Season 2021 looms as a do-over for every AFLW club. With no reigning premier, who will be there when the whips are cracking? CLUB-BY-CLUB PREVIEW
Season 2021 looms as a do-over for every AFLW club. With no reigning premier, who will be there when the whips are cracking? CLUB-BY-CLUB PREVIEW

Who will top AFLW in 2021? Every club rated

We are less than a week away from Round 1 of the new AFL Womens season.

AFLW guru Liz Walsh runs the rule over every club and looks into her crystal ball for some bold predictions.

The indomitable Erin Phillips needs no introduction. Picture: Sarah Reed
The indomitable Erin Phillips needs no introduction. Picture: Sarah Reed

 

ADELAIDE

Coach: MATTHEW CLARKE

Captain: CHELSEA RANDALL

Last season: The 2019 premiers were unable to back up their exceptional form in 2020, winning only two games from six and missing finals. Injuries - particularly ACLs - ravaged the team, with All-Australian defender Chelsea Randall missing the entire season along with premiership-winners Hannah Martin and Chloe Scheer.

Ins: Jessica Sedunary (St Kilda), Lisa Whiteley (GWS), Hannah Munyard (Western Bulldogs), Teah Charlton, Rachelle Martin, Ashleigh Woodland (drafted).

Outs: Courtney Cramey, Courtney Gum, Jess Foley, Sophie Li (all retired), Nicole Campbell, Jaimi Tabb (delisted).

 

 

Star power: The Crows are stacked with talent including midfielders Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff, with Chelsea Randall down back. But in this team, you can't go past two-time All-Australia, two-time league best and fairest, two-time grand final best on ground Erin Phillips as their biggest and best star power.

Season forecast: With an almost fully fit list to pick from and stars Randall and Phillips both expected to play the entire season being backed up by the likes of youngsters Danielle Ponter and Eloise Jones, expect to see the Crows surge back up the ladder and into contention.

Predicted finish: Top 4

 

 

 

 

BRISBANE

Coach: CRAIG STARCEVICH

Captain: EMMA ZIELKE

Last season: After starting their season off with a surprise win over reigning premiers Adelaide, the Lions recorded three straight wins and went on to finish third in Conference A after a draw against cross-state rivals Gold Coast and then two losses. Were then soundly beaten by Carlton in the semi-final.

Ins: Taylor Smith (Gold Coast), Courtney Hodder (rookie), Zimmoreli Farquharson, Ruby Svarc, Indy Tahau (drafted), Beth Pinchin (replacement player)

Outs: Arianna Clarke (retired), Lucy Bellinger, Hannah Hillman, Brianna McFarlance (delisted), Sharni Webb, Gabby Collingwood (inactive)

Star power: All-Australian defender Kate Lutkins averaged three rebound-50s and one inside-50 a game, to go along with her 13 touches in 2020. New draftee Indy Tahau, 18, who has been a standout star in the South Australian league, should fit in well at the Lions as a key position player and could be in line to debut.

Season forecast: Have managed to keep their list relatively intact over the trade period and drafted in some emerging young talent. Should continue to be around the mark.

Predicted finish: Expect them to challenge for finals. Finish 5-9

 

 

 

 

CARLTON

Coach: DANIEL HARFORD

Captain: KERRYN HARRINGTON and KATIE LOYNES

Last season: Finished second in Conference B, losing only one minor round game out of six and then easily accounted for Brisbane in the semi-final to advance to the prelim before the league was shut down. Their young midfielder Madison Prespakis went on to win the league best and fairest honour.

Ins: Maddy Guerin (Melbourne), Elise O'Dea (Melbourne), Charlotte Hammans (Gold Coast), Mimi Hill, Winnie Laing, Daisy Walker (drafted)

Outs: Sarah Hosking (Richmond), Jayde Van Dyk (St Kilda), Joanne Doonan, Katie Harrison, Sharnie Whiting, Emerson Woods (delisted) Chloe Dalton (inactive)

Star power: Elise O'Dea is a huge get for the Blues. The former co-captain at the Demons enters her fifth season in the AFLW still rated one of the top midfielders in the league. For her to play alongside the likes of Prespakis, Darcy Vescio and Tayla Harris will see her add experience as well as class.

