Poppy Scholz (left) and India Rasheed. Pictures: AFL Photos

THERE'S a distinct family flavour in this year's AFLW Academy program, with the daughter of a Carlton great, the sister of a Port Adelaide young gun and the daughter of a former tennis coach among those who made the grade.

Sophie McKay, daughter of Carlton life member Andrew and sister of current AFLW Blue Abbie, Poppy Scholz, sister of Power ruck Matilda and daughter of former Australian netballer Peta, and India Rasheed, daughter of former tennis player Roger, are all among this year's intake of the prestigious program.

Two of the highest rated talents ahead of the 2024 AFLW draft, South Australian duo Rasheed and Scholz seem like an odd pair, but they have a lot in common. 

Rasheed is quiet and focused, while Scholz has a seemingly permanent smile plastered on her face, always working to suppress a laugh. Hailing from South Australia, the friends were an important part of the state's National Championships team last year, and above all, they know what it's like to come from a sporting family. 

India Rasheed (left) and Poppy Scholz warm up ahead of an AFLW Academy training session on January 19, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

It means any mention of their talent is immediately linked to that of their already established relatives, that their success will always be part of a bigger story.

Still a teenager, Rasheed's perspective is thoughtful, but simple. 

"(Dad's) background doesn't really do anything, because I don't play tennis," Rasheed said. 

"So, it doesn't really matter, because it's all involved tennis. All it's done is allow me to have better training resources, because he's got a few connections." 

Roger Rasheed watches on during an U18s girls championship match between Vic Metro and South Australia on April 22, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

It's a little different for Scholz, who watched her sister hit the AFLW with a bang last season, coming third in Port Adelaide's Best and Fairest count. Matilda's immediate success has added a little bit of pressure. 

"There were always lots of people asking me 'who's better, you or Matilda?'," Scholz said. 

"We played pretty different roles, so it's kind of hard, but then also, just because we're sisters, we don't really need to be compared like that. So, it's been difficult with comparisons."

But now is the time for each to forge their own path in the sporting landscape, and they're standing on an impressive launching pad. 

Both players were selected in the 2023 U18 All-Australian team, while Rasheed was also named South Australia's MVP of the Championships. 

The award was all the more impressive given she largely had to play up forward, second in line to exciting teenager Lauren Young, who recently joined Port Adelaide as a priority selection. A change of tack, which has ignited a new goal for Rasheed, allowed her to showcase what she's made of rather than hide in someone else's shadow. 

"The first game we played against WA, I was the second key forward, which meant that the ball did not come to me once. If you've got Lauren and you've got me, you're always going to kick it to Lauren," Rasheed said with a laugh.  

"So, I was grateful that I got to move up a bit higher and actually be the one delivering it to her because otherwise, I don't reckon I would have seen the ball once." 

India Rasheed in action during an AFLW Academy training session on January 19, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Standing at 175cm at 17 years old, her strength overhead and elite kick makes her a natural forward, but splitting her time between the attack and midfield is the ideal scenario. 

"I want to be like a mid-forward so sort of like a Christian Petracca role," Rasheed said.  

"Probably more a little bit more forward time than he spends because I love the forward line, that's where I feel really, really natural… But my position I'd love to be just like a mid that can go forward and really hit the scoreboard and those types of things." 

Finding the position that suits her best has also been at the front of Scholz's mind, spending much of her first Academy training session working on her ruck craft, after playing the bulk of her footy as an intercepting defender. 

"I'm just trying out the ruck this year. I played a bit last year in the Nationals as our second ruck, but just played as a fourth midfielder, so hopefully I get a bit more ruck craft instead of just getting chucked in there and trying to figure it out for myself," Scholz chuckled, turning her body to face away from Rasheed in an effort to focus. 

"I used to hate playing ruck because Matilda played ruck and I wanted to be different to her, but now I'm actually kind of enjoying it. It's taught me a bit about how she plays, and she's obviously a pretty decent ruck." 

Poppy Scholz in action at an AFLW Academy training session on January 19, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Still wanting to focus on her roots, however, Scholz ultimately wants to play in the backline and prides herself on her intercepting ability. A theme from not only her netballing days, but also her mother's, who played Goal Defence and Wing Defence across 54 matches for the Australian Diamonds. 

"I just like having the freedom to play off your player a bit, knowing that you're trusted by your team," Scholz said. 

Now in their draft year, both Rasheed and Scholz are wholly focused on honing their skills, and adding extra strings to their bow. All the while, recruiters across the country are keeping a close eye on them in the hopes the duo will be pulling on their team's colours come 2025.