Years of dedication and hard work has paid off for talented Mount Gambier footballer Brooke Tonon, with her name called for selection by the Adelaide Crows women’s side during the 2021 AFLW Draft.
The 17-year-old from Mount Gambier, but now based at Scotch College was the Adelaide Crows’ second selection at pick 20 alongside Zoe Prowse and Abbie Ballard.
It is a moment the teenager will never forget, with the footballer setting her sights on the elite level competition since first picking up a football in a local Under 9 competition.
The lifelong dream of Mount Gambier’s young football star Brooke Tonon became a reality last Tuesday night when her name went up in lights at the 2021 AFLW Draft.
The 17-year-old from Mount Gambier, now based at Scotch College, was the Adelaide Crows’ second selection at pick 20 alongside Zoe Prowse and Abbie Ballard.
Tonon said she would never forget the moment her name was called as she celebrated with her school mates.
“For so long it has been a dream of mine, so I am still a bit starstruck,” she said.
“I was a bit nervous because you never know what’s going to happen until they call your name.
“I sat in the common room with all of the boarder girls and when they called it out, it was just unreal.
“I was so happy and all the girls got around me, so it was awesome.” Tonon first played footy as an Under 9 after noticing a friend of the same age giving Aussie Rules a crack when she was on the netball court.
It did not take long for the natural talent of the tenacious player nick-named “Chook” to stand out against the boys at East Gambier.
By the age of 15, Tonon made her first of three appearances for South Australia as a bottom-age player in the Under 16’s team.
She repeated the feat a year later and wore the famous state jumper as vice-captain against Victoria Country on her home ground McDonald Park.
After her parents drove her around to games all over the country, Tonon made “the biggest sacrifice” when she packed her bags and moved to Adelaide last year to chase her dream.
Since then, Tonon continued her meteoric rise in the game by playing in the 2021 NAB AFLW U19 National Championships on the Gold Coast and helping Glenelg secure the SANFLW premiership in June.
Tonon arrived at Tigerland as a small forward, but left as a defender and was awarded with selection in the SANFLW team of the year.
She believes the positional switch from one end of the ground to the other was pivotal in her promotion to the big league, which she did not believe was possible until this year.
“What really helped me getting drafted was my change in position at the start of the year where I went from a small forward to a half back player,” Tonon said.
“I felt like I really found my position there and put my best foot forward.
“I always thought playing football would be awesome, but it was not until the national championships at the start of this year it became a goal and I thought it was possible.” This type of versatility makes Tonon a valuable asset to all aspects of the Crows’ list and could be a skill which puts her name onto the selection table.
The former Bulldog had been on Adelaide’s radar for a while after she impressed during her time at the Crows Academy two years ago.
But Tonon, who will not turn 18 until next month, was not aware of the interest until the SANFLW season wrapped up.
“It was not until afterwards Adelaide got in contact,” she said.
“I met with them once with mum and dad and we talked about what happened if I was to get picked and stuff like that.” In the months since the SANFLW grand final “Chook” has stayed match fit by representing Scotch College at school level.
Her team has dominated, winning by an average of 80 points per game, while she put her skills to the test at the recent NAB AFLW Draft Combine.
Tonon – who impressed by ranking third in the 20 metre sprint and joint second in the running vertical jump – said the experience was nothing like anything else in her career.
“It was really daunting approaching it because getting there seeing everything you think ‘oh my gosh’,” she said.
“There was quite a bit of pressure with a big build up around it, but our coaches said it was just a small part of what makes you a footballer.
“It was quite fun because I knew all the girls and we pushed each other to our best.
“I was really happy with my sprints and vertical jumps, but I feel like I could improve on my 2 kilometre run.” Despite reaching the elite level of women’s football, school remains the priority for Tonon, who is only allowed to attend two of the three training sessions each week.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Mount Gambier star has not had a chance to dive into the Crows’ nest yet, but has already had some fun with her team mates on FaceTime and has a connection with many players including Ebony Marinoff from her days at the Bay.
Preseason will kick off September 1 before the sixth edition of the AFLW competition launches in December.
Tonon said building her fitness would be the biggest goal as she settled into the most successful team in AFLW history.
“I will be working on my fitness before preseason starts, so I can compete to the best of my ability,” she said.
“It would be unreal if I could debut in my draft year, but I just want to work on developing my footy, becoming a more attacking player instead of mainly receiving (possession) from the outside.
“It seems Adelaide has a very good culture and is like a close family, so I am really excited to become a part of that.”