Season forecast: The Blues will be around the mark yet again in 2021. They're going into the season on the back of beating North Melbourne by two goals in their pre-season practice game and will face traditional rival Collingwood in Round 1. Their list is an excellent mix of veteran experience and youthful exuberance.

Predicted finish: Top 4.

 

Co-captain Steph Chiocci is a driving force for the Pies. Picture: AAP
Co-captain Steph Chiocci is a driving force for the Pies. Picture: AAP

 

COLLINGWOOD

Coach: STEVE SYMONDS

Captain: STEPH CHIOCCI and BRIANNA DAVEY

Last season: Flourished under new coach Steve Symonds in his first AFLW season and finished fourth in the competitive Conference B with four wins and two losses and then went down in a thriller by two points to North Melbourne in the semi-final.

Ins: Abbey Green (North Melbourne), Aliesha Newman (Melbourne), Imogen Purcell (rookie), Tarni Brown, Joanna Lin, Abbie Moloney, Amelia Velardo, Amelia Velardo (drafted), Bella Smith (free agent)

Outs: Sarah D'Arcy (Richmond), Sarah Dargan (Richmond), Katie Lynch (Western Bulldogs), Kalia Bentvelzen, Emma Grant, Eliza Hynes, Machaelia Roberts (retired), Georgia Gourlay (delisted)

Star power: Former Australian netballer Sharni Norder (nee Layton) has fast become the leading ruck in the competition and was duly rewarded with All-Australian honours. She was named in the All-Australian team alongside teammate Jaimee Lambert who also took out the Magpies' club champion honour after her 22-disposal/game season. Both will only improve too.

Season forecast: Coach Symonds will no doubt enjoy his second season in charge at the Magpies and has managed to recruit some key talent in Aliesha Newman - the 2018 winner of Goal of the Year - from the Demons to add prowess into his forward line along with basketball cross-coder Imogen Purcell. Would be hoping to debut their first father-daughter pick in Tarni Brown this year too.

Predicted finish: Finals definitely on the cards: 4-8

 

Dominant midfielder Kiara Bowers is a big reason why the Dockers are premiership favourites. Picture: AAP
Dominant midfielder Kiara Bowers is a big reason why the Dockers are premiership favourites. Picture: AAP

 

FREMANTLE

Coach: TRENT COOPER

Captain: KARA ANTONIO

Last season: The Dockers became the first team in AFLW history to go unbeaten for a season when they won their six minor games and then smashed Gold Coast by 70 points in their semi-final. They were favourites for the 2020 premiership before the league was shut down because of COVID.

Ins: Jess Trend (North Melbourne), Tarnee Tester (West Coast), Tiah Haynes, Mikayla Morrison, Sarah Verrier (drafted), Maggie MacLachlan (injury replacement)

Outs: Taylah Bresland (West Coast), Mia-Rae Clifford, Sarah Garstone, Lindal Rohde (delisted), Kate Flood (unavailable)

Star power: Midfielder Kiara Bowers dominated last year not only for Freo, but she topped Champion Data's ranking points too, averaging an eye-watering 190 points per game. Bowers is a tackling machine, in 2020 averaging 14 tackles a game to go along with her 17-dispoals average.

Season forecast: The Dockers will go into 2021 as premiership favourites, not only on the back of last year's finish, but their ability to retain key players in not only Bowers, but Kara and Ebony Antonio and Gemma Houghton. The sort of footy they played in 2020 - hard, fast, skilful - set the standard and another pre-season will only have done them well.

Predicted finish: They will be hungry and this will be all about the unfinished business. Top 2.

 

 

GEELONG

Coach: PAUL HOOD

Captain: MEG McDONALD

Last season: Had two wins, which snapped a three-game losing streak, but ended with four losses in total to finish fifth in Conference A and miss out on finals. Heartbreakingly, the 2018 No. 1 draft pick, Nina Morrison, tore another ACL in their final match of the season.

