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Rioli-Long lineage set to continue in AFLW

Danielle Ponter at the AFLW Draft Combine - AFLW,AFLW Draft,AFLW Draft Combine
Danielle Ponter at the AFLW Draft Combine

ONE OF footy’s most famous dynasties may have a new member playing at the top level in 2019. 

The Northern Territory's Danielle Ponter is the niece of Essendon legend Michael Long and the first cousin of four-time Hawthorn premiership forward Cyril Rioli. 

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Her mother Susan is Michael's sister, with another sibling, Cathy, the mother of Rioli. 

Michael's son Jake, Ponter's cousin, plays for Essendon, while St Kilda forward Ben Long is another first cousin. 

Ponter is set to be drafted by Adelaide in Tuesday's NAB AFLW Draft, after nominating South Australia as her region of choice.

"We were born into footy and grew up every day with a football in our hands. It wasn't forced upon us – it was by choice," Ponter said.

"Every opportunity we got to muck around with a football, we did." 

The talented forward started playing for St Mary's in Darwin when she was 11 in an under-16 youth girls' competition. She has won the League's best and fairest award an impressive six straight seasons since making her debut and graduating through the ranks.

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Ponter has played in the under-18 national championships since 2014 – when she was just 14 – initially for Thunder Devils (a combined Northern Territory-Tasmanian team) and then for the Northern Territory. 

In the last two years, she's also played for the Allies in the second stage of the competition.

"I don't mind playing centre half-forward, not being tucked away but in the middle of everything," Ponter said. 

"Overhead marks and my kicking are probably my strengths. I don't mind a little sneaky goal or stepping around a few people [to kick one]," she said with a laugh. 

Having played several seasons in the seniors for St Mary's and having already graduated from high school, Ponter made the decision to move to Victoria this winter and play for Essendon in the VFL Women's competition. 

"It was a big move, but I had a lot of support from my family to help me get here in the first place and house me," she said. 

"I stayed with my cousin Michaela Long, uncle Mick and aunty Liz. They helped out quite a bit."

Ponter played six games for the Bombers while in Melbourne, kicking six goals in a team that often struggled to score. 

"Coming from NTFL Women's and straight into VFLW at such a young age was exciting, and also a bit overwhelming," Ponter said. 

"But the opportunity to play was great and the girls were really welcoming and helped me adapt to the higher standard of training. 

"The coaches as well were really good. They supported me both on and off the field, and I can't thank them enough."

It may have been a somewhat milder winter in Melbourne this year, but the weather was still quite a shock for the Darwin girl. 

"The winter was horrible, it just kept getting colder and colder. There was a game at Craigieburn (in Melbourne’s north) against Casey when it was just pouring with rain and so cold. 

"The cold gets into your bones," she said. 

But the match in question also happened to be Ponter's best in her VFLW stint. She kicked two goals and was named second-best for the Bombers, who lost by 26 points. 

AFLW talent manager Aasta O'Connor said Ponter could be "anything". 

"Adelaide really likes some of her ‘X-factor’ traits … they see her potential," O'Connor said. 

"She's always been the best player in the Territory, so it was good for her to move down south for a little while and learn what it's like to be an elite athlete.

"The things she can do with a footy are phenomenal. I don't know if I've seen any other young player like her. 

"She's so clean and the way she gathers the ball and moves through lines is amazing. 

"The Crows would now be figuring out where her best position at AFLW level is."

Ponter said footy could be all-consuming, but she has found solace in her part-time job.

"I've been working quite a bit at an Aboriginal justice agency in Darwin, supporting lawyers, doing data entry, talking to clients, all that type of stuff," she said.

"It's been something to get away from footy and gives me something else to think about, helping get my mind off the Combine and the draft. 

"Footy can be a bit too much sometimes. But then again, it's brought me to Melbourne and it's definitely brought me happiness."