AFLW Season Preview
Friday, February 07 2020 @ 04:53 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Tash Gunawardana
The 2020 AFLW season will see the addition of four news teams in Richmond, West Coasst Eagles, St Kilda and the Gold Coast Suns. A season preview on each of the 14 teams is below.
The Crows finished the 2019 AFLW season, as the premiers for the second time in three years. However, premiership glory was bitter sweet with superstar player Erin Phillips rupturing her ACL in the third quarter of the Grand Final. Phillips will once again lead the Crows in the 2020 NAB AFL Women's Competition. Phillips has officially been ruled out for the start of the season and Chelsea Randall did her ACL in practice and will miss the whole season. With these two injuries, Anne Hatchard has probably become the most vital player for the Crows this season. For coach, Matthew Clarke in his second season, he will probably need to make a few positional changes to fill the strong void left by Phillips and Randall who lead them well on and off the field. Rhiannon Metcalf will most likely return from injury and could take over the starting ruck duties from Jess Foley who did well last year. If, Metcalf does takeover, than Foley might move into the forward line as an agile option. The Crows, also drafted promising young gun Montana McKinnon who is nearly six foot with her strength and strong marking ability. Therefore the Crows have marking options who can help Sarah Allen. The Crows forward line looks great as ever and will look to excite once again with the likes of Danielle Ponter and Stevie Lee Thompson running through there with Courtney Gum. Adelaide's defense will lack with Randall missing and the opposition forwards might feel confident as they will not have Randall stopping their every move. Expect Adelaide to be up there again in 2020, but I cannot see them winning the premiership without Randall.
The Lions loss some good talented players over the last few years, but do not expect them to be an easy beat this year. They have a midfield that his highly experienced including Ally Anderson, Emma Zielke & Emily bates. And in the recent draft they recruited Lily Postlewaite and Isabel Dawes who are top end midfield talent. Postlewaite has been compared to the likes of Melbourne's Daisy Pearce due to her class and ability to have time, hit targets and to think the situation through. Dawes is an energetic type midfielder with her cleannes and finesse with her handballing under pressure. The Lions have a lots of promising talent coming through and with young gun midfielder Sophie Conway returning from an ACL injury. In the forward line, the Lions do not have strong targets up forward as yet to help excitement machine Jess Wuetschner, as they are still young and developing in Jess Wardlaw, Jessy Keeffe and Hannah Hillman. The Lions defense is not as strong as last year, as they loss a bulk of players to crosstown rivals, the Gold Coast Suns. With the Lions inability to score, but there defense and midfield may help them with chances this year or in the future when they develop more.
Carlton loss a big name player in the off season in their captain Brianna Davey to rivals Collingwood. Lucy McEvoy was selected at pick number two in the 2019 NAB AFLW Draft. McEvoy is an elite talent with getting All Australian honours at the NAB League level three years in a row in the backline, forward and midfield. It looks likely, the Blues will put McEvoy in the midfield to assist Madison Prespakis who had a standout year through the midfield. Another young gun that looks the goods is Abbie McKay who will play in her second year. Also, with the Hosking twins (Jess and Sarah) midfield experience this will be great to complement and develop the young guns coming through at Carlton in their first year. With the speed of Katie Harrison who has a rugby background, if she impresses like Chloe Dalton last year, than the Blue's line up will be speedy. In the backline, the Blues acquired Brooke Vernon from the NAB League and will have Jade Van Dyk playing in her second year, so look for improvement from her. Irish recruit Joanne Doonan will be a handy addition with her speed and gaelic skills. Also, expect former rugby player Brooke Walker to continue her strong form shown in teh second part of the last season. Tayla Harris and Darcy Vescio will need to have a strong start to the season. Harris stepped up last year and has become a force to be reckoned with in the forward line. Vescio has the talent and smarts around the ground, but she needs to lift. If the Blues forwards get it together, than they can be up there as a contender this year. Carlton were the big improvers last season due to the change in coaching personnel in Daniel Harford. Harford's game plan was more about moving the ball quickly and kicking to forwards one-on-one. Carlton, have a strong team and look likely to be up there as a contender and possibly play in a second consecutive grand final.