Ins: Olivia Barber, Laura Gardiner, Darcey Moloney, Carly Remmos, Stephanie Williams, (drafted)

Outs: Melissa Hickey, Anna Teague (retired), Cassie Blakeway, Gemma Wright (delisted), Kate Darby (inactive)

Star power: One of the team's leading ball-getters, Olivia Purcell has risen to become an All-Australian half-forward, last year booting four goals from six games. In 2020, she averaged 20 disposals, three tackles, two rebound-50s and two inside-50s.

Season forecast: With their young squad - and five new faces who were all picked up in the draft - inexperience might be the team's bugbear. But there's an opportunity for new captain Meg McDonald to stamp her leadership skills on the group after the retirement of Mel Hickey.

Predicted finish: Will be hoping for more than the two wins they had in 2020, but likely to finish mid-range: 6-11

 

 

 

GOLD COAST

Coach: DAVID LAKE

Captain: HANNAH DUNN and SAM VIRGO

Last season: Had a great inaugural season in the AFLW, qualifying for finals after finishing fourth in Conference A (ahead of 2019 premiers Adelaide), thanks to their wins over fellow expansion clubs West Coast and Richmond and a draw with Brisbane.

Ins: Alison Drennan (St Kilda), Janet Baird, Anise Bradfield, Daisy D'Arcy, Bess Keaney, Maddison Levi, Sarah Perkins, Wallis Randell, Lucy Single (drafted)

Outs: Charlotte Hammans (Carlton), Taylor Smith (Brisbane), Tiarna Ernts (retired), Georgia Breward, Lexi Hamilton, Maddy Roberts, Tayla Thorn, Kitara Whap-Farrar (delisted), Jasmyn Hewtt (inactive).

Star power: Keep a watch on Sarah Perkins. The former Crow, who was an injury top-player for the Demons in 2020, won't be taking her second chance in the AFLW for granted. Was a fan-favourite in Adelaide and should delight fans up north. The fact that she has been elevated into the team's leadership group in her debut year in Suns' colours speaks volumes already.

Season forecast: Coach David Lake will relish his second season in charge having had another pre-season under his belt. The team will be looking to make up for their semi-final disappointment, where they were thrashed by 70 points at the hands of Fremantle, in which they scored 1.4 (10).

Predicted finish: 6-11

 

Cora Staunton’s Gaelic football talents translate beautifully to the Aussie game. Picture: AAP
Cora Staunton’s Gaelic football talents translate beautifully to the Aussie game. Picture: AAP

 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

Coach: ALAN McCONNELL

Captain: ALICIA EVA

Last season: Had their best year to date, with their four wins and two losses placing them second in Conference A. Qualified for finals with an impressive win over reigning premiers Adelaide, but went down in close battle to Melbourne in the semi-final.

Ins: Katherine Smith (Melbourne), Bird Stack (rookie), Tari Evans, Libby Graham, Emily Pease (drafted)

Outs: Lisa Whiteley (Adelaide), Ellie Brush, Maggie Gorham, Ingrid Nielsen (retired)

 

 

Star power: Cora Staunton is a superstar of Irish women's Gaelic football and is one of the backbones of this side. The veteran athlete brings elite stands to the team and a work ethic that is unsurpassed. Keep your eyes on young ball-magnet Alyce Parker in the middle of the ground, too.

Season forecast: The Giants will be up against it all season: the only AFLW club so far that's been asked to relocate because of COVID-19 border restrictions, the team has been away from its home base since January 1, training first in Albury in regional NSW and now in Adelaide. A devastating neck injury to new rookie Brid Stack has added another layer of difficulty to the pre-season. The club deserves huge accolades for the sacrifices their coaches and players are making to keep the season on track.

Predicted finish: 4-8.

 

 

 

MELBOURNE

Coach: MICK STINEAR

Captain: DAISY PEARCE

Last season: An inaugural 2017 club, the Demons made finals for the first time in 2020 as captain Daisy Pearce returned to the field after a season away on maternity leave. Had four wins (including an impressive Round 1 upset over the highly rated North Melbourne) and finished third in Conference B.

