IT WAS a fascinating weekend of AFL Women’s practice matches that took place ahead of a huge Season 7, with all 18 teams taking to the field for the first time in competitive matchplay. The four new sides – Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney – made their maiden appearances, while the likes of Melbourne and Richmond had massive wins. Here’s a few takeaways from the weekend.
Brisbane and Melbourne the early teams to beat
Though one can never sleep on Adelaide, and North Melbourne genuinely looks likely to take another big leap forward, the two teams that stood out the most from the weekend were the Lions and Demons. Brisbane crushed St Kilda early, then was able to hold firm against the Saints’ best efforts at Moorabbin. New recruit Dee Heslop slotted in seamlessly, Lily Postlethwaite successfully returned from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and the team is still able to add Shannon Campbell and potentially Kate Lutkins to that side. Melbourne also had its way with Carlton on the MCG, as the Demons ran riot early and late, with Kate Hore and Tyla Hanks among a plethora of multiple goalkickers as the reigning grand finalists look to go one step better in Season 7.
Bombers and Power look good when game is on their terms
Though both showed areas that other teams could exploit, expansion sides Essendon and Port Adelaide impressed during their clash at The Hangar. Port dominated the first half, with Gemma Houghton and Erin Phillips outstanding, and Abbey Dowrick best-on in defeat. Essendon’s defence is young and inexperienced, with sides likely to take advantage of that throughout the season. Port on the other hand, has gone an even younger route for its inaugural squad, so when experience such as Houghton is off the field or being nullified, then the Power will need others to step up. Essendon showed that though inexperienced, its older group in the front half of the field against the younger Power defence, was crucial in getting over the top. First-gamer Paige Scott was a standout, while Bonnie Toogood went to work in the second half alongside Federica Frew as the pair combined for five goals.
Wounded Pies means magnet-shuffling season
Given two of Collingwood’s best midfielders in Brianna Davey and Brittany Bonnici will be missing due to ACL injuries, the Magpies were always going to be challenged with depth on-ball. Chloe Molloy and Ruby Schleicher were two strong answers in there, with the speedy Aishling Sheridan also roaming through there. At times, youngsters Charlotte Taylor and Imogen Evans also rotated through there, and of course the Magpies were minus Jaimee Lambert and Mikala Cann in the contest. It will be a very flexible midfield unit at the Pies in Season 7, and it will be fascinating to see how they fare out of the middle, particularly against the more experienced sides.
Swans, Hawks fans will need patience
There is clearly talent on both lists, with the youth of Sydney and Hawthorn really impressive, headlined by top AFLW Draft picks, Montana Ham and Jasmine Fleming respectively. However, as evidenced by the results against strong, cohesive units, it will be a tough initiation for the expansion sides. Sydney was competitive for a half, and particularly impressive for the first term against Collingwood, while the Hawks could not quite find the rhythm required against the Tigers. Though long-term both these sides will be incredibly exciting to watch, fans have to be patient with what they can produce. Other players such as Cynthia Hamilton, Lauren Szigeti and Aimee Whelan looked good for the Swans, while Bridie Hipwell, Charlotte Baskaran and Mackenzie Eardley will form an outstanding core in the future for the Hawks.
Dockers’ forward line a worry
Fremantle came into the season still as one of the teams to beat despite the loss of Houghton to Port Adelaide, but since then, both Ebony Antonio and Kara Antonio have suffered long-term injuries, with Ebony’s posterior cruciate ligament injury ruling her out for the season. The trio kicked 25 goals between them last season, with only shared leading goalkicker and captain Hayley Miller (10 goals) and youngster Mikayla Hyde (six) kicking more than three goals. It will certainly be a headache for coach Trent Cooper, with the sheer quality missing no doubt impacting any side. It will be time for talls Roxanne Roux and Amy Franklin to step up, while Gabby O’Sullivan should return to more forward minutes, and Dana East is also capable of doing the same and hitting the scoreboard. Without a doubt the most impressive inclusion in the wet and muddy conditions was mature-age talent Megan Kauffman who slotted both of Fremantle’s goals, including the match winner in the final term. so she could be the answer they are looking for in Season 7.