Contributed by: Tash Gunawardana
It's exciting knowing that this time tomorrow AFLW 3.0 will be back and it sure is great to have football back for 2019!
If the first two seasons of the AFLW are anything to go by as far as the growth of women’s sport and crowd attendances, then AFLW 3.0 will be biggest and best season yet with the inclusion of two new AFLW teams and the new conference format. The Lions will be out to prove themselves after being the team to beat in the first two seasons, as they made the grand final for two consecutive years but did not come away with the premiership, so will AFLW 3.0 be the season they finally finish the season on a high as AFLW premiers.
Image Source: AFL Women's
The Western Bulldogs will be the hunted this season after an incredible grand final upset win over the Lions, but the question is can the Dogs win back to back or will another team make history and win their first AFLW premiershipω In AFLW 3.0 the inclusion of North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos and the Geelong Cats is massive. There is a lot of speculation that North Melbourne will provide headaches for the rest of the competition due to the amount of stars they have picked up from other clubs in the AFLW expansion including former Western Bulldogs captain and premiership player Emma Kearney and classy Lions trio Kaitlyn Ashmore, Brittany Gibson and Tahlia Randall.
This season there will be five Irishwomen who will call AFLW teams home. These Irishwomen are Cora Staunton (GWS Giants), Yvonne Bonner (GWS Giants), Ailish Considine (Adelaide), Sarah Rowe (Collingwood) and Aisling McCarthy (Western Bulldogs). This list will continue to grow with women’s football becoming massive in Ireland and it’s huge for our game to be blessed by players who are oozing with talent to switch codes.
AFLW 3.0 will be made up of 10 teams and these 10 teams will be separated into two five-team conferences. All of the teams will play seven games matches each starting this weekend (Saturday 2nd February), there will be two finals weeks and the AFLW Grand Final will be played in the last weekend of March.Each of the teams will play four teams in their own conference but also three teams from the other conference. This conference system is similar to how the NBA competition is structured. AFL’s head of women’s football Nicole Livingstone says the conference format best suits the AFLW competition “because part of our mantra with AFLW is to be unique and innovative, and we believe this is part of that progress,” Livingstone told AFL.com.au.
Adelaide Crows Preview:
If Erin Phillips is injury free, fit and firing then rest of the competition will need to watch out. Phillips played under an injury cloud towards the end of last season and she still was able to impact the match in Adelaide's favour. Fortunately for Adelaide they did not lose any players in the AFLW expansion, however they did lose versatile forward Ruth Wallace who had a lot of upside due to personal reasons and Jess Allen to work commitments. In the off season, Adelaide acquired the playing services of great young talent in small midfielder Nikki Gore who is extremely agile and is sure to impact games from the onset. They have also gained players from other clubs in Sophie Li from Carlton and Renee Forth from GWS Giants. Adelaide's backline is arguably the best in the competition with Chelsea Randall, Angela Foley and Courtney Cramey.
Brisbane Lions Preview:
The Brisbane Lions have been the best team of the past two AFLW seasons and definitely the unluckiest team making two consecutive grand finals but losing both. Brisbane Lions fans should be excited if the last two seasons are anything to go by, because their team would have learnt a lot from those devastating grand final losses and this will make them determined more than ever to have a red hot go in AFLW 3.0. Unfortunately the Brisbane Lions loss a number of players in the AFLW expansion including defenders Nicole Hildebrand and Tahlia Randall, midfielders Jamie Stanton, Brittany Gibson and Kaitlyn Ashmore. They also loss promising young gun Sophie Conway for this season who is out with a knee injury. The Lions acquired young talent from the draft with Paige Parker who has a lot of potential for a youngster but also needs a lot more time to grow her game, she will be a player to watch and Natalie Grider a defender who can play through the middle will be handy for the Lions this season and in the future. The Lions still have a pretty strong and experienced list with Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Emma Zielke, Kate Lutkins, Sam Virgo and Leah Kaslar and Jess Weutschner. So could these experienced players help the Lions to make their third consecutive grand final or will the loss of star players be too big of a loss.
The first two AFLW seasons were seasons that the Carlton faithful would like to forget but these two seasons were huge learning experiences for the Carlton women’s team. Carlton is determined this season to be competitive and to let the lessons learnt in seasons pasts drive them this coming season. Since new head coach Daniel Harford joined the club at the end of last year, he has already changed is approach with the players and the whole vibe within the club is positive. Carlton acquired Collingwood midfielder Amelia Barden as a new recruit to the club to add experience and speed to their midfield. Also the club recruited two players from rugby backgrounds in Chloe Dalton and Brooke Walker. With these three new acquisitions you can see that Harford’s focus heading into AFLW 3.0 is to have a faster team. Also skillful and speedy midfielders will bring star forward Darcy Vescio into the game more and hopefully this will help them win more matches. Carlton third season in the AFLW will be interesting to say the least, as with a new coach there is a lot of unanswered questions such as have the blues improved as a side under Harford or will Carlton still lag behind the rest of the competition
Collingwood lost heaps of star players in the AFLW expansion including Moana Hope, Jasmine Garner and Jess Duffin to newcomers the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos. They also loss Christina Bernardi who is the clubs second best player to the GWS Giants and rising star and 2018 MVP from last year Chloe Molloy will be out for the whole season, as she recovers from her Lisfranc injury sustained in the VFLW. Amelia Barden went to Carlton and Caitlyn Edwards left the club to see where her rugby career takes her. Despite Collingwood losing a number of players they have also brought in a lot of young talent to the club via the AFLW draft including promising youngster Mikala Cann who is an amazing athlete with her speed, tackling and strength. Cann has so many more attributes to add to her game as she is a former basketballer who would be playing professional basketball if she was not playing in the AFLW. Collingwood will still be led by Steph Chiocci who has been a great leader in the past two seasons, so hopefully in AFLW 3.0 her leadership will lead Collingwood to more wins.
