New Freo Docker Airlie Runnalls has jumped at the chance to move interstate to chase her AFLW dream, drafted by Fremantle at no.44 in the 2021 NAB AFLW Draft on Tuesday.
Hailing from Yarrawonga in country Victoria, Runnalls is the first interstate player to be selected by Fremantle after nominating for the WA pool.
It means she’ll be packing her bags in the next month and heading west before pre-season starts in September.
“I’m so pumped. I was pretty stressed for the past week, but to see my name get called out was a pretty awesome feeling,” Runnalls said.
“I really just wanted to get picked up. If that meant moving to Perth I was keen to do that.
“Fremantle contacted me and they just spoke so well about their values and their interest in me. That was awesome. It was pretty much a no brainer to then nominate for WA to try and get picked up.”
Runnalls impressed Fremantle’s recruiters with her ability to accumulate the footy as an outside midfielder, finishing the VFLW season with 32 and 33 disposals in her final two games of the season for North Melbourne.
The 23-year-old said she came into her own as North Melbourne gelled as a team through the season – a sign she should slot in well to the more strategic AFLW system.
“I definitely had a few of my best games at the end of the season. I moved a little bit more into the inside as well as on the wing. I was just getting a lot more of the footy and I think my confidence was just up,” Runnalls said.
“We started playing better footy and more as a team. I think that definitely helped and we all started to play to our structures. I’ve always been a player that sticks to the structures, so when it didn’t work at the start I struggled to get into form.”
Senior coach Trent Cooper flagged Runnalls as having the ability to break into Fremantle’s round one team with a good pre-season, however Runnalls is more measured with her expectations.
“Fremantle’s been an awesome team. They’ve been in the finals pretty much every year. Hopefully I can slot in somewhere into the team eventually. I’m very keen to get to work,” Runnalls said.
“(My focus is) just getting really fit and meeting all the girls and training at the highest level and improving my footy as much as I can.”