Eden Zanker and Tiahna Cochrane hoping to realise AFL Women's dream

ONE is a high-leaping key forward, the other a goal-kicking midfielder.

But on Wednesday, Eden Zanker and Tiahna Cochrane both hope they will become AFL Women’s footballers.

The teenage pair, who respectively play for the Bendigo Pioneers TAC Cup Under-18 Girls team and Bendigo Thunder, are tipped to be among the latest batch of draftees to the national women’s competition.

There will be 49 picks in the draft to be shared among the league’s eight teams, with Zanker and Cochrane both projected to find a home.

In a pointer to how the appetite for woman’s football has escalated, Zanker wasn’t even playing football at this time last year.

The 17-year-old, who hails from Natya - between Swan Hill and Robinvale- resumed training with her former club Woorinen earlier this season after a three-year absence from the sport.

By the time the season had ended, she had played in Bendigo Pioneers, Victoria Country and NAB Academy teams and been selected in an All-Australian team.

Her Pioneers coach Shawn McCormick said the key position prospect was an “unbridled talent”, after making the switch back to football from netball.

“She is a unique individual in that her football background is not very established,” he said.

“We were alerted about Eden once the Pioneers (girls) program had been started by some people up at Woorinen.

“She played the last three games for the Pioneers, consequently selected in the Vic Country team.

“She’s about 6’1”, very athletic, extremely coachable, still a little bit green in footy terms, but obviously there’s an enormous upside, which is what has attracted potential AFL Women’s clubs.”

Zanker, who was selected in the AFLW Under-18 All Australian team, is known to have attracted the interest of several clubs.

She was the star of Woorinen’s under-18 Bendigo Junior Football League grand final win this season.

Cochrane has shot into draft calculations following a stellar season with the Thunder in which she was rarely – if ever – outsider her team’s best players.

The 19-year-old, from Castlemaine, shared the Thunder best and fairest with Kerryn Harrington, who has been taken by Carlton as a rookie ahead of Wednesday’s draft, and was one of the stars at the recent AFLW draft combine testing.

Her Thunder coach Cherie O’Neill was confident the star on-baller, who can also fill a role across half back, could make the transition to the national competition.

“She’s been very consistent and has got good drive; I now she has been putting in a lot of hard work, even after the football season has finished to keep her strength and conditioning up,” she said.

“I think she’s doing a great job.

“If it was me (making the pick), it would be a definite yes.

“From a coaching perspective, she is attentive, listens, applies herself and has a great base to build on.

“We still haven’t seen her best.”

O’Neill, who led the Thunder to a flag in the inaugural season of the Northern Football League Women’s competition in 2017, said it would be a nerve-racking day for plenty of AFLW aspirants and their club coaches.

“I’ll be listening in and seeing what happens,” she said.

“I feel Tiahna will be picked up but you just never know.

“If last year’s draft taught me anything, you just never know what’s going to happen and who will get picked up and where.

“With plenty of established teams, it’s just going to get harder and harder to break in.”

The Thunder had three players selected in the inaugural draft in 2016, with Emma Grant heading to Collingwood and Bella Ayre and Sarah Last joining Carlton.

Ayre has since transferred to the Brisbane Lions.

A further two players – Hayley Trevean and Jess Kennedy – were selected by Carlton as free-agents in the hours after the draft.

A sixth Thunder star Elise Strachan was elevated to Melbourne’s list mid-season, while Harrington joined Carlton as a rookie at the end of last season.

O’Neill suspected Cochrane might be the only Thunder player chosen on Wednesday, but was bullish about the chances of two former Bendigo players being strongly considered.

Small defender Reni Hicks has put herself on the radar following a solid season at Diamond Creek, while former Thunder ruck Cassie Blakeway was another standout at the recent draft combine after an excellent year with Geelong’s VFL Women’s team.

Nineteen-year-old Hicks was a member of the 2016 ALW Under-18 All-Australian team.

Wednesday’s draft starts at noon.

2017 AFL Women's Draft order

ROUND ONE

1. Western Bulldogs

2. Fremantle

3. Collingwood

4. Western Bulldogs

5. Greater Western Sydney

6. Melbourne

7. Brisbane Lions

8. Adelaide

ROUND TWO

9. Collingwood

10. Fremantle

11. Western Bulldogs

12. Carlton

13. Collingwood

14. Melbourne

15. Brisbane Lions 

16. Adelaide

ROUND THREE

17. Greater Western Sydney

18. Fremantle

19. Western Bulldogs

20. Collingwood

21. Collingwood

22. Melbourne

23. Brisbane Lions 

24. Adelaide

ROUND FOUR

25. Greater Western Sydney

26. Fremantle

27. Western Bulldogs

28. Carlton

29. Carlton

30. Melbourne

31. Brisbane Lions 

32. Adelaide

ROUND FIVE

33. Fremantle

34. Western Bulldogs

35. Collingwood

36. Carlton

37. Brisbane Lions 

38. Adelaide

ROUND SIX

39. Greater Western Sydney

40. Fremantle

41. Brisbane Lions

42. Adelaide

ROUND SEVEN

43. Greater Western Sydney

44. Fremantle

45. Brisbane Lions

46. Adelaide

ROUND EIGHT

47. Greater Western Sydney

48. Brisbane Lions

ROUND NINE

49. Greater Western Sydney

Draft picks by club 

Western Bulldogs:  1, 4, 11, 19, 27, 34

Fremantle: 2, 10, 18, 26, 33, 40, 44

Collingwood: 3, 9, 13, 20, 21, 35

Greater Western Sydney: 5, 17, 25, 39, 43, 47, 49

Melbourne: 6, 14, 22, 30

Brisbane Lions: 7, 15, 23, 31, 37, 41, 45, 48

Adelaide: 8, 16, 24, 32, 38, 42, 46

Carlton: 12, 28, 29, 36