Ins: Lauren Magee (rookie), Alyssa Bannan, Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendell, Eliza McNamara, Isabelle Simmons (drafted)

Outs: Harriet Cordner (Richmond), Bianca Jakobsson (St Kilda), Aliesha Newman (Collingwood), Katherine Smith (GWS), Maddy Guerin (Carlton), Elise O'Dea (Carlton), Ainslie Kemp (delisted)

Star power: Reigning All-Australian captain, and Demon midfielder Karen Paxman has averaged more than 20 touches a game across her four seasons, while 23-year-old Libby Birch is developing as one of the best defenders in the league and made her first All-Australian team last year.

Season forecast: The Demons were one of the most talked-about teams during the trade period, farewelling six players including Aliesha Newman (to Collingwood) and veteran (and former co-captain) Elise O'Dea, who headed to Carlton after playing 28 games in the red and blue. What impact will that have on the side in 2021? It will certainly be up to the veterans of the side, including captain Pearce and the likes of Paxman to ensure the new-look squad keeps on track.

Predicted finish: 4-7.

 

Emma Kearney is an unstoppable force for the Roos. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Emma Kearney is an unstoppable force for the Roos. Picture: Zak Simmonds

 

NORTH MELBOURNE

Coach: DARREN CROCKER

Captain: EMMA KEARNEY

Last season: Having lost their opening round game to Melbourne, the Kangaroos went on their merry way winning their next six games straight, finishing top of conference A, and qualifying for the preliminary final, before the COVID pandemic shut down the season.

Ins: Grace Campbell (Richmond), Brooke Brown, Isabelle Eddey, Georgia Hammond, Alice O'Loughlin, Amy Smith (drafted).

Outs: Abbey Green (Collingwood), Jess Trend (Fremantle), Taylor Mesiti (retired), Chloe Haines, Libby Haines, Emma Humphries, Mairead Seoighe (delisted)

Star power: The midfield unit of this team is elite: with the likes of Jenna Bruton and Ashleigh Riddell. But Jasmine Garner is arguably the best player in the AFLW. Jess Duffin returns after maternity leave and it will be exciting to see her back on the field.

Season forecast: With a relatively stable squad, the Kangaroos will be looking to pick up their season where it left off - on a winning streak. Having narrowly missed out on making the preliminary final in 2019, getting there in 2020, they'll be looking to go one better in 2021 under new coach Darren Crocker.

Predicted finish: This side should finish Top 2.

 

 

 

RICHMOND

Coach: RYAN FERGUSON

Captain: KATIE BRENNAN

Last season: A disappointing, winless inaugural season for the Tigers, finishing bottom in conference A.

Ins: Harriet Cordner (Melbourne), Sarah D'Arcy (Collingwood), Sarah Dargan (Collingwood), Sarah Hosking (Carlton), Tessa Lavey, Luka Lesosky-Hay, Ellie McKenzie (drafted), Hannah McLaren (injury replacement).

Outs: Grace Campbell (North Melbourne), Laura Bailey, Lauren Tesoriero, Ella Wood (retired), Nekaela Butler, Ciara Fitzgerald, Emma Horne (delisted).

Star power: Monique Conti was a shining light in Richmond's first season, finishing equal seventh in the league best and fairest count after posting career-high stats almost across the board. The ball magnet, who in 2020 averaged 20 touches a game, is fun to watch.

Season forecast: Chasing their inaugural AFLW win, the Tigers were busy in last year's trade period, picking up a number of experienced key position players. Hosking, whom they picked up from Carlton where she'd been for four seasons, will boost the midfield, while D'Arcy (formerly Collingwood) will add marking power up forward. Expect captain Katie Brennan to have a big season too.

Predicted finish: Bottom 4. New coach. New year. Boom recruits, but it will likely still be tough for the Tigers.

 

 

 

ST KILDA

Coach: PETA SEARLE

Captain: HANNAH PRIEST, RHI WATT, CAT PHILLIPS and KATE SHIERLAW

Last season: The Saints inaugural season was filled with ups and downs, including two opening losses, but posted their first win with a five-point win over Melbourne and the following week went down to Fremantle valiantly by only one point, finishing fifth in Conference B with a 2-4 record.

