Sophie McKay in action during the AFLW Academy training session on January 19, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

EVER dreamed of becoming an elite footballer?

26 of the top draft prospects have been given the chance to learn footy’s greatest secrets, through the AFLW National Academy program.

The Academy meet multiple times over the year for camps, where the players get to train at AFLW clubs and learn from stars like Nina Morrison and Georgie Prespakis about what it takes to be the best.

The 2024 crop could be a 'super draft', with highly talented trio East Fremantle’s Zipporah ‘Zippy’ Fish, Gippsland’s Ash Centra and Gold Coast Academy’s Havana Harris all in the frame for the top spot.


"I like to play fast – that’s one of my strengths, my speed," Fish said in the new Inside the AFLW Academy documentary.

Fish loves nothing more than "hitting up a leading target", but there’s one teammate that rivals her in that area.

When asked about which Academy player is the best to watch, Fish was quick to respond.

"Probably Ash Centra," Fish said.

"She’s a bit like me, a very good kick."

Carlton father-daughter prospect Sophie McKay echoed Fish’s sentiments about Centra.

"She’s just so classy with the ball," McKay said.

"She looks like she has so much time every time she gets the ball."

Ash Centra celebrates her goal during the AFL National Championships U18 Girls match between Western Australia and Victoria Country on August 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Sturt forward India Rasheed is another player who has turned kicking into an art form.

Rasheed could put on a clinic for set shot technique, with her ball drop and hand position straight out of a football textbook.

The Academy coaching staff spent plenty of time teaching the players the finer points of the game.

The midfielders worked on their handballing speed with two-time Brownlow Medallist Greg Williams.

The talented tall players like Harris learned a game-changing piece of ruck technique from ex-Tiger and Hawk Ty Vickery, who is now the head of the Oakleigh Chargers' girls program.

But perhaps the best secret was revealed by the Academy’s high performance manager Paul Sealey, who taught the girls the art of the 20m sprint.


 Sealey took the team through a number of different core and arm movements, but the most vital piece was the starting position.

"The timing gates are set up and your toe is right on the edge of the line," Sealey explained.

"What I'm going to do is put my opposite knee level with my laces, then I'm going to stand up."

"I get a nice little crouch and load my front leg, I load my back leg and I explode out."

The Academy will meet again for another camp early in April, where they'll face off against some high-level opposition to showcase their talent.