Tathra surfer Tarni Evans dreaming of AFLW
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Tathra surfer Tarni Evans dreaming of AFLW

Tathra teenager Tarni Evans never dreamed she'd play footy in front of thousands but all of a sudden it's not such a crazy thought.

The next generation of AFLW stars converged on the AIS on Tuesday with the best young players in Australia honing their skills in the under-18 national academy.

Evans was one of 42 budding stars from around the country kick-starting the 24-month program that hopes to graduate them to the AFLW.

Tarni Evans during the AFL Women’s Academy at the Australian Institute of Sport on Tuesday.

Tarni Evans during the AFL Women’s Academy at the Australian Institute of Sport on Tuesday.Credit:Brook Mitchell/AFL Media

The 16-year-old surfer only started playing football three years ago and dominated for Queanbeyan after joining Tigers for the second half of this year.

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Evans said it was surreal training in such elite company and the multi-sport athlete emphasised her only focus now is making the AFLW.

"It’s the next level up here, all the girls have awesome skills. It’s been great and you so just want to get through to the AFLW after experiencing this," Evans said.

"I started playing three years ago for Tathra. My brother had one game for Bega and said 'This is so good' and it looked like a heap of fun.

"Then the Tathra women's comp started and I knew most of the girls in the comp and they were loving it so I was keen to get into it.

"Last season I came up to Queanbeyan and got put in full-forward, that was a bit of a blowout but it was great kicking a couple of goals and everyone going crazy.

"It’s been one thing after another really, starting off with club footy then seeing the AFLW advance has been great and I’m so keen to try and get there."

Academy coach Aasta O’Connor said players needed more than ability to be invited into the program.

"We go through a selection process from under-18 championships. We watch vision, assess their character, how they are at school, how they are at home, what type of athlete they are and then we sit in a room for a day with 100 names on the board and take it from there," O'Connor said.

"We’re strong on our culture, you can be a talented footballer or talented athlete but it’s all about their character, so we ensure everybody is inclusive and nobody gets left behind and teaching them those types of lessons they embrace it and take it to another level.

"This is the third intake and each year we’re growing and learning as a program and the needs of the competition we’re preparing the players for.

"The future is bright, really bright. The way in which they conduct themselves, the intensity in which they train with, they’re fantastic young women.

"Our job is to help them develop tools to progress and hopefully one day get drafted onto AFLW lists."

Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times

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