The dreams of 18-year-old Bianca Webb have come true with the exciting midfield talent selected to make her AFLW debut in the RAC Derby on Saturday at Optus Stadium.
Webb is a positional replacement for injured midfielder Stephanie Cain, while Leah Mascall comes in for Mia-Rae Clifford.
A product of West Perth and Swan Districts, Webb said she was still wrapping her head around playing her first AFLW game at Optus Stadium.
“I’m so pumped I still can’t believe it,” Webb said.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to debut in a derby at Optus. It’s going to be amazing. I think my heart will be racing and it’s going to be one to remember for sure.”
Selected at no.85 in the 2019 NAB AFLW National Draft, Webb was initially expected to require more time to develop before breaking through at AFLW level.
But senior coach Trent Cooper said Webb had excelled at training and has done enough to earn her spot following Cain’s unfortunate injury.
“We took Bianca with our final draft pick as a player for the future but she exceeded all expectations on the track in the preseason,” Cooper said.
“She finished second only to Kiara Bowers in terms of her GPS numbers this pre-season and has shown that she’s physically ready for the demands of an AFLW game.”
Cooper added that Webb starred in a scratch match at the weekend between Fremantle and West Coast players not selected for round one, with both teams topped up with WAFLW players.
“I watched the game at the weekend and Bianca was really on fire,” Cooper said
“It’s great to have her out with us this week, we know what she’s going to give. Her running power and her ability to go two ways and defend is really strong.
“She showed that last week and we’re really looking forward to seeing what she can do on Saturday.”
Mascall made six Fremantle appearances in 2019, including the preliminary final against Carlton.
Cooper said it was hard to overlook the defender in round one.
“Leah was unlucky to miss out for round one due to the match-up’s we required for the Geelong forwards, and we think that she will add a lot to our backline,” Cooper said.
“Mia-Rae Clifford was really solid in her first game for Fremantle but the different make up of the West Coast forwardline means that she misses out this week.”
Mascall joins Evie Gooch and Ange Stannett at half back while Laura Pugh and Janelle Cuthbertson round out the backline.
18-year-old Mim Strom has been named in the ruck after an impressive debut against Geelong, and will look to give a midfield led by captain Kara Antonio and leaders Kiara Bowers and Hayley Miller first use.
Webb will start on the interchange alongside Kate Flood, Phil Seth, Katie-Jayne Grieve and Ashley Sharp.
TEAM v WEST COAST
Backs: Janelle Cuthbertson, Laura Pugh
Half-backs: Ange Stannett, Evie Gooch, Leah Mascall
Centre: Lindal Rohde, Hayley Miller, Jasmin Stewart
Half-forwards: Ebony Antonio, Roxanne Roux, Sabreena Duffy
Forwards: Gabby O’Sullivan, Gemma Houghton
Ruck/followers: Mim Strom, Kiara Bowers, Kara Antonio
Interchange: Kate Flood, Bianca Webb, Phil Seth, Katie-Jayne Grieve, Ashley Sharp