Yarrawonga Chronicle

Airlie on an AFLW high

- BY JARED LOUGHNAN

Although predominan­tly playing netball for the Pigeons as a teenager Airlie started playing football just a few years ago when she moved to Melbourne for University.

But now she’ll be packing her bags in the next month and heading west before pre-season starts in early September.

“I’m so pumped. I was pretty stressed for the past week, but to see my name get called out was a pretty awesome feeling,” Airlie said.

“I really just wanted to get picked up. If that meant moving to Perth I was keen to do that.

“Fremantle contacted me and they just spoke so well about their values and their interest in me. That was awesome. It was pretty much a no brainer to then nominate for WA to try and get picked up.”

The 23-year-old said she came into her own as North Melbourne gelled as a team through the season – a sign she should slot in well to the more strategic AFLW system.

“We started playing better footy and more as a team. I think that definitely helped and we all started to play to our structures. I’ve always been a player that sticks to the structures, so when it didn’t work at the start I struggled to get into form.”

Airlie initially played for Melbourne Uni and then moved onto North Melbourne VFLW for three seasons.

She had a strong finish to the 2021 season, where she averaged 23 disposals, six marks and four tackles per game for the last five rounds and was named in the best players on four occasions.

The 164cm outside mid is highly regarded for her strong running capacity and good kick.

Fremantle’s AFLW Senior coach Trent Cooper flagged Airlie as having the ability to break into Fremantle’s round one team in December with a good pre-season, however Airlie is more measured with her expectatio­ns.

“Fremantle’s been an awesome team. They’ve been in the finals pretty much every year. Hopefully I can slot in somewhere into the team eventually. I’m very keen to get to work,” Airlie said.

“(My focus is) just getting really fit and meeting all the girls and training at the highest level and improving my footy as much as I can. But I want to thank Fremantle for this great opportunit­y.”

Airlie said the opportunit­y to train at North Melbourne over the last few years has assisted her developmen­t.

“I was in the gym a lot and trained a lot more which helped,” the qualified PE teacher said.

She attributes a lot of her growth in football to former North Melbourne senior coach Scott Gowans and said she tailors her game on North Melbourne AFL mid fielder Kaitlyn Ashmore.

“Scott was a great coach for me and taught me a lot. And Kaitlyn is such a smart player and has been a good influence for me at training.”

Airlie said her father Brian and her cousin, Yarrawonga Pigeons legend mid fielder and former AFL Richmond player Craig Ednie, has been a great influence but said all her brothers have also been good influences.

Proud father Brian said the family were ecstatic to see her picked up by Fremantle.

“We were jumping for joy. It all happened so quick. They approached Airlie just several weeks ago. And now she will be heading off to Freo within a few weeks.”

Brian joked that everyone has been quick to claim they taught Airlie everything she knows about football.

“All her brothers I suppose would have shown her something. But I reckon Daine has taken her out for more of a kick.

“Even her uncle Geoff has said he had a bit do with it,” Brian said.

“But I reckon she got her all her skills from her mum (Kay),” he added.

“Airlie was always quiet about her football. After getting picked up by North Melbourne’s VFL side she didn’t say too much.

“But she is such a hard worker, she in fact works harder than the boys, and being in such a profession­al environmen­t down in Melbourne it has also made a big difference.”

Trent Cooper spoke highly of Airlie after last Tuesday night’s AFLW draft. “We saw Airlie playing via vision in the VFLW competitio­n where she finished the season with 32 and 33 possession­s in the final two games,” Cooper said.

“She’s fairly new to football and didn’t start playing until she was at university.

“Airlie has good kicking skills that has been honed growing up with her older siblings and is also an elite runner.

“We think Airlie can add a lot to our side and make an immediate impact,” the Fremantle AFLW coach said.

Yarrawonga’s Airlie Runnalls became the first AFLW recruit from the local area after she was picked up by the Fremantle Dockers in last week’s draft at pick 44.

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 ??  ?? Yarrawonga’s first AFLW recruit Airlie Runnalls playing with North Melbourne in the VFLW. Photo: North Melbourne Football Club.
Yarrawonga’s first AFLW recruit Airlie Runnalls playing with North Melbourne in the VFLW. Photo: North Melbourne Football Club.
 ??  ?? Airlie Runnalls is highly regarded for her strong running capacity and good kick.
Airlie Runnalls is highly regarded for her strong running capacity and good kick.

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