Potential Best 21s – AFLW Season 7: Collingwood, Essendon, Fremantle
LATER this month the AFL Women’s Season 7 will kick off and there is plenty to get excited about. While preseasons are underway and coaches are trying to work out a Round 1 lineup, we delved into what each of the sides could look like next season. Over a six-part series, we will examine three teams at a time, and in today’s article we focus on Collingwood, Essendon and Fremantle.
The short turnaround in seasons has a different impact on different sides, with Collingwood one of those teams that will be disadvantaged. Missing their two best midfielders – and two of their top three players – due to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, the Magpies will be looking for others to step up in the absence of Brianna Davey and Brittany Bonnici. They recruited midfielders to help with that, including readymade types like Charlotte Taylor and Imogen Evans, as well as the rapidly improved Charlotte Blair.
In 2022 the Magpies missed key stars, and with a sprinkling of other injuries and COVID-19 forced outs, Collingwood limped into the finals series. They have the likes of Mikala Cann and Tarni Brown who helped shoulder the load for Jaimee Lambert, and replaced the outgoing Sophie Alexander with Geelong young gun Olivia Barber. They picked up Richmond defender Sarah Sansonetti, which could lead to the much improved and outstanding defender in Ruby Schleicher moving further afield. The big question mark will be over Ash Brazill given her netball commitments, but the Commonwealth Games will be done by then. The Magpies have plenty of upside and good depth despite the key injuries, and should at worst be competing for finals, but should find themselves inside the top six teams. Once they regain Davey and Bonnici, expect them to be a bonafide contender.
COLLINGWOOD POTENTIAL BEST 21:
B: Jordyn Allen – Stacey Livingstone
HB: Ash Brazill – Ruby Schleicher – Lauren Butler
C: Steph Chiocci – Jaimee Lambert – Sarah Rowe
HF: Eliza James – Olivia Barber – Aishling Sheridan
F: Chloe Molloy – Sabrina Frederick
R: Alison Downie – Mikala Cann – Tarni Brown
INT: Alana Porter – Lauren Brazzale – Sophie Casey – Erica Fowler – Charlotte Taylor
EMG: Eloise Chaston – Sarah Sansonetti – Imogen Evans
Remaining players: Imogen Barnett, Charlotte Blair, Joanna Lin, Jordan Membrey, Abbi Moloney, Emily Smith (rookie)
Inactive: Brittany Bonnici (knee injury), Brianna Davey (knee injury)
The first of four expansion sides to predict Best 21s, Essendon is naturally tricky given there is a mix of readymade talent and youth coming through the program. The Bombers were dealt a big blow when spiritual skipper and Bomber through and through Georgia Nanscawen heartbreakingly did her ACL in the VFLW Grand Final. She will miss Season 7, with the hope the former Roo can return in 2023 bigger and better than ever. The Bombers biggest recruits over the off-season included Carlton duo Madison Prespakis and Georgia Gee as well as tall forwards, Magpies’ Sophie Alexander and Western Bulldogs’ Bonnie Toogood.
The midfield has a nice balance between inside and outside depth, with outstanding winger Stephanie Cain and fellow hard runner Daria Bannister likely to utilise their experience gained at strong clubs with the expansion side. Ex-Sun Alana Barba and ex-Saint Catherine Phillips rounds out the midfield, with Carlton VFLW ruck Jorja Borg getting her chance at the top level. Having drafted a couple of high upside talents in Amber Clarke and Paige Scott, the Bombers forward line has next looked stronger. The defender is less experienced despite Bulldog Ellyse Gamble, with another ex-Dog in Danielle Marshall getting a second crack and ex-Cat Sophie Van De Heuvel likely to provide plenty of run off half-back. Overall the Bombers have built an exciting squad, and will be thereabouts competing for finals, but will need to control the midfield in order to get it done.
ESSENDON POTENTIAL BEST 21:
B: Danielle Marshall – Mia Busch
HB: Sophie Van De Heuvel – Ellyse Gamble – Alex Morcom
C: Steph Cain – Catherine Phillips – Daria Bannister
HF: Amber Clarke – Bonnie Toogood – Georgia Gee
F: Paige Scott – Sophie Alexander
R: Jorja Borg – Madison Prespakis – Alana Barba
INT: Jacqui Vogt – Renee Tierney – Jess Wuetschner – Frederica Frew – Jordan Zanchetta
EMG: Joanne Doonan – Caitlin Sargent – Isabella Ayre
Remaining players: Olivia Barton, Mia Van Dyk, Ashleigh Van Loon, Stephanie Wales, Lily-Rose Williamson
Inactive: Eloise Ashley-Cooper, Georgia Nanscawen
Another genuine contender for the Season 7 AFL Women’s title, the Dockers lost some talent over the off-season, but have enough youth ready to take the leap. Gemma Houghton‘s defection to Port will hurt the Dockers, but they have the combination of Roxanne Roux and Amy Franklin which will be the most exciting tall forward combination in the league. The midfield is untouched bar Cain’s departure, and with the winger leaving, they picked up hard-running Crow Nikki Gore who can play either midfield role, but slot straight onto Cain’s wing and provide that run with Airlie Runnalls.
Most of the team is largely untouched, with the defence and midfield otherwise writing itself. Janelle Cuthbertson is a rock at full-back, while Sarah Verrier has potential to roll through the midfield when required. In attack, Makaela Tuhakaraina provided the spark, and Ebony Antonio went to another level, with Kara Antonio unfortunately requiring surgery for a recent hamstring tear, so has not been included in this potential best 21. Of the draftees, most are readymade, with Madeleine Scanlon perhaps getting first chance, but Megan Kauffman and Amy Mulholland are able to slot straight in when required.
FREMANTLE POTENTIAL BEST 21:
B: Janelle Cuthbertson – Laura Pugh
HB: Emma O’Driscoll – Ange Stannett – Sarah Verrier
C: Airlie Runnalls – Kiara Bowers – Nikki Gore
HF: Makaela Tuhakaraina – Amy Franklin – Ebony Antonio
F: Gabby O’Sullivan – Roxy Roux
R: Mim Strom – Hayley Miller – Dana East
INT: Phillipa Seth – Sarah Wielstra – Jess Low – Mikayla Hyde – Aine Tighe
EMG: Bianca Webb – Matilda Sergeant – Madeleine Scanlon
Remaining players: Kara Antonio*, Megan Kauffman, Orlagh Lally (rookie), Amy Mulholland, Tahlia Read, Tara Stribley
Inactive: Ashley Sharp (maternity leave), Mikayla Morrison (knee injury)
*Recovering from hamstring surgery