McKenzie is number one

Number one draft pick Ellie Mckenzie. (Shawn Smits) 204987_18

Tara Murray

AFLW number 1 draft pick Ellie McKenzie is still pinching herself that her dream of playing football is a reality.

The Northern Knights co-captain was taken at pick number one by Richmond, as the Tigers looked to bolster its midfield and forward stocks.

While many experts had predicted that McKenzie would be selected at pick one, it wasn’t until her name was called out that she knew it had happened.

“I didn’t know at all,” she said. “My manager knew a week or so ago and told my mum, so my mum knew and kept that from me and did a really good job of that.

“I guess it was good to have the genuine reaction and I was really happy to find out on the spot, even though it was really stressful leading up to it.”

“I’m going to try and celebrate the moment with my family at the moment.”

McKenzie’s new Richmond teammates were quick to reach out to her and had already made her feel welcome.

Captain Katie Brennan, who McKenzie models her game on, was among those to reach out.

“The main thing for me, I’m hoping the teammates are really welcoming and the club is really welcoming,” McKenzie said.

“A lot of the players have texted me already and welcomed me in the club and they’ve been really good about that already so I’m really pleased.

“I’m really happy to play anywhere and it’s just my dream to be in the AFLW.

“If I’m picked on the bench for round one or not even p:icked for round one that’s ok, I’m happy to be in the team and I’m happy to be at the club.”

McKenzie didn’t have much time to let the news sink in, having to sit her first year 12 exam the following day.

It will be a busy few weeks for the 17-year-old as she studies for the rest of her exams and starts pre-season training.

McKenzie was one of three Knights players drafted. Co-captain Jess Fitzgerald was taken at pick number two by the Western Bulldogs and Alyssa Bannan was taken with the third Victorian pick, pick five by Melbourne.

McKenzie said it was pretty special to see the other two girls drafted as well.

“It’s a credit to the Northern Knights,” she said.

“We’ve built a really good culture down there and it’s just a really strong family culture which I’m proud to be a part of.

“I’m really stoked for them and they’ve both worked really hard to get to where they are. I’m sure they will be enjoying this moment as much as I am.”

For McKenzie and Fitzgerald, who travelled to school together the day after the draft, it will be the first time the two best friends have been on different teams.

“I’ve been playing with her since i was about 13,” she said.

“It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens. She’s a good player obviously, a lot of things i really look up to in her football ability as a person as well.

“She deserves everything that she has got.”

It’s the second straight year the number one pick has come from the Northern Knights, with the Western Bulldogs taking Gabby Newton last year.

Overall, eight players from last year’s Knights premiership side have been drafted in the last two years.

McKenzie said Newton had been a good person to speak to leading up to the draft.

“Gabby has been great to me, as have a lot of the other previous Knights girls who have gone into the AFLW system.

“Gabby especially has been in contact with me leading up to the draft and i’ve asked her a few questions about how that all works. She’s been really great in giving me advice and leading me in the right direction.

“I’m sure I’ll always have that connection with her and now with Jess going to the Bulldogs as well and me being close with her, hopefully our connections will stay.