Three AFLW draft picks come from the Beleura Demons junior football club

The Beleura Demons are beaming with pride as three of their juniors were picked up in the AFLW draft, writes PAUL AMY.

Former Beleura junior Mackenzie Eardley was taken early in the night by AFLW newcomers Hawthorn, at pick No.6. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Former Beleura junior Mackenzie Eardley was taken early in the night by AFLW newcomers Hawthorn, at pick No.6. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

For a small junior football club, Beleura cast a large shadow on last night’s AFLW draft.

Chests are heaving with pride at the Mornington Peninsula club after Mackenzie Eardley, Taylah Gatt and Charley Ryan were selected in the draft.

Hawthorn took Eardley at No.6, North Melbourne claimed Gatt at No.28 and Richmond nabbed Ryan at No.38.

All progressed through the Dandenong Stingrays’ NAB League Girls team.

“It’s pretty cool,’’ Beleura president David Waterhouse said this morning.

“There was a lot of excitement last night. They’re talented footballers and they’re great kids well.’’

Mackenzie Eardley was the highest of the Beleura picks, going to the Hawks at No.6. Picture: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Mackenzie Eardley was the highest of the Beleura picks, going to the Hawks at No.6. Picture: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images

The Demons also had Ashleigh Richards drafted last year, and have more players attached to the Stingrays.

Eardley was part of the inaugural Beleura girls team in 2015.

She was runner-up in the Mornington Peninsula league best and fairest in 2018 and 19 and figured in the Tigers’ premiership in 2019, winning the medal as best-afield.

Emerging as a key defender at the Stingrays, Eardley was co-captain of a team that reached the grand final this year.

The speedy Gatt joined Beleura in 2017, was the club best and fairest in 2018 and captained the 2019 premiership side.

Ryan also landed at the Demons in 2017 and was also prominent in the premiership. She topped the goalkicking and was captain in 2021. Richmond drafted her as she recovers from an ACL injury.

Speedster Taylah Gatt was a Beleura junior before making the switch to Dandenong Stingrays in the NAB League. Picture: Valeriu Campan/NCA
Speedster Taylah Gatt was a Beleura junior before making the switch to Dandenong Stingrays in the NAB League. Picture: Valeriu Campan/NCA

Stingrays-listed players Olivia Robinson, Brooke Smith, Bianca Lyne, Sophie Butterworth, Willow Argus, Bec McLean and Hannah Adams are also from Beleura.

Lyne, Butterworth and Adams are eligible for next year’s AFLW draft.

Robinson (Southern Saints) and Smith (Casey Demons) appeared at VFLW level this year.

Beleura girls coach Andy Luwor, in his fifth season, called it an “incredible’’ result for the club.

“Very proud of the girls,’’ he said. “To have three drafted from the one team, that’s fantastic.

“They’ve been part of a great culture. The way we think about it at Beleura is, it’s a family club, and we treat it as such. We look after our players, on and off the field. Not only do we try to be coaches, we try to be mentors.’’

Goaler Charley Ryan landed at the Tigers with pick No.38. Picture: Cameron Grimes/AFL Photos
Goaler Charley Ryan landed at the Tigers with pick No.38. Picture: Cameron Grimes/AFL Photos

Waterhouse said the club was fielding Under 14 and 18 girls teams this year, as well as Under 9, 10, 11 and 12 boys sides.

He said girls football had lost players because of Covid interruptions.

“It’s harder to get players in the top ages,’’ he said. “Covid killed us in the last couple of years. We didn’t have a season (in 2020) and last year I think we played only nine games.

“But we’re working really hard. We’ve got a good committee and pushing up Auskick – I think we’ve got about 90 Auskickers, which is the future. We’re a little club on the peninsula that’s been around for a long time. We’re one of the founding clubs of the league, we’ve been here for 52 years and something like this makes it exciting for everyone involved.’’

The Dandenong Stingrays had five players drafted last night: aside from the Beleura trio, dashing Amber Clarke (Narre North Foxes) was picked by Essendon at No.4 and Charlotte Blair (Devon Meadows) at No.56 by Collingwood.

Jaide Anthony had already been added to Sydney’s AFLW list.

Dandenong coach Nick Cox said the Stingrays were thankful for Beleura and all the local clubs producing NAB League Girls players.

WHAT THE CLUB SAID

Mackenzie Eardley: “Her junior years at Beleura laid the foundations for her football to flourish. Her talent was quickly recognised and she hasn’t looked back. She has been a prominent figure within the Dandenong Stingrays program for many years.’’

Taylah Gatt: “While often overlooked in her early days, Taylah has showed extreme determination and perseverance to reach all her goals. Her hard work was certainly recognised as she cemented her place on the Dandenong Stingrays list, having a standout 2022 season.’’

Charley Ryan: “The groundwork for Charley’s success was laid at Beleura, springboarding her on to numerous seasons with the Dandenong stingrays. She had a fantastic 2022 season, leading her to be awarded runner-up in their best and fairest.’’

Paul Amy
Paul AmyStaff writer

Paul Amy is a sports reporter and editor for Leader Newspapers. He was also a long-time contributor to Inside Football and is the author of Fabulous Fred, the Strife and Times of Fred Cook.