Madeline Brancatisano had the maturity to captain a particularly young Northern Knights outfit into this year’s TAC Cup Girls Grand Final in just her third season playing football.
The 18-year-old hadn’t even thought of playing the sport before being asked to fill a spot in a Laurimar (Northern FNL) under-16 team in 2016. She had previously played basketball from the age of six but has quickly developed into a 2018 NAB AFL Women’s Draft prospect as a team-oriented inside midfielder.
The Knights lost that decider to the Geelong Falcons but Brancatisano went on to be named in the 2018 TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year, represent Vic Metro for the second straight year in the AFLW U18 Championships and play six Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s games for Carlton.
“It’s very overwhelming,” Brancatisano said at the recent AFLW Draft Combine, where she finished in the top five of the 20m sprint test. “I never thought any of this would happen, but I’ve loved every moment of it.
“I found it (Northern captaincy) a bit difficult at first because we had a lot of 15 and 16-year-olds and only seven other top-agers, but they were awesome. We all couldn’t believe we were playing in the Grand Final. The loss was pretty disappointing, but we looked at it as though we could be there again next year.
“(The step up to VFLW level was) very strange at first. I was very nervous for my first game because of the bigger bodies, but after a few games I felt I was comfortable there.”
Learning from Blues AFLW stars like Sarah Hosking and Darcy Vescio, Brancatisano made her VFLW debut in Round 7 and played in Carlton’s last matches.
She enjoyed a breakout performance in the club’s 25-point victory over the higher-placed Darebin Falcons in Round 15, recording 15 disposals, eight contested possessions and three clearances.
Skills learnt in a long junior career playing basketball have clearly served Brancatisano well in her new sport.
“The basketball court is such a tight space but on a football field there’s so much more space, so I can make quick decisions,” she said. “I find that’s one of my strengths.
“I think handballing out to players from contests comes naturally to me, but kicking is not as natural. Coming from basketball I never had to kick a footy, so I’ve worked heaps on my kicking.
“I love basketball, but I’ll see where footy takes me.”
THE AFLW DRAFT WATCH ‘FAST FIVE’ with Madeline Brancatisano
Why should an AFLW club draft you?
“I’m coachable, hard-working, I get along with everyone and I really want to be the best person I can be for the team.”
What is the funniest or weirdest question you’ve been asked by an AFLW club?
“Not too many weird ones, but I did get asked what was my favourite song. I picked ‘Mockingbird’ by Eminem.”
Who is your football idol?
“Daisy Pearce (Melbourne). The way she moves the ball around and her knowledge of the game is outstanding.”
Who will be selected with pick no.1 in the 2018 AFLW Draft?
“Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons and Geelong Cats). She is an awesome player, all-round good person and works hard.”
Which of your 2018 teammates should also be in draft consideration?
“Tyla Hanks (Gippsland Power and Carlton). She will go fairly high and she deserves to as well.”