FOR the first time this season, there were no AFL Women’s debutants unveiled across the latest round of action, but plenty of rising stars impressed nonetheless. We take a look at how those in their debut campaigns performed this past weekend – either first-year players, or those who were yet to make their AFL Women’s debut despite being on a club’s list prior to 2022.
Adelaide cemented its status as one of the top two teams to beat in 2022, after a nine-point away win over Fremantle in Round 8. The Crows have rotated a few first year talents through their settled side, and West Adelaide product Abbie Ballard was the latest to return after her strong SANFLW form. She notched nine disposals in the win.
The Dockers have been served well by a bunch of fresh faces, hardly any more so than VFLW coup Airlie Runnalls. The impressive mature-ager had a career-high 21 touches and booted her maiden senior goal, which came on the end of a courageous mark inside attacking 50.
Irishwoman Aine Tighe was again solid with four marks from 11 disposals, with Jess Low (11 disposals, six tackles) another to get her hands dirty. Also among the first year players to feature for Freo were youngsters Dana East, Mikayla Morrison, and Makaela Tuhakaraina.
Geelong jumped Richmond into 11th with its second win of the season, defeating the Tigers by 23 points on Saturday. The Cats were fierce with their pressure, and it showed in the stats of some of their first year players. Namely, star draftee Georgie Prespakis (nine tackles) and Rachel Kearns (seven) got stuck in, while first round Falcons product Gabbi Featherston took three marks among her four touches.
That kind of work rate was seen in yellow and black through the agency of mature-ager Meagan Kiely, who laid a high of 14 tackles for the Tigers. Fellow draftee Stella Reid returned to the fold and managed three touches, while Tigers top-up Meg Macdonald notched six to go with her five tackles.
Melbourne’s premiership credentials were stamped on Saturday as the Dees downed North Melbourne at a typically windy Casey Fields. The home side has been serviced well by VFLW promotee Eliza West thus far, and that trend continued as she earned three clearances among 11 disposals. Tahlia Gillard also featured, backing up her Round 7 debut with eight touches and a couple of tackles.
North Melbourne also had a VFLW recruit fare well, in the form of former Collingwood reserves talent Jasmine Ferguson. She picked up eight disposals, while 2020 father-daughter selection Amy Smith had it five times with two clearances among her contribution.
St Kilda finally got on the board for season 2022, relieving a bit of pressure with its thrilling three-point win over Gold Coast on Sunday. The Saints again blooded their two top 2021 draftees, in Ella Friend (10 disposals) and Ashleigh Richards (seven, two marks), with 24-year-old Lucy Burke (six and two) also continuing her run in the side.
Dropping crucial points with just two rounds left to play, Gold Coast was served well by mature-age forward Tara Bohanna, who booted another three goals to rack up over half of her side’s total score. Number one draft pick Charlie Rowbottom was again strong for her 11 touches and six tackles, while Shannon Danckert and Jacqui Dupuy rounded out the Suns’ first year contributors.
There were only two first year players afield as Collingwood picked up a vital four points against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday, and both were 2021 draftees. The pick of the two was Magpies forward Eliza James, who earned a Rising Star nomination for her 14 disposals, six tackles and goal in a big win.
Meanwhile, James’ representative and NAB League adversary last year, Elizabeth Snell turned out for her sixth game in red, white and blue. The hard-nosed 19-year-old managed four touches and a couple of tackles, but has impressed with her competitiveness this season.
Brisbane’s record-breaking win over West Coast saw a bunch of relatively fresh faces take the field for either side. Two turned out for the victors, including the exciting Zimmorlei Farquharson (eight disposals, eight tackles). Mature-ager Lucinda Pullar also returned for her fifth game of the season, collecting seven touches.
West Coast’s now usual band of first year prospects also played their part. Charlotte Thomas was impressive again for her 13 disposals, while Sarah Lakay won 10 hitouts and midfielder Courtney Rowley was quiet with three touches. Emily Bennett also backed up her debut, taking three marks from six disposals.
Carlton rounded out the weekend’s action with an 18-point win over Greater Western Sydney (GWS), with plenty to like from its latest crop. Keeley Sherar (12 disposals, five marks, five tackles) again impressed with her speed on the wing, while Jess Good (11 disposals, three hitouts) continues to provide solid key position fold. Speaking of, Paige Trudgeon was strong in defence, and Courtney Jones again hit the scoreboard up forward.
Irishwoman Brid Stack was again resolute in defence with eight touches, continuing her solid debut season. Ally Dallaway (11 disposals, three tackles) also stood up in the loss, with Emily Pease and Brodee Mowbray turning out once more in charcoal and orange.