Four Saints have been selected in this year's AFL Players’ Association AFLW 22Under22 squad, with three of the talented quartet nominated for the first time in their careers.
Tyanna Smith, Tarni White and Claudia Whitfort join two-time nominee Georgia Patrikios in receiving the league-wide recognition, which aims to acknowledge the best players aged 22 and under throughout the course of the season.
The 40-woman squad – selected with support from Champion Data – will be refined to a final team of 22, with fans encouraged to have their say and vote on who should make the side. The line-up will be announced on Tuesday 20 April.
Smith awed onlookers and teammates alike in her debut season, slotting seamlessly into St Kilda’s emerging engine room courtesy of her uncompromising attack and pace.
The unflinching midfielder charted second in the entire competition for total tackles (68) and tailed only Patrikios in the Saints’ key midfield metrics.
Smith added to her maiden campaign with a NAB Rising Star nomination against Geelong, which came complete with 16 disposals, 13 tackles and eight score involvements from just over 60 per cent game-time.
After an ACL injury derailed her maiden season as a Saint, White returned with a bang to cement herself as one of St Kilda’s core defenders.
Earning a NAB Rising Star nomination in her comeback game against the Western Bulldogs, the young Queenslander went on to play an integral role in stabilising St Kilda’s back six in the middle portion of the year.
White was experimented as an inside midfielder in the final round of the season, perhaps hinting at a potential future role heading into her third season.
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Like many of St Kilda’s in-and-under midfielders, Whitfort continued to slide under the radar despite her contribution to the club’s midfield fabric.
Tough at the contest and unobtrusive in her style of play, the ex-Demon continued to chip away at the coalface during her seven matches in 2021.
Whitfort also found time to sneak up forward, slotting two goals in her final two matches of the year against Melbourne and West Coast.
For Patrikios, the most recent recognition comes within a week of earning selection in both this year’s All-Australian squad and the AFL Women’s Team of the Year.
The smooth on-baller led the Saints for total disposals, clearances and metres gained, with her on-field impact placing her among her side’s best week after week.
Alongside Caitlin Greiser, Patrikios was selected in last season’s 22Under22 side and was also awarded the AFL Players’ Association Best First-Year Player award.
To be eligible for the 40-woman squad, players were required to play a minimum of five matches in 2021, equating to more than half the season.
Players selected in the final line-up will be presented with a 22Under22 guernsey.
The AFL Players’ Association AFLW 22Under22 was first introduced in 2020, while a retrospective line-up was named at the end of last season to acknowledge the competition’s best talents between 2017-2019.
Saints voted into the 22Under22
2020: Caitlin Greiser, Georgia Patrikios
2016: Tim Membrey
2017: Jack Billings
2018: Jade Gresham
2019: Jade Gresham
2020: Hunter Clark, Nick Coffield, Max King