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AFL Women’s Giants ready to soar in new competition

Top picks: GWS recruits (from left) Kate Stanton, Maddy Collier, Ashleigh Guest, Erin McKinnon, Nicola Barr, Renee Tomkins, Stephanie Walker, Rebecca Beeson and Kristy De Pellegrini at Homebush. Photo: Janie Barrett Big step forward: No.1 draft pick Nicola Barr. Photo: Jason South
Nanjing Night Net

What do you get when you combine a medical science student with a handful of girls doing their HSC, an apprentice electrician, a national soccer star, the WNBL record games holder and young women that love nothing more than kicking a footy? The AFL Women’s Giants of course.

Wednesday’s draft allowed the eight teams contesting next year’s inaugural women’s competition to finalise their playing lists, and Giants coach Tim Schmidt says he’s delighted with the team he’s cobbled together. There’s Nicola Barr, Sydney’s best player this season who was taken with the No.1 draft pick.

There’s Ellie Brush, Canberra United’s fearless captain in the W-League who will trade a round ball for the Sherrin.

Jess Bibby will also be chasing a ball of a different shape, after 20 years in the WNBL where she amassed an astonishing 394 games.

Then there’s Kristy De Pellegrini, who moved to Sydney three-and-a-half years ago to start an apprenticeship as an electrician at the same time as her  Australian football career began. She listened to Wednesday’s draft at work with a radio carefully placed on a ladder.

And with selection No.81, her name was called out by the Giants.

“It was overwhelming, I was extremely excited and just ecstatic,” De Pellegrini said. “I did the rounds and called my parents and grandparents. I didn’t have my expectations up having not played this year so I wasn’t expecting to get drafted.”

Three broken metatarsals sustained in the first quarter of round one this year while playing for Southern Power put De Pellegrini’s entire football career in jeopardy.

It meant two weeks in a cast followed by about a month in a moon boot, then another four weeks of intense physio. Her apprenticeship had to be put on hold, and the drain on her finances was significant.

“I was jumping up to take a mark and my foot awkwardly landed on someone’s foot as I took off and just the pressure of me launching snapped three of the bones,” De Pellegrini said. “I was off work for that whole period of time as well which was a bit tough. I wrote off the whole year, I couldn’t really afford to re-injure myself and not work.”

This year would have been De Pellegrini’s third playing football.

She grew up in country Victoria and always loved the sport, but never had the option to play it, instead dabbling in basketball and netball.

De Pellegrini joined the Swans Academy at the start of this year before her foot injury, and will now proudly wear the orange and charcoal of the cross-town Giants as Australia embraces a new era in women’s football.

And Schmidt, who played 17 games for the Sydney Swans before working as a coach in its Academy until the end of last year, believes his team is well poised to make an impression next season.

“When we started to put it down to paper I was really happy,” Schmidt said. “We’re really happy with the team that we’ve selected and just can’t wait for them to get together and get training in a month’s time. It’s awesome to see such a large number from NSW ACT as well. The talent across NSW ACT has lifted especially over the last couple of years. [No.1 pick] Nicola’s a fantastic player and she was always going to be very high up on our picks. Nic’s year’s been fantastic.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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