Brianna Davey was a huge get from Carlton. The Pies traded pick number two to Carlton for Davey and their 26th draft pick, 44th, 59th, in return for Carlton's picks 67 and 82. Pies have acquired a superb captain with great leadership skills shown in her time at the Blues. Look to 2018 Rising Star Chloe Molloy to come back from being on the sidelines for a year with a Lisfranc injury. Molloy will be raring to go in the backline and forward line again for the Pies and if her form before injury is anything to go by than opposition sides will have to be beware of her. The Pies gameplan may change, as they have a new coach Steve Symonds. Pies midfield will be strong with Britt Bonnici, Steph Chiocci, Brianna Davey and Jaimee Lambert combining together. Molloy will be dangerous up forward if any of her form from 2018 women's VFL grand final is to go by. Mikala Cann is a strong body and will do well up forward with three Irish players including Sarah Rowe, Aishling Sheridan and Sarah D'Arcy, expect the Pies to be up there this year. The Pies have a few stars that if have big seasons in Molloy, D'Arcy, Lambert and Brazil then who knows the Pies could definitely be there at the pointy end of the season. With a new coach anything can happen at Collingwood in 2020.
The 2020 AFLW season will be the Gold Coast Suns inaugural season. They had a huge offseason in acquiring great talent mainly from the Lions including 2019 Brisbane Lions captain Leah Kaslar, Sam Virgo, Jacqui Yorston and Tiarna Ernst. Also, they gained Jamie Stanton from North Melbourne and Sally Riley from the Crows where she was co-captain. The Suns have gained a lot of good players, but there talent in the midfield and backline is thin and other sides have better talented players. Expect the Suns to finish towards the bottom part of the ladder.
Richmond were very public about their recruiting of players from other clubs in its inaugural year including Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Christina Bernardi, Katie Brennan, Monique Contin and Holly Whitford. The Tigers have done the same as Carlton and Collingwood in earlier AFLW seasons in recruiting big name forwards in Frederick-Traub, Brennan and Bernardi. Conti will add a lot of experience to the midfield. Richmond will be coached by Tom Hunter. Hunter hopes to have Brennan play in the midfield. Richmond will have a reasonable season, but the real test will come with whether or not big names can work well together in a team. If the star players gel together than Richmond could challenge for the premiership, but expect them to finish towards the bottom part of the ladder.
Fremantle went down to Carlton by 36 points in the Preliminary Finals last season. The Dockers loss eight players to the Eagles including Dana Hooker, Kellie Gibson and Ashlee Atkins. They also loss rucks Pariss Laurie and Alicia Janz, but gained young talent in Freo's top draft pick Roxy Roux who's an exciting West Australian women's football prospect. In Trent Cooper's first year as coach, he had a good first season with his game style being a fast running game, so expect the Dockers to be up there once again this season.
Geelong were the lowest scoring team in 2019. Nina Morrison will return to the Cats after her first season in the AFLW came to an abrupt end in 2019 when she ruptured her ACL in her right knee. Expect Geelong's side to be stronger than last year, as a lot of the AFLW list plays in the Cats VFLW team. Phoebe McWilliams is a talented forward, but we saw such little of what she can do due to the low scoring season last year. So, the competition has not seen what they can do in the AFLW. Geelong will have an improved season than last year, as the team have played more together in the VFLW.
Irishwoman Cora Staunton has started well in the AFLW showcasing her great Gaelic skills whenever she is near the ball or in the gameplay. In the offseason, the Giants loss key players in Courtney Gum (Adelaide Crows), Emma Swanson (West Coast Eagles), Maddy Collier (West Coast Eagles) and Christina Bernardi (Richmond). Also, 2019 captain Amanda Farrugia announced a surprise retirement from the Giants. For the Giants to be competitive and to have a good season this year, they will need Alicia Eva, Jess Dal Pos and Staunton expertise to shine through. At only 19 years old, Alyce Parker is possibly the Giants best player in her second AFLW season and will need to shoulder the load without Gum, Swanson, Collier and Bernardi moving to other teams. With a lot of outs expect the Giants to not finish high, as they loss lots of experience during the offseason.
