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AFLW: Groves-Little a one of a kind draft prospect

Queensland captain Tori Groves-Little - AFLW,AFLW Draft
Queensland captain Tori Groves-Little

THE NAB AFL Women's competition has attracted athletes from a host of other sports, including basketball, soccer, netball, hockey, athletics, speed skating and rugby. And if things go to plan, one of the teams might feature a competitive skipper in 2019.

Queensland's Tori Groves-Little is certainly one of a kind. The 17-year-old, who recently was joint winner of the QWAFL's best and fairest award (with North Melbourne recruit Brittany Gibson) playing for Coorparoo, has a competitive skipping background.

The sport, which is much bigger in the United States than it is in Australia, involves athletes competing individually or in teams. Skippers are judged on their speed and ability to perform tricks.

Groves-Little joined a skipping team, the Jumping Beans, in primary school and would tour local schools to promote Jump Rope for Heart (the Heart Foundation's fundraiser), as well as competing locally.

The team rose through the ranks, even competing at the Junior Olympic Games in Houston in the United States in 2012.

"A lot of my agility, fitness and cardio – and I've got a pretty good jump on me – has come down to skipping," Groves-Little said.

"It kept me really fit. I was able to run a lot and when I transitioned to football, all of my skipping went straight into running.

"We used to say five minutes’ worth of skipping is equal to a 15-minute run, so that's around three kilometres," she said.

"My last competitive year was 2013 and my last performing year was 2014. I made the decision to stop because I wanted to play football and my training load (with skipping) was too high."

Groves-Little was introduced to football at Beenleigh State High School, which is half-way between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

"I came from a rugby league background; all my family (Groves-Little is the second-oldest of six) had played it. My grade nine science teacher asked me to play football. I said, 'Yeah, I'll take the day off school’," she said with a laugh.

"That's how I started playing footy. I thought it was pretty fun, so I continued the following year (2015) and made the local ‘rep’ team along the south coast, the Gold Coast Sunsets. I first made the Queensland team in 2016."

Groves-Little is hard to miss on the field, sporting a multi-coloured helmet after a string of concussions.

"You stand out a bit. Everyone knows Tori's the one with the headgear," she said.

"A few of the girls I used to play with wore black headgear and I thought it was a bit boring, so colour's the way I go.

"As part of the AFLW Academy, I learnt how to re-tackle, went through scans and I haven't had a head knock since."

Groves-Little plays primarily on the wing but has recently spent time on the half-back flank developing her defensive game.

"I'm a hyperactive kid. I love to run around. The field is so big, and it gives you the opportunity to run and take a bounce.

"In our game previews for the under-18 champs, we had a big focus on using your weapons.

"For me, that's getting on my bike and going for a run. My (Queensland) coach, Craig (Starcevich), is always in my ear saying, 'Take few bounces, have a shot!’ It's a weird game if I don't."

Starcevich, who's also the coach of the Brisbane Lions' AFLW side, said Groves-Little had developed her game this year.

"Her run-and-carry is the bit that sets her apart. Using her speed to defend is an area she’s really improved, so we're really pleased about that," Starcevich said.

"She had some run-with roles in the under-18 championships, which she did really well. We're trying to round her off a bit defensively, but I think she made a big step forward this year.

"She had four best-on-grounds in the QWAFL season, which is a good effort for her first year in seniors,” he said.

“The most pleasing thing was Tori had a top-three performance in the preliminary final, so she's been reasonably consistent throughout the year."