Brisbane goal kicking prodigy Jesse Wardlaw sought out the best technique and conditioning coach available to become one of the AFLW’s top strikers.
The 22-year-old will feature for the Lions against Melbourne in the AFLW Grand Final at Springfield on Sunday after a stellar season that earned selection of the All-Australian squad.
Wardlaw was the AFLW’s top scorer for the year with 19 goals, equaling the record previously set by Adelaide’s Ash Woodland.
The 2021 Prime Minister winner has shown maturity beyond her years to recognize where she needed to improve.
“Coming into the AFLW, I knew I wasn’t great to start with,” she said.
“I was a pretty small body and didn’t have a lot of foot intelligence, so I worked on those things and saw specialist coaches for my kicking, strength and conditioning.”
Wardlaw credits Lions coach Craig Starcevich for bringing out the best in her, and adds that Lions Academy coach Ben Stanley was a huge influence.
“I saw Ben at Enhance Football on the Sunshine Coast and he does a lot of kicking analysis. We particularly looked at my goal kicking technique and why I wasn’t getting the distance or was not as accurate,” she said.
“We broke it down and saw some things we needed to change.
“He even told me at the start of the season: ‘You’re going to have the top scorer.
“Thanks to Ben. With a lot of youngsters here, he puts a lot of work into their early years.”
Wardlaw’s improved technical aptitude was complemented by increased physicality.
“I saw my trainer Dylan (Fowler) at Evolved Gym in West End and I was training with him four times a week in the gym just to bulk up because I was getting pushed around too much,” he said. she smiled.
She doesn’t get pushed around anymore. His All-Australian selection was proof of that.
“It was huge. All Aussie for me is something I’ve always wanted to strive for as a player,” she said.
“As soon as I got drafted, I was watching the awards night and I thought I wanted to be on that stage.
“I certainly didn’t see it coming this early in my career. Hopefully I can stay in the AA team for years to come.”
Wardlaw appeared as a youngster idolizing former Lions star Tayla Harris, now with Melbourne.
“It’s a bit ironic that I’m meeting her this weekend, but she’s a player I’ve admired from a young age and always had a lot of respect for,” she said. .
As for Sunday, Wardlaw expects a fierce contest.
“I think it’s going to be a four-quarter battle from start to finish,” she said.
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