Basketballers set to star in AFL Women’s competition

Jess Bibby | Photo courtesy of Ben Southall

A revolution in female sports is no longer upon us – it has arrived.

After the inaugural AFL Women’s draft, over 145 women will be playing AFL football in 2017, an incredible achievement. It reflects the immense progression made in professional female sports over the past few years, with the AFL joining basketball and netball in turning professional.

Basketball fans will be very familiar to seven who are now set to join AFL women’s teams. Erin Phillips, Anne Hatchard, Stacey Barr, Ebony Antonio, Jess Bibby, Alison Downie and Lauren Pearce are all current or former WNBA and WNBL stars, and are now set to take their talents to the footy field.

It would be remiss not to mention another draftee, as The Pick and Roll’s own Hayley Wildes, who was drafted to the Western Bulldogs with the 44th selection.

Here is the lowdown on the basketballers pulling on the footy boots next season and where you can watch them kick the Sherrin around.


Erin Phillips – Adelaide Crows (rookie)

The most prominent name on the list, Phillips is an Olympic silver medalist, represented the Opals in Rio, and current member of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings.

Phillips will play for the Crows during football season, and will return to the United States to continue playing with Dallas during the basketball season.

Anne Hatchard – Adelaide Crows (pick 87)

Joining Phillips in Adelaide will be Hatchard, who is a current member of the WNBL’s Adelaide Lightning.

Lightning coach Chris Lucas recommended Hatchard to football, and the 18-year old plans to continue playing both sports.

Stacey Barr – Fremantle Dockers (pick 68)

After an impressive college career with Idaho, where Barr averaged 21.3 points in her final season, the 23-year old played with the Perth Lynx in the WNBL last season.

Now a Docker, it’s unknown whether Barr will continue playing basketball.

Ebony Antonio – Fremantle Dockers (priority pick 4)

Antonio ended an impressive WNBL career last year after playing 40 games in five years, including winning a championship with the Bendigo Spirit.

Last year, Antonio switched to football and will continue down that path with the Dockers this season.

Lauren Pearce – Melbourne Demons (pick 25)

Pearce is a mainstay in the WNBL and Victoria’s Big V competition, and has now added football to her sporting repertoire.

She was apart of the AFL women’s academy and will continue her football career with the Demons.

Jess Bibby – GWS Giants (rookie)

One of the most accomplished basketballers on this list, Bibby appeared in a league-record 394 WNBL games before retiring at the end of last season, and even enjoyed a stint in the WNBA.

With her basketball career over, the 37-year old will pursue a new sporting journey with the Giants.

Alison Downie – Carlton Blues (pick 129)

Following a similar path as Bibby, Downie ended a long and successful WNBL career this past season. Downie played 326 games over 16 years with the Dandenong Rangers, winning three championships in that time.

Downie has impressed on the football field before, as she made this season’s VFL Women’s Team of the Year, and will continue her footy journey with Carlton.


Despite the number of basketballers switching codes, Australia’s female basketball talent stocks remain at an all-time high. The WNBL season is in full swing and the Sapphires are coming off a gold medal performance at the U17 FIBA World Championships.

If anything, basketballers going to the AFL is more of a reflection on the quality of female athletes, rather than basketball losing talent.

Luke Sicari

Written by

Writer at WNBL, Basketball Australia, FIBA, SBS Radio Sport | Producer, On-Air guest and writer at SEN | Member of the SEN NBA Podcast | Sports Journalism Student at La Trobe University | Twitter @lukesicari

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