Season 7 AFLW preview: Fremantle

THOUGH Fremantle was thereabouts once again the AFL Women’s last season, the Dockers could not quite replicate the 2020 season, which in many ways will be a hard one to forget. They were unbeaten at the top of the table and premiership favourites, only for COVID-19 and the AFL to call off the season. In the two seasons that have followed, the Dockers finished fifth both times, but moved within a win of the grand final last season. Though having lost some talent, Fremantle remains a team on the precipice of glory.


Position: 5th (4th after finals)
Win-loss: 7-3
Percentage: 134.9
Best & Fairest: Hayley Miller
Leading Goalkicker: Ebony Antonio & Hayley Miller


IN: Nikki Gore (Adelaide), Orlagh Lally (Gaelic – rookie), Madeleine Scanlon (Claremont), Tara Stribley (Swan Districts), Megan Kauffman (Wembley), Amy Mullholland (Subiaco), Tahlia Read (Calder Cannons)

OUT: Steph Cain (Essendon), Gemma Houghton, Maggie MacLachlan (Port Adelaide), Jasmin Stewart (retired), Ann McMahon, Tiah Toth, Sabreena Duffy (delisted)


Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio, Kiara Bowers, Janelle Cuthbertson, Dana East, Amy Franklin, Nikki Gore, Mikayla Hyde, Megan Kauffman, Orlagh Lally (rookie), Jess Low, Hayley Miller, Amy Mulholland, Emma O’Driscoll, Gabby O’Sullivan, Laura Pugh, Tahlia Read, Roxy Roux, Airlie Runnalls, Madeleine Scanlon, Matilda Sergeant, Philipa Seth, Angelique Stannett, Tara Stribley, Mim Strom, Aine Tighe, Makaela Tuhakaraina, Sarah Verrier, Bianca Webb, Sarah Wielstra

Inactive: Ashley Sharp (maternity leave), Mikayla Morrison (knee injury)


Round 1: @ Brisbane | Gabba
Round 2: vs. Geelong | Fremantle Oval
Round 3: @ Western Bulldogs | IKON Park
Round 4: vs. Carlton | Fremantle Oval
Round 5: @ West Coast | Optus Stadium
Round 6: vs. Melbourne | Fremantle Oval
Round 7: @ Adelaide | Wigan Oval
Round 8: vs. Collingwood | Fremantle Oval
Round 9: @ Sydney | Henson Park
Round 10: vs. Hawthorn | Fremantle Oval

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


Already sharing a league best and fairest, Bowers is a player who fans know exactly what they are going to get. Along with Dockers captain Hayley Miller, the pair are among the most consistent players in the competition, and form a really strong on-ball duo around some young or inexperienced players who are continuing to develop. Expect Bowers to be near the top of the leaderboard in the W Medal given her high-volume tackling and incredible ball-winning ability.

BIG YEAR FOR: Amy Franklin

This could be the year that the athletic forward takes the competition by storm. With no Gemma Houghton, the Dockers will be crying out for a second key target alongside Roxanne Roux. Franklin has enormous potential, and if both she and Roux can live up to that potential, they will be the most exciting key forward duo in the competition. Her athleticism for her size is incredible, and she can hurt the opposition in so many ways. With continuity and consistency, she can become a star.


Is Fremantle capable of winning the flag?

Fremantle is in the box of ‘they could, but would need a lot to go right’. The Dockers have the talent on paper, with elite midfielders, rising star forwards and outstanding defenders. The big question mark is whether the youth is able to take that next step, with the likes of Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne that one step ahead from that regard, and particularly in terms of experience. If the Dockers can find that consistent brand of footy, then watch out.

How does Trent Cooper shuffle that forwardline?

The loss of Houghton will hurt, with the key forward booting nine goals last season, one behind Miller and Ebony Antonio. The fact Miller was able to hit the scoreboard so often was a credit to her ridiculous 2022 season, and at the same time allowed Franklin (two games), Roux (eight) and Tuhakaraina (nine) to find their feet. Franklin should be a lock in that forwardline this season, and that trio will be box office good. They have the experience in Antonio and Gabby O’Sullivan there, though will be without Kara Antonio for a large portion of the season. The bigger issue from Houghton’s departure is the marks inside 50, where she took a team-high 15, ranked inside the top 10 for the league.

What can Nikki Gore offer to the Dockers?

As the only recruit with previous AFLW experience, Gore is a hard running balanced midfielder who might slot onto a wing, but can easily play on-ball to allow the likes of Miller to go forward. Gore played eight games for the Crows in 2022, including in the AFLW Grand Final. Not only does Gore bring experience from the Crows success, but from playing on the biggest stage. She fills a hole between the Dockers most experience and green shoots, adding greater depth and versatility to the midfield.

Are there any holes in the Dockers’ lineup?

Not really, no. Fremantle is well balanced across the three lines, and it is a credit to the recruiting and coaching staff for building a list that will contend. It seems incredibly unlikely that Fremantle would not be challenging at the pointy end of the season, it will be just whether or not the Dockers could overcome those top three sides. If the likes of Franklin, Roux, Gore, Dana East and Mikayla Hyde continue to improve, anything is possible.


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