Yvonne Bonner (file pic). Bryan Keane/INPHO
Land down under

Donegal star Bonner set for AFLW return as one of three Irish Draft picks

Roscommon’s Joanne Cregg and Tyrone native Cara McCrossan have also been snapped up.

DONEGAL STAR YVONNE Bonner is set for a return to the AFLW as one of three Irish Draft picks.

Bonner was selected by Adelaide Crows, having previously represented Greater Western Sydney Giants, while Roscommon’s Joanne Cregg and Tyrone native Cara McCrossan have been drafted by Fremantle Dockers and Gold Coast Suns respectively. 

35-year-old Bonner was the last pick of the AFLW Supplementary Draft overnight.

The Glenfin forward has enjoyed a Gaelic football career spanning over 20 years — though is yet to feature for Donegal in 2023 — and previously played 11 AFLW games for the Giants alongside recently-retired Cora Staunton.

Bonner made her debut Down Under in 2019, kicking an average of almost a goal per game, but an ankle injury prematurely ended her 2020 season and she later returned home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2021, she and her husband, Paul, welcomed daughter, Brid, and she represented Donegal last season. Now, Bonner is due to make a somewhat unexpected AFLW comeback.

“We’ve followed Yvonne’s career since she made her AFLW debut and she was always a dangerous opponent and a difficult match-up, so when she indicated she was thinking of returning this year, we were very interested,” Adelaide Head of Women’s Football Phil Harper said.

Yvonne is an experienced athlete with a strong work ethic but also a noted goalkicker in both Gaelic and AFLW and that will give us another option inside attacking 50m. Yvonne has the capacity to have an immediate impact and can help make us better this season.

“We look forward to welcoming Yvonne, Paul and Brid to Adelaide in the coming months.”

Bonner joins Mayo’s Niamh Kelly at the club.

Cregg, meanwhile, brings Fremantle’s Irish contingent to four as she links up with Áine Tighe, Orlagh Lally and Amy Mulholland.

A talented Gaelic footballer with Roscommon through the years, Cregg relocated to Perth last year and has excelled for Subiaco in the second-tier West Australian Football League. 

“What I noticed about her was her toughness at the stoppage,” Freo coach Lisa Webb said. “You barely see her walking and she is constantly moving at the stoppage, whether that is receiving a tap off the ruck or whether that is covering the ground to get back and help or get forward and kick a goal.

“She has got good awareness, she has got good use of her feet and has that Gaelic background to her. She is still learning the game but has got a lot of game awareness that I’m looking forward to working with her on.

“She is a very calm presence and a really good person, and at 29 years of age she is going to be really good for our group.”

McCrossan, likewise, has caught the eye playing second-tier footie since moving to Melbourne.

The Tyrone woman has been playing Victorian Football League Women’s [VFLW] with Casey Demons, and now joins Clara Fitzpatrick and Niamh McLaughlin at Gold Coast Suns.

A versatile forward, the Suns statement reads: “The Gaelic football convert, whose trademark pressure and tackling saw her become one of Casey’s most important players, has transitioned seamlessly from the round ball to the Sherrin after only playing her first competitive match in Round 1 of the 2022 VFLW season.

“The 28-year-old is known for her speed and ability to create scoring opportunities having also kicked nine goals herself for the Demons in 2022.”

Bonner, Cregg and McCrossan are among 32 Irish players confirmed for the new AFLW season.

The highest ever number from these shores, 13 of those are set for their debut seasons.

Ailish Considine, two-time Premiership winner with Adelaide Crows, is without a club after the AFLW Supplementary Draft.

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