AFL 2 months ago

Can Potential Number One Draft Pick Chloe Molloy Break The AFLW?

  • Can Potential Number One Draft Pick Chloe Molloy Break The AFLW?

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 14: Chloe Molloy of the Calder Cannons poses after winning Best & Fairest for the TAC Cup Girls competition at RAMS Arena on April 14, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jack Thomas/AFL Media/Getty Images)

"With The First Pick In The 2017 AFLW Draft, The Western Bulldogs Select... Chloe Molloy!"

These are the words that should get every Western Bulldog supporter incredibly excited about the upcoming AFLW season as 18-year old gun prospect Chloe Molloy firms as the number one overall pick in the AFLW Draft, to be held on the 18th of October, and just as it so happens to be, the Western Bulldogs hold the first pick in the draft.

Given the year that Chloe Molloy has just had - and I will get down to what she has done shortly - it would be the most logical choice that the Bulldogs should make, as not only can she become a star in the AFLW, she can become a potential legend of women's footy. 

The attributes are all there - Her endurance is elite, her desire to get the best out of her is there, her versatility is a vital part of her game, her toughness is second to none, her ability to find the big sticks has been evident all throughout 2017, but most importantly, her maturity for an 18-year old is extraordinary.

Chloe Molloy has got all the tools to seriously break the AFLW.

However, like many female footballers in front of her, it certainly wasn't an easy road for Molloy, who is the niece of former key forward Jarrod Molloy, who played over 169 games of footy for Fitzroy, Brisbane Lions and Collingwood between 1994-2003 and kicked 200 career goals.

Originally from Whittlesea, North of Melbourne, Molloy wasn't just a keen footballer, but had the talent at an early age to be something as a footballer, but was forced to let it go when she got to the age of 13, as at that time, there was no pathways to female football. So she instead replaced the football with a basketball and decided to opt for a career in basketball, playing as a guard. 

And with her extraordinary athleticism and a willingness to work on her craft for countless hours, Molloy became a promising basketballer, as she was a member of the Victorian state team for numerous years, and was prepared to play in the WNBL as a development player by the Melbourne Boomers and signed a scholarship overseas with US College side Virginia Commonwealth University - that was how highly rated she was as a basketball player.

Had she continued on this path, she could've been anything in the world of basketball - she could've very well have found herself in the best basketball league in the world in five years time. Yes I'm talking about the WNBA, that was how big her talent and her drive to make herself succeed was, she became a hot topic of discussion in the world of basketball really quick.

But this wasn't the case. When the TAC Cup held it's first-ever under 18 girls competition this year, Molloy believed that she could use this to reignite her passion for the game - a game that she hadn't played for years. But as soon as she had picked up the footy, all that passion came back and made the tough call to leave her promising basketball career and pursue a career in footy.

"I was like, 'I have missed this sport'. I have always loved it. It brought back my love for the game" quoted Molloy on one article in the Herald Sun.

With her goals set in place of a career in the AFL, Molloy signed up with the Calder Cannons in the first-ever female under 18's state league in Victoria and in her first game as a Cannon, she made an instant impact, booting a massive seven goals in a 94-point win over the Gippsland Power, yet, she didn't get the best on ground honours - that went to another basketballer in Monique Conti who also firms as a first round selection.

In a five-round competition with no Finals system in place, Calder would be the inaugural premiers, winning all five of their games but, in a testament to how good Calder were, they were streets ahead of their nearest rival, as their average winning margin was 64 points. 

For Molloy, she proved to be one of a few key players in Calder's premiership success, she would lead the league in goals kicked, with 20 for season in just five games of football - that's averaging four goals per game, and as the cream on top, she was one of two young ladies to take home the league's first-ever best and fairest award, sharing the honours with Dandenong's Bridie Kennedy.

Molloy's incredible 2017 doesn't stop there, as she would find herself playing senior footy in Victoria's top-tier women's football, the VFLW, signing with Diamond Creek ahead of the 2017 VFLW season and just as she did with the Calder Cannons in the under 18 competition, she came and made an instant impact at senior level, kicking four goals and being named as Diamond Creek's best player in a 69-point win over Seaford.

She would be Diamond Creek's go-to option up forward for most of the year, but there were times where Diamond Creek's coach Scott Gowans would use her in other areas in the ground. She spent some time in defence and at times she would be used in the midfield. There was one such game midway through the 2017 season when the Creekers hosted the St. Kilda Sharks, Molloy was set the task on tagging Carlton marquee player Brianna Davey, who is a ball magnet and can tear a game apart with her disposals and intercept marks in defence.

