The AFL wants the best female athletes in the country for its much-hyped women’s league, to begin next February, and while the new competition may see some code-hopping, the country's truly elite female athletes won’t be pulling on the boots any time soon. But it’s fun to think about who could make a splash on the footy field …
1. Sharni Layton, netball
It’s easy to picture Australian Diamonds and NSW Swifts defender Sharni Layton on the footy field. The 28-year-old Victorian – who last ANZ Championship season racked up a league-high 49 intercepts, 112 deflections, 85 gains and 36 rebounds – would crash packs and cop knocks as well as Geelong midfielder Joel Selwood.
Like the Cats’ fearless captain, the 188cm two-time Netball World Cup-winning keeper would be fierce at the ball, but clean. And that’d drive her opponents nuts, just like it does Selwood’s. Layton, known for her incessant chatter and arrogant on-court persona, including a strut to rival another Cat, Mark “Jacko” Jackson, would probably trash talk with the best of ’em too.
2. Lisa De Vanna, football
One of the world’s best female footballers, Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna has explosive pace and foot skills most can only dream of.
The 156cm pocket rocket – who led Melbourne City to victory in the W-League this season and has scored 39 goals in her 109 appearances in the green and gold – would be right at home as a small forward, turning on a dime on the boundary line to dribble one through, a-la Eddie Betts. The 56kg Perth-born striker, who has Portuguese and Italian heritage, isn’t shy of an exuberant celebration either, so could probably rival Betts on that front too.
3. Sam Stosur, tennis
With incredible hand/eye co-ordination, blinding speed, fancy footwork and a massive engine, tennis superstar Sam Stosur could be Gary Ablett-esque around the stoppages. The 175cm 32-year-old would be able to keep her feet in a tackle, because of her colossal abdominal strength and low centre of gravity – thanks to years at the net in doubles.
The 2011 US Open singles champion and former world number four would be equally strong on both sides and could chase down opponents no problem. And just imagine the edge-of-the-seat theatre if she was kicking for the win after the siren – given her propensity for being able to lose the unlosable.
4. Liz Cambage, basketball
Opals star Liz Cambage is so imposing, she’d tower over the AFL’s premier ruckman. Cambage comes in at 203cm and has two centimetres on North Melbourne linchpin Todd Goldstein, who gave up basketball to pursue an AFL career.
The centre’s height alone and ability to get a hand to the ball would make midfielders salivate at the prospect of first use of the footy. The 24-year-old, who in 2012 became the first woman to dunk at an Olympics, is agile for her size, clocks up a lot of territory getting up and down the basketball court and would make a mobile ruckman with her work around the ground as well as at the centre bounce.
5. Georgia Nanscawen, hockey
Flame-haired 24-year-old Hockeyroos forward, Georgia Nanscawen – who has scored 34 times at international level and is known for her superlative ball skills, great positioning and game sense – not only has the transferable skills for footy, she’s got the pedigree too.
Edward “Carji” Greeves, the first Brownlow medallist and some say greatest player ever, was the brother of her mother's grandfather. And while small in stature at just 159cm, Melbourne-born Nanscawen, the youngest woman ever to play 100 matches for Australia, can score in the toughest of circumstances, not unlike Hawthorn gun Luke Breust. And like Breust, Nanscawen always looks to do the right thing by her team.
6. Meg Lanning, cricket
With her skill, poise and leadership, wildly talented Meg Lanning could make a seamless transition from the heights of international cricket to footy. The 24-year-old is skipper of the Southern Stars and her power and precision, style and timing has made her the best female batter in the world.
— Southern Stars (@SouthernStars) March 17, 2016
Everything Australia's youngest ever cricket captain touches turns to gold and with her athleticism, tactical mind and leadership skills, Lanning would set the tone in the midfield for her team. Off the cricket pitch, the 173cm dynamo has represented Victoria in under-age hockey and was still playing at club level last year.
7. Jess Trengove, marathon
The new national women’s league will feature a father-daughter rule, but if there was a brother-sister rule, Jess Trengove could be a prized recruit. The 28-year-old marathon champion has elite endurance and a determination and mental toughness like her brother Jack, who plays AFL for Melbourne and captained the Demons in 2012 and 2013.
At 166cm and 52kg, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist would be at home on a wing where she could cover plenty of ground. Not even the most tenacious tagger could keep up with Trengove, who is the sixth fastest Australian female in history over the marathon distance.