IT IS fair to say that the 2022 AFL Women’s season did not go to plan for the West Coast Eagles. The struggling side only managed the one win from 10 games, and while they were not predicted to push for finals, no doubt would have loved to have been competitive in more games. So what exactly went wrong? How can they address it in Season 7 and how much can they achieve to come away with a pass mark?
2022 SEASON – WHAT WENT WRONG?
West Coast’s sole win came against fellow battlers St Kilda by two points at Trevor Barker Oval, in a game best known for its inaccurate kicking. Both sides did their best to kick themselves out of the game, with the nail-biting finish going the way of the visitors by two points. A week later they fell three points short of Geelong and actually had premiership contender Collingwood on the ropes in Round 6, before fading late and going down by four goals. A seven-goal effort against Richmond was valiant, but again fell by 23 points, before a disastrous finish to the season. A 74-point thrashing at home to Brisbane was the worst defeat at that point – before Melbourne’s win over Fremantle – and then they only managed one goal in Round 9 against a young Western Bulldogs outfit. A 39-point loss to North Melbourne to close out the season could not come fast enough, as their three highest defeats came in the final three rounds.
- Ranked 14th in Disposals (185.5 per game)
- Ranked 14th in Handballs (62.1 per game, 35 less than Melbourne)
- Ranked 11th in Tackles (52.4 per game)
- Ranked 13th in Goals (3.1 per game)
Put simply, the Eagles could not get their hands on the ball, and they were not able to consistently impact defensively or offensively compared to their opponents. It is one thing to be ranked low in disposals – and the Eagles were last – but they also struggled with defensive measures such as tackling, and then only averaged the three goals per game. Though it might seem all doom and gloom, there were some positives to come out of the season.
- The successful return of Dana Hooker
- Bella Lewis having a huge season
- Charlotte Thomas becoming an instant star
- Every available listed player cracking through for a game
It might not have been a season to remember, but the pieces are there for the future, and the likes of Charlotte Thomas and Isabella Lewis were shining lights. They are among the top young players in the competition, while Dana Hooker‘s return from long-term injury was important. Though a lot of players would depart the club in the off-season, getting experience into some of the young players will be critical for the future success of the club.
West Coast has had a massive overhaul of its list over the off-season with 12 players departing, almost half of its list. Five of those came through retirements, with another five heading to other AFL Women’s clubs. They were able to receive compensation picks, the ability to pre-list players and traded their way to effectively pick seven of the best West Australians in the draft.
The biggest loss over the off-season was that of young gun Mikayla Bowen who headed to Geelong. One of the fiercest tacklers in the game, her disposal numbers dropped but she was still efficient with her ball use. Losing both Niamh Kelly and Grace Kelly will hurt, but both dropped off from the season before. It was a similar story for Maddy Collier who dropped from 13.4 disposals in 2021 to 7.3 in 2022, as well as a disposal efficiency drop off of 49.6 to 36.5, yet had more time on ground. Those players were looking for fresh starts, and the club can benefit just as much as the player in some situations.
No doubt the loss of Parris Laurie to retirement will hurt, and with Andrea Gilmore also hanging up the boots, it means Sarah Lakay (99) was the only player remaining who had multiple hitouts in season 2022. Being able to recruit the high-upside talent in Isabella Simmons is a perfect example of where a change of scenery can be looked at as an improvement for both club and player, while Jessica Sedunary will add the midfield depth lost. Similarly, the draftees coming in provide something different, headlined by prized top draftee, Ella Roberts.
IN: Jess Sedunary (Adelaide), Krystel Petrevski, Isabella Simmons (Melbourne), Kate Bartlett, Ella Smith, Sasha Goranova, Ella Roberts, Lauren Wakfer, Abbygail Bushby, Zoe Wakfer, Emily Elkington, Jaide Britton, Mikayla Western, Eleanor Hartill
OUT: Tayla Bresland, Melissa Caulfield, Andrea Gilmore, Courtney Guard, Parris Laurie (retired), Ashlee Atkins, Lauren Gauci (delisted), Mikayla Bowen (Geelong), Maddy Collier (Sydney), Niamh Kelly (Adelaide), Grace Kelly (St Kilda), Amber Ward (Adelaide)
West Coast’s biggest inclusion will be that of Roberts, who immediately adds star power to the forwardline, and can push up to the wing. One of, if not the most talented junior footballer to come through the pathway thus far, Roberts is someone who can equally complement a side, and be a driving force into creating success. The Eagles also picked up two wingers who provide incredible run and carry in Jaide Britton and Mikayla Western, while Abbygail Bushby also has that speed to burn. They wanted to add that touch of pace to help move the ball, and of those three, Britton is the most reliable with ball-in-hand, while Western and Bushby can both impact the scoreboard.
Up forward, Roberts’ Peel Thunder teammate Kate Bartlett earned her third chance on an AFLW list – and second with West Coast – having won successive leading goalkicker awards in the WAFL Women’s competition. Bartlett is just a natural goalkicker with great footy smarts, and has improved other areas of her game to get her back onto the list again. Simmons and Petrevski can also help in that transition between midfield and forward, with Sedunary’s hard running an important factor too. Add in readymade midfielders in Claremont duo Ella Smith and Sasha Goranova, as well as teammate and skilful small Emily Elkington and most of the inclusions can impact in some way. Though Lauren Wakfer will miss Season 7 and the likes of Zoe Wakfer and newcomer Eleanor Hartill are developing which might leave the ruck stocks thin on experience, the Eagles have headed in the right direction.
WHAT CAN THEY ACHIEVE?
West Coast is a side that could, and should pick up a few wins throughout the season. The key loss was Bowen, who in turn has been replaced by much greater depth in the midfield, so the ruck stocks are the only major question mark. Losing defender Evie Gooch to a wrist injury for Season 7 does not help either, but the Eagles have a lot of players who can now roll into other positions and provide some run and carry.
In terms of pure win-loss records, the West Australian side plays expansion clubs Port Adelaide and Essendon in the first three rounds, as well as Hawthorn and Richmond back-to-back in Rounds 6-7. The other key home game against the Western Bulldogs will be circled as ones they are keen to get, with the remaining fixtures against Gold Coast Suns (away), GWS GIANTS (away), Fremantle, Geelong (away) and Melbourne (away) the tougher half of the draw.
In other words, there are five potential winnable games if they can really begin to turn the West into a fortress, though it will take time. If they can beat the expansion sides, then that will give them confidence later in the season. They might not be a finals contender, but if fans can see hope, then it will go a long way. The Eagles have the talent, it is now putting the results – be it wins or other Key Performance Indicators – on the board.