Melbourne have the midfield talent, coach, but are thin in the forward line, however they are strong in their backline. The demons will need another big season from forward livewire Aleisha Newman, Karen Paxman, Elise O'Dea, Lily Mithen and Daisy Pearce returning after giving birth to twins, this will add the flare and class to the Dees midfield. Also, Melbourne have gained two Irish recruits including Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy who both will add speed with Goldrick adding line breaking speed on the wing and McEvoy's marking up forward. Tall forward duo, Tegan Cunningham and Eden Zanker will combine again in the forward line with small forwards Kate Hore, Maddy Gay and Tyla Hanks. Hanks did not have a good first season in the AFLW, after being named one of the most talented players in the draft last year. Melbourne's strength in their defensive stocks has reduced with them losing Kat Smith and Bianka Jakobsson. The Dees will have an outstanding season again and challenge the top sides once again, but expect them to miss out on the finals.
North Melbourne just missed out on reaching the AFLW finals last year in it's inaugural season due to the strange conference system. This year, North Melbourne are tipped by all the opposing captains to win the 2020 AFLW premiership. North Melbourne recruited strongly with a host of senior players. Also, North Melbourne were the third best scoring team in the competition with 42 points per game behind Adelaide and Fremantle. North Melbourne loss midfield star Jamie Stanton to the West Coast Eagles. Emma Kearney is arguably, the competition's second best player after Erin Phillips and Kearney will be primed to have yet another great season. North Melbourne's midfield and ruck are strong in depth with Kearney, Ellie Gavalas, Jenna Bruton and Britt Gibson. Irish recruit Aileen Gilroy will look to use her speed and Gaelic finesse on the wing. North Melbourne are strong in defense with Kate Gillespie-Jones and Tahlia Randall. Also, North Melbourne will miss key defender Jess Duffin due to her pregnancy. North Melbourne's forward line was powerful last year with the combination of Emma King, Jasmine Garner, Kaitin Ashmore, Daisy Bateman and Sophie Abattangelo. Expect North Melbourne's second Irish recruit in Mairead Seoighe to play well in the forward line. North Melbourne's coach Scott Gowans coached exceptionally well and North Melbourne will be up there once again in 2020.
The Western Bulldogs have loss a host of stars over the offseason in Monique Conti and Katie Brennan to expansion team Richmond. Conti is a huge loss to the Western Bulldogs midfield and the Western Bulldogs will miss Brennan's star presence in the forward line. The Western Bulldogs will go into 2020 with a very young team. Young guns Gabby Newton and Izzy Huntington will be the ones to step up at the kennel this season. Huntington will be determined to show what talent she has to offer in the forward line and what made her the number one draft prospect in 2017, when she returns from injury. The 2020 season will be Huntington's time to shine in the forward line and to make the forward half of the ground her own and to lead the way as the experience forward in the side. This year will be all about the Western Bulldogs developing their young talent and getting as much time into the young legs, then to push as contenders in the 2021 season.
In it's inaugural year, the Saints tipped to be a contender as they are coached by a pioneer of women's football in Peta Searle. With, the best young talent in the country at the club in Tarni White combined with experienced players including Kate Shierlaw.
West Coast Eagles:
The West Coast Eagles women's team will also be in it's inaugural season. For the Eagles, they acquired stars from Fremantle including Dana Hooker and Kellie Gibson. They also have talented Irish recruits in sister duo Niamh Kelly and Grace Kelly who both will add class and bring a lot of their Gaelic skills to the Eagles team. The Eagles will have a reasonable start to the AFLW, but do not expect them to finish high up on the ladder. They will finish in the middle part of the ladder.