This was something completely new to Molloy who had always been regarded as the goal kicker of any side she had played in, but as a negating player, it sounded something completely foreign to Molloy, and through her own admission, she was initially 'star struck' at the prospect of lining up against the Carlton star. But as people who closely associate themselves with Molloy know, she was more than up for the challenge with her 'Nothing To Lose' mentality. The Creekers would go on to win this game, and although Molloy failed to register a single goal, she successfully managed to stop Brianna Davey in having any impact on this game what so ever.

Wherever Molloy went on the ground, she always managed to do good things, Diamond Creek coach Scott Gowans couldn't praise her enough, quoting in one Herald Sun article that:

"There's players that have got equal skills and are as quick as her, what the difference is, it's the balance and her ability to read the play. That's just something she seems to be born with, It's amazing, her sidestep and the way she keeps her feet."

Molloy would play every game for Diamond Creek in the home and away season, and in doing so, would take home the league's goal kicking award alongside the current Western Bulldogs captain Katie Brennan, who plays for the superstar-studded Darebin Falcons, both ladies kicking 32 goals during the season, and whilst Brennan kicked 32 goals in just 10 games, the fact that an 18-year old beat the likes of Darcy Vescio, Moana Hope and Jasmine Garner - spearheads that have been or will become household names in the AFL - it speaks so much about this young lady's future as a footballer.

It came as no surprise that Molloy took home the VFLW's Rising Star award. Furthermore, she was rewarded a spot in the VFLW's team of the year - named at the forward pocket position and was Diamond Creek's top vote-getter, sitting 12 votes behind the overall winner in Darebin's Katie Brennan. Think about playing like that, and then balance work and also University studies, it's really remarkable how she's managed to play so well with so much pressure and stress from outside footy.

Imagine the Bulldogs having both Brennan and Molloy down forward next year? This is something that the Western Bulldogs have to strongly think about when the AFLW's draft night arrives. The forward line was where the Bulldogs' women's team was let down at times this year, as they were the number one team in the competition for behinds, averaging six a game. In terms of getting the ball and pumping it forward, it's not too big of an issue, as they were fourth in the league for inside 50s, (Averaging 24.7 inside 50s per game) and were fifth in the league for disposals (Averaging 173 disposals per game).

Drafting Molloy would bring in a young woman who knows where the goals are, and if you don't think that's the case, try to find a way to knock down her 54 goals in 20 state games this year. It's not a knock on the ladies such as Isobel Huntington and Monique Conti, as both are very talented athletes and both will be great players in their own right, but there is something in Molloy's game that will see her be in the discussion of the greatest females to ever play the game.

I was there for the VFLW Grand Final between Diamond Creek and Darebin - undoubtedly, this has been the biggest game in Molloy's career so far, but after having beaten the Falcons a fortnight prior to get into the Grand Final, the Creekers were in for as tough of an afternoon as ever, and Molloy was no exception. After a very quiet first half, in which we saw another Bulldog in Libby Birch successfully curb the influence of the young star, I saw something in the third quarter that I can only describe as courageous and a testament to her character and toughness.

With the game still in the balance, Molloy was crunched between two Darebin players and recieved a free kick close to goal, but on a very acute angle. However, there was a unbelievable amount of pain on her left shoulder and it almost looked certain it was a broken collarbone. This didn't matter to Molloy as she stood up and took her kick and with a snap from deep in the forward pocket she coolly slotted through Diamond Creek's first goal of the match. 

Despite the fact that Molloy struggled to run off the ground following her goal, this kick sparked a spirited Diamond Creek fightback after Darebin kicked the opening three goals of the match, but the Falcons had their measure for most of the game and held their nerve in the final quarter, but even with one functioning shoulder, Molloy made one last effort to try and pull her side over the line by running back onto the ground and still tried to get her hands on the footy.

After scans revealed that there was no structural damage from Molloy, I still saw what she did as incredibly brave and whilst some will say that her influence wasn't as huge as other games she has played in this year, this was still seen to me as a really gutsy performance from a woman who is just 18 years of age and I hope I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Whether or not she does get drafted at number one overall by the Western Bulldogs, or she gets taken by the club she supported growing up in Collingwood, I'm very certain that this young lady has all the makings to be a future legend in the AFLW. I know it's such a big call for someone so young and so green in their career, but the sky is well and truly the limit for Chloe Molloy.
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