Velardo stunned with football rise

Amelia Velardo. (supplied)

Tara Murray

Having played just three games of football, new Collingwood AFLW draftee Amelia Velardo is still in disbelief that she is on an AFLW list.

Velardo entered the draft as a relative unknown after the NAB League season came to an abrupt end. But Collingwood had seen enough of the Western Jet star and selected her at pick 25 in the draft.

Velardo said she was struggling to put into words how she’s feeling.

“I’m trying to come to terms and wrap my head around the last 24 hours,” she said.

“I’m rapt to be going to such a great club. I always had the goal of playing AFLW since I started playing football.

“After the season was cancelled this year and with only three games under my belt, I didn’t think [I would be picked] this quickly or that early in the draft.”

Velardo said she had fallen in love with the sport the minute she picked up the football after searching for a change from basketball.

“I think playing basketball for so long, that I had lost the love for it,” she said.

“Footy was more prominent in my environment and I played a few school games and started the pre-season with the Jets and there was the fire in the gut and real passion.

“Before that, I had only kicked the footy in the backyard with my dad and brother.

“I have a real love for the game.”

Velardo joined her local club, Essendon District Football League side Keilor, with many of her friends already playing there.

Ambitious with her football dreams, Velardo made a phone call to the Western Jets.

“I made contact with the Jets to see whether they had any spots open to train,” she said.

“They were full at first but there was an opportunity to join the girls in January.

“I did quite well at the training sessions and they selected me for the squad.

“It was a pretty short pre-season with the Jets and I was starting to find my feet and the game plan.”

The three games were enough to get Velardo selected for the state combine and she had several interviews in the lead up to the draft.

She said she was shocked, but over the moon to be selected for the combine which eventually didn’t go ahead.

It was a whirlwind few hours after the draft, with Velardo getting to know her teammates.

“We had a Zoom meeting with the whole team and they got to know me,” she said.

“Steph Chiocci gave me a call and I’m so excited to play and learn off her in an elite environment.”

Many people have described Velardo as an undersized ruck, while she sees herself as a midfielder but admits she’s still to lock down a position.

Velardo was one of two Jets selected. Isabelle Pritchard was taken by the Western Bulldogs at pick 16.

Pritchard, a Spotswood junior, has spent most of her time in defence before moving into the midfield this year.