As a young footballer, draft night may seem like a do or die event. That internal perception of ‘if I don’t get drafted, I’ll never make it’ is a hurdle that hundreds of players have had to overcome in their careers.

In terms of success stories, there’s no greater example of overcoming the hurt of not getting drafted than Ash Riddell, with the former All-Australian and star midfielder being overlooked in two drafts before earning her opportunity at AFLW level in the Kangaroos’ inaugural season. Since then she’s evolved to become one of the top players in the competition.

After tying the record for disposals in an AFLW game on the weekend with 35 touches, and breaking the record for most contested possessions with 22, Riddell reflected on her draft experience on the ‘Credit to the Girls’ podcast.

“The first year I missed out on being selected, but probably, in my own mind, I didn’t deserve to get picked up at that point. I wasn’t really ready to come into AFLW and I don’t think I would have made as great an impact if I had come in at that time,” Riddell said.

“Missing out [in the] second year was probably the hardest, because I was invited to the draft and I was the only one in the room not selected. It was probably a bit of a challenging time after that, which I was so thankful to have.

“I was fortunate to have a really good relationship with (former North AFLW coach) Scotty Gowans … I had a really good chat with him and could see the light after talking to him. There was a possibility if I knuckled down and worked hard I could be selected as a free agent for North.

“I was a little bit daunted about going through that draft process again, so [with Gowans’] backing and faith in me, I knew North were going to select me. That was just the beginning.

“I was obviously super shattered not to get picked up in those first couple of years, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. I think I would have been really young and naive about being a professional if I did get picked up.”


One of Riddell’s North teammates who has helped shape her into the player she is today is Emma Kearney, with the skipper being a mainstay in the North midfield since the club’s entrance into AFLW in 2019.

It seems that in the 2022 season though, Kearney will be leaving her home in the middle of the ground to take up a role in the back line. Saturday’s clash with Geelong was the first game Kearney has missed since her move to North, so it was the first time fans experienced a Kearney-less North midfield in the history of the program.

Riddell says the captain has taken well to her new role well, and is excited to hopefully make her season debut against Adelaide.

“‘Kearns’ has been training predominantly in the back line, so in the midfield [against Geelong] we didn’t miss her too much,” she said.

“In the practice match we saw a glimpse of how she can be so attacking in that defensive role, and that’s what I’m excited about. She can create opportunities for us if we do lose the clearance and it goes defensive. She can steer our offence from there.

“With the new stand rule I can see her getting a few handball receives off the back line and being very aggressive going forward.

“‘Kearns’ is absolutely embracing the new role so I think she’ll be  pretty excited this week to come back and play.”

To hear Riddell discuss Round 1’s victory against Geelong, Tahlia Randall’s conversion to a key forward, and her own experiences coming into AFLW, tune into the latest episode of ‘Credit to the Girls’.