Bendigo Pioneers star Eden Zanker drafted by Demons in AFL Women's draft; Reni Hicks headed to Carlton

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UPDATED 5.45pm:  EDEN Zanker’s journey from country league netballer to AFLW first round draft pick should inspire other young females down a similar pathway, according to her Bendigo Pioneers coach.

The 17-year-old, who played three of a possible five games this season for the Pioneers TAC Cup Under-18 Girls team, was taken by Melbourne with pick six in Wednesday’s draft.

Her selection capped a whirlwind 12 months for the teenager from Natye that has included selection in the TAC Cup Girls team of the year and AFLW Under-18 All-Australian side.

The key forward only returned to playing football for Woorinen this season, after playing a handful of games previously as a 13-year-old. She was the star of the Tigers’ BJFL under-18 girls premiership win.

Pioneers coach Shawn McCormick said Zanker had literally “come from the clouds”, but fully deserved her chance in the elite women’s competition.

“It’s great for the kid …. Woorinen did a great job with her and Jamie Macri up in Swan Hill identified her to (Pioneers talent manager) Steve Sharp and I,” he said.

“We didn’t have to think too hard before taking her.

“It gives kids who haven’t got a background in footy and if they want to go down that track a bit of impetus, because she hasn’t played much footy really.

“She played a little bit as a 13-year-old and has been playing netball (with Tooleybuc Manangatang) ever since.”

Zanker became the second player drafted to the AFLW from Woorinen, following in the footsteps of Bella Ayre, who was chosen by Carlton in last year’s inaugural draft.

McCormick said indications were Zanker would be taken early in the draft after several clubs had expressed interest.

It was the Demons who pounced, much to the delight of their AFL talent manager Todd Patterson, who said the club was stoked with its top pick.

“She was All-Australian and won the leading goalkicking in the championships, even though she missed one game,” he said.

“She also performed strongly in the State of Origin game, prior to the exhibition game.

“She’s a super competitive, Melbourne person. She has huge upside and will give us everything she’s got.”

Touted as a possible draft selection, Bendigo Thunder 2017 joint best and fairest Tiahna Cochrane missed out on being chosen.

The Castlemaine teenager will have another chance of winning a spot on an AFLW list in this week’s free-agent and rookie drafts.

But it was better news for a former Thunder player Reni Hicks, who was drafted to Carlton with pick 29.

The close-checking defender and midfielder, who played with the Thunder in 2016, bolted into draft calculations with a stellar VFLW season with Diamond Creek and impressive showing at the recent AFLW draft combine.

Blues coach Damien Keeping said Hicks was the ultimate “task-orientated” player.

“If you give Reni a job, she’ll get straight to it,” Keeping said.

“She can play shutdown roles on smalls or talls, while also winning her own ball at the same time.”

“Carlton fans should be excited to see Hicks run out for the Blues next season.”

EARLIER 2.08pm: Star Bendigo Thunder midfielder and former Bendigo Pioneer Tiahna Cochrane has missed out on being selected in today’s AFL Women’s Draft.

Cochrane will have another chance to make her way onto an AFLW list in Friday’s rookie draft.

The Castlemaine teenager shared the Thunder’s best and fairest this season with Kerryn Harrington, who was rookied by Carlton earlier this season.

Meanwhile, Bendigo Pioneers TAC Cup Under-18 Girls star Eden Zanker joined Melbourne in today’s draft.

The 17-year-old was chosen with pick six by Melbourne (read more below).

UPDATE 1.55pm: Former Bendigo Thunder midfielder and defender Reni Hicks, who now plays with Diamond Creek, has been selected with pick 29 in the draft by Carlton.

Hicks was one of the standouts at the recent AFLW draft combine in Melbourne.

EARLIER, Bendigo Pioneers TAC Cup Under-18 Girls star Eden Zanker will join Melbourne after being selected in today’s AFL Women’s Draft.

Zanker was drafted to the Demons with pick six.

Key forward Isabel Huntington (Melbourne University/Sandringham Dragons)  was the first player taken in today’s draft by Western Bulldogs, who owned the first overall pick and also pick four.

Seventeen-year-old Zanker is a high-leaping key-forward and ruck prospect, who only returned to Australian rules football this season, after originally playing with Woorinen as a 13-year-old.

She was selected in the 2017 TAC Cup Girls team of the year and AFLW Under-18 Australian side.

Zanker, who played in a Bendigo Junior Football League under-18 premiership this season with Woorinen, was described by her Bendigo Pioneers coach as an “unbridled talent”.

“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,” he said in the lead-up to the draft.

Zanker thanked her home club Woorinen for helping her realise her AFLW dream.

“I’ve enjoyed every single moment of it (being back in football) – I can’t thank enough all the support for allowing me to play with the Woorinen youth girls and contribute to the journey I’ve made,”

“It’s been exciting; I can’t wait for  2018.”

Demons coach Mick Stinear said Zanker was “a very exciting young, developing talent and outstanding person”.

“We are really excited to see what she can do at the next level. We are really happy as a club.”

Melbourne’s AFLW talent manager Todd Paterson said Zanker had enjoyed a rapid rise following her return to football from netball.

“She was All-Australian and won the leading goalkicking in the championships, even though she missed one game,” he said.

“She also performed strongly in the State of Origin game, prior to the exhibition game.

“She’s a super competitive, Melbourne person. She has huge upside and will give us everything she’s got, so we’re stoked with that pick.” 

In other early selections, Fremantle pulled a surprise with pick two by re-drafting 2017 season-listed player Stephanie Cain.

Former Melbourne Boomers WNBL basketballer Chloe Molloy was chosen with pick three by Collingwood, following a strong VFLW season with Diamond Creek.

Current Boomer Monique Conti went to the Bulldogs with pick four.

The draft is continuing.

TODAY’S AFLW DRAFT ORDER

ADELAIDE

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

BRISBANE

7, 15, 23, 31, 37, 41, 45, 48

CARLTON

12, 28, 29, 36

COLLINGWOOD

3, 9, 13, 20, 21, 35

FREMANTLE

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

MELBOURNE

6, 14, 22, 30

WESTERN BULLDOGS

1, 4, 11, 19, 27, 34