Ins: Bianca Jakobsson (Melbourne), Jayde Van Dyk (Carlton), Alice Burke, Renee Saulitis, Tyanna Smith, Jacqueline Vogt (drafted), Tahlia Meyed (free agent), Jessica Matin (replacement player)

Outs: Emma Mackie, Courteney Munn (retired), Jess Sedunary (Adelaide), Alison Drennan (Gold Coast), Sammie Johnson, Melissa Kuys, Kelly O'Neill (delisted), Clara Fitzpatrick (inactive)

Star power: Caitlin Greiser - known as the "G-Train" - has all the makings of a cult star: she takes strong marks, is full of strength and then has a thumping kick that helped her take out the AFLW's leading goalkicking award in her first season at the elite level.

Season forecast: A young list that will learn loads under coach Peta Searle. With the likes of Rosie Dillon, Olivia Vesely, Georgia Patrikios and Greiser forming a good base of this side, the only way is up.

Predicted finish: Bottom 4

 

 

 

WEST COAST

Coach: DANIEL PRATT

Captain: EMMA SWANSON

Last season: The Eagles lured home Emma Swanson from Greater Western Sydney and poached the likes of Dana Hooker from cross-town rivals Fremantle for their inaugural season. But despite it, finished bottom of Conference B with one win from six games in their inaugural season.

Ins: Aisling McCarthy (Western Bulldogs), Tayla Bresland (Fremantle), Shanae Davison, Andrea Gilmore, Isabelle Lewis, Julie-Anne Norrish, (drafted), Lauren Gauci, Amber Ward (free agents), Demi Liddle (replacement player)

Outs: Emily Bonser, Talia Radan (retired), Kate Bartlet, Cassie Davidson, Emily McGuire, Danika Pisconeri, Tarnee Tester (delisted)

Star power: Midfielder Dana Hooker is one of the smoothest ball carriers in the game, who had a stellar season in her new colours - with career-best stats all-round, including averaging 19.7 disposals, 6.8 tackles, three rebound-50s and 2.8 inside-50s. A joy to watch.

Season forecast: The Eagles have enlisted new coach Daniel Pratt - taking over from inaugural coach Luke Dwyer - to steer them off the bottom of the ladder. Pratt has spent seven years as an assistant under men's AFL coach Adam Simpson. The Eagles have added midfield depth with Irish recruit Aisling McCarthy.

Predicted finish: Bottom 4.

 

Bulldog skipper Ellie Blackburn sets the tone for her charges. Picture: Michael Klein
Bulldog skipper Ellie Blackburn sets the tone for her charges. Picture: Michael Klein

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS

Coach: NATHAN BURKE

Captain: ELLIE BLACKBURN

Last season: A disappointing season from the 2018 premiers, finishing with just the one win in six games and missing finals after starting their year with a 25-point win over St Kilda.

Ins: Katie Lynch (Collingwood), Jess Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig, Isabelle Pritchard (drafted)

Outs: Aisling McCarthy (West Coast), Hannah Munyard (Adelaide), Nicole Callinan (retired), Katy Herron (inactive)

Star power: 2020's Rising Star, Isabel Huntington is a versatile, player who can play both ends of the field. She starred in defence in 2020 and being named All-Australia (the only Bulldog in the side), but has been spending some time up forward during this pre-season. Watch this space.

Season forecast: The second season under coach Nathan Burke should be better with another pre-season under the team's belt. With a relatively stable list, Burke can help lift his chargers to greater heights, for example, he's encouraging captain Ellie Blackburn to become the No. 1 midfielder in the league. Tall Katie Lynch has come across from Collingwood, as she seeks more game time.

Predicted finish: Should get more than one win in 2021. 6-10

 

 

 

Originally published as Who will top AFLW in 2021? Every club rated


‘Gentleman’ driver busted in Roma days after disqualification

Premium Content ‘Gentleman’ driver busted in Roma days after...

A man who tried to be a ‘gentleman’ by driving his car to a Roma pub while...

Landmark $440m settlement for 2011 flood victims

Premium Content Landmark $440m settlement for 2011 flood victims

Queensland flood victims seeking compensation have reached a major milestone

Roma cops bust drink driver coming back from fishing trip

Premium Content Roma cops bust drink driver coming back from fishing trip

A drunk driver who says he had nine or 10 Great Northerns stubbies throughout the...