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AFLW: From Auskick to likely top-three pick

Madison Prespakis in action at the AFLW Draft Combine - AFLW,AFLW Draft
Madison Prespakis in action at the AFLW Draft Combine

WHAT'S it like being touted as a future No.1 draft pick when you're just 16 years old?

For Madison Prespakis, it's been a long journey to Tuesday's NAB AFL Women's Draft.

The Vic Metro midfielder started playing Auskick in Gisborne, north-west of Melbourne, when she was five.

Her dad, Damien, coached her through her junior years playing with boys, before she crossed to nearby Sunbury when she was 14, to play in youth girls' team.

She's played for Vic Metro for the past four years, rising in the ranks and the public's consciousness, becoming a poster child for the next generation of female footballers who have been able to play their whole lives without stopping.

"In my first two years at Metro, I was very young, so none of that external noise really affected me. But at the [NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships] last year, a bit of that noise started coming in and it started hitting home a bit," Prespakis said.

"This year I unfollowed a few [social media accounts] heading to get my head around playing footy and [trying to ignore] the external voices. It was impacting my performance and my mental concentration a bit.

"I don't play footy for the accolades. I just love it. It is really nice people think of me like that and you get those little awards, but at the end of the day, I really want to live out my dream and play AFLW," she said.

The accolades Prespakis speaks of includes two Vic Metro MVP awards, and this year tying with Vic Country's Nina Morrison for both player of the under-18 championships and the TAC Cup best and fairest award.

Having nominated for the Melbourne metro section of the draft pool, the 17-year-old is no longer eligible to be the No.1 pick, held by Geelong, but could be drafted as early as pick three by Carlton.

Prespakis is a ferocious midfielder, comfortable playing either on the inside or outside. She's a contested-ball bull but is at her most damaging sending the ball forward, where her excellent disposal skills set her apart.

Tellingly, her footy role models are Fremantle's Nat Fyfe, North Melbourne's Emma Kearney and the Western Bulldogs' Ellie Blackburn – all contested ball-winners who are damaging with the ball on the outside.

Vic Metro coach Tom Humphrey said Prespakis' assets derive from her competitiveness.

"From our point of view, her ability to deliver the ball inside 50 is one of her strengths. It was something we wanted her to do because she's so damaging with the ball forward of centre," Humphrey said.

"Maddy's a strong leader with a willingness to work on the areas she needs to. She's prepared to listen, work on her perceived weaknesses and also keep working on her strengths. Her maturity as a 17-year-old is outstanding.

"The pressure on her this year has been fairly heavy," she said.

"She had a fantastic carnival for Vic Metro and a really good year at the Calder Cannons in a side that wasn't as strong as it was previously, and I think the expectation she may be the No.1 pick weighed on her a bit."

The Prespakises are a big footy family. Madison's twin sister, Annalea, has played footy but is now focusing on dancing and aerobics.

Younger sister Georgie, 15, has played a handful of matches for TAC Cup side Calder and is part of AFL Victoria's Kickstart program, for indigenous players 15 and under.

Georgie and youngest brother Jimmy both play local footy for the Sunbury Lions.

"I wouldn't have played footy without my dad. A lot of people in my family did play, including my uncle and pop, but my dad was a big footballer when he was young and he really strived to go through those pathways," Prespakis said.

"Unfortunately, his footy career was cut short at under-19 level. He's a big influence on me and I just want to go that one step ahead of him and try to be drafted."

Despite dabbling in basketball for fun, reaching representative level, it was always going to be footy for the Essendon-barracking Prespakis, who is completing year 12 at Gisborne Secondary College.

"The boy that lived across the road from me would always be playing footy and all the boys at school would, and I think that really pushed me," she said. 

"I did ballet when I was young and I don't think that worked out very well. I remember crying and saying, 'I want to quit, I want to quit'," she said with a laugh.

Away from school and footy, Prespakis has a part-time job at Hungry Jack’s, likes watching the television show Wentworth with her mum and sisters and tries to make time to catch up with friends.

"My friends get a bit grumpy when I can't hang out with them or if I'm busy. Spending time with my nan and my mum is close to my heart," Prespakis said.

"I live and breathe footy. I'm always around it and my parents love it too.

"I've always wanted to play it and the support my parents have given me has been unreal. They always push me to achieve things I want to achieve.

"Footy is just everything to me. I'm working on getting that proper balance in life, but at the moment, I just love footy."