in under the nose of [AFLW] selectors,” Burkinshaw said.

Burkinshaw said there would also be a new BDAFL women’s representative tri-series contested at Medowie next month between Newcastle, Central Coast and Hunter sides.

This story Second-tier women’s series offers exposure first appeared on Newcastle Herald.