Geelong will be the new kids on the block in AFLW 3.0 but they will not let that affect their chances of impacting the competition this season with a host of their talent being recruited locally including 2018 number one draft pick Morrison, Purcell and Taylor. They also have put their faith in a lot of young players who they have recruited, but there are heaps of uncertainties when it comes to Geelong's chances in their inaugural season like can they win many matches with their young list and possibly be the surprise packet of the competition or will cats fans have to wait till next season to boost their list with experienced players to win more matches.
GWS Giants Preview:
On paper the GWS Giants look especially strong with Irishwoman and mercurial player Cora Staunton playing incredible up forward and down back and if she continues her form from last season then the rest of the competition will have no answers for her. With skipper Amanda Farrugia leading the way again this season for the GWS Giants, the team will be in good hands for a third consecutive year. If, young gun Rebecca Beeson can continue her brilliance rising star form from last season then that will be an added bonus for the GWS Giants. The Giants have Courtney Gum who arguably was the second best midfielder last season behind Emma Kearney and if she can continue her stellar form this will be great for the team. Alicia Eva is also in the midfield and her midfield attributes such as her footy knowledge and skills could make her the best in the competition if it was not for her small stature and do not forget about Jess Dal Pos who had a outstanding season in the inaugural AFLW but her form went down last season, so if her form lifts that will boost the Giants through the middle. They also added young midfield talent in last season's draft in Alyce Parker and another Irishwoman/Gaelic star in Yvonne Bonner and if Bonner has a superb debut season like Staunton did then the Giants scoring will be heavily improved.
Fremantle Dockers Preview:
In the past two seasons, the Fremantle Dockers have been competitive but unfortunately this competitiveness has not helped them to win many games. The Fremantle Dockers will hope that their scoring will improve, as they picked up promising young forward duo Phillipa Seth and Kiara Bowers in the off season. So hopefully for Fremantle fans they can help Ashley Sharp. Fremantle's midfield spine is strong with Kara Donnellan and Dana Hooker but they need more players to step up in the midfield for them. Evie Gooch and Ebony Antonio have both been incredible half-backs causing headaches for opposition forwards. Fremantle acquired Sabreena Duffy in the draft, so she will boost the team through the centre. A big improvement area for Fremantle is they need to hit targets. They lack position players in their team, so this might be what let's them down this season. Hopefully in AFLW 3.0, Fremantle can continue to lead hte AFLW with the average clearances per game and can win the ball like in the previous two seasons.
With the AFLW expansion meant that Melbourne lost loads of talented players including Rocky Cranston and Mel Hickey to the two new teams and with the absence of Daisy Pearce this season who's pregnant with twins, who will step up in her absence. Will Karen Paxman lift another notch and become an A-grade midfielder for Melbourne, she had a lot of good spurts in games but will she in AFLW 3.0 take the next step and win matches single-handedly like Adelaide's Erin Phillips. Hopefully for Melbourne fans forward Tegan Cunningham will continue to give the opposition headaches with her height and strong marking hands. If everything goes well for Cunningham this season with the delivery from her midfielders into the forward line then she will kick a bag of goals in a number of matches this season. Also if young forward Eden Zanker becomes potent up forward then Melbourne could be the highest scoring team in AFLW 3.0. Arguably Melbourne's main asset is their midfield but other teams such as the GWS Giants and Adelaide Crows have strengthened their midfields. Even though Melbourne has a strong list they still have not made the Grand Final as in the past two seasons they lost matches to teams lower to them on the ladder, but if they fix this then they will be a threat again this season.
North Melbourne Preview:
North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos in it's inaugural season have acquired huge star players in former Western Bulldogs captain, 2018 MVP and premiership player Emma Kearney and Western Bulldogs teammate Jenna Bruton, Collingwood trio Moana Hope, Jasmine Garner and Jess Duffin, Brisbane Lions trio Kaitlyn Ashmore, Brittany Gibson and Tahlia Randall, Carlton duo Danielle Hardiman and Kate Gillespie-Jones and Melbourne duo Emma Humphries and Jasmine Grierson. Acquiring all these star players looks great on paper but the real test for North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos will be whether all these players can work well in the same team in AFLW 3.0 and be a real threat come finals time or will it take a few more seasons for the team to make the finals.
Western Bulldogs Preview:
The Western Bulldogs lost their biggest star and the league's MVP Emma Kearney who was a stalwart for them through the midfield for the past two seasons and they also loss fellow midfielder Jenna Bruton in the AFLW Expansion. Also in the expansion they lost ruck/forward Aasta O'Connor to Geelong and due to the fact they are the reigning premiers means they did not acquire high draft picks. If, Katie Brennan is fit and healthy this season then that will boost the Western Bulldog's up forward and through the middle. With Brennan in the side the Western Bulldog's are a stronger team. Unfortunately Izzy Huntington who was great last season will be out for the whole season with a knee injury and she will be a massive loss for the Western Bulldog's, as she added another dimension to their forward line and she worked well with Brennan. With Huntington out, Kearney and Bruton moving to North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos means that midfielders Naomi Ferres and Angelica Gogos will need to fill the void left by these players and Bonnie Toogood and Brooke Lochland hopefully continues their great form from last season into AFLW 3.0. If the Western Bulldogs strength up forward fires then this will boost their chances in AFLW 3.0.
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