2024 AFL Sydney Women’s Premier preview: Round 1

THIS weekend the 2024 AFL Sydney Women’s Premier League gets underway and there have been huge practical changes over the summer leading into the season. However the main question on everybody’s lips is, can anybody stop the East Coast Eagles?

Their preseason form has been excellent and throughout the Queanbeyan Cup they kept other sides goalless in three games, and have continued that form against other opponents recently. Abbey Martin and Renee Tompkins will continue to lead the way. They have players rejoining the program like potent forward Riley McGartland joining Caitlin Davidson up front, as well as the likes of Summer Hall, Jessica Whelan and Brooke Bailey.

They will be the force to be reckoned with and the benchmark for others to chase. Round 1 is highlighted by a grand final rematch and a Northern suburbs derby, while the other two contests see sides that will look to rise up the ladder.

East Coast Eagles vs. UTS Bats
Saturday, April 6 @ Kanebridge Oval

The most interesting element will be whether UTS has learnt the lessons the Bats were taught on the big day last year. They had a stellar season in 2023, bursting onto the finals scene and taking the minor premiership. The vision shows they were outplayed by the Eagles, with East Coast’s intercept marking, polish and finishing the particular difference between the sides.

With a new coaching staff this year the question will be, have they done enough over the off season to figure out the adjustments and implementations needed right at the top, and done enough work to build it into their players?

The Eagles will be very hard to score multiple goals against because even if they get beaten in a contest once, they make it very difficult to let the next possession be uncontested and conversely , if they continue to link well, there will be a lot of forward opportunities for them. Thus, if their forwards have a day out, the result could be anything. East Coast by 22 points.

North Shore Bombers vs. Manly Warringah Wolves
Saturday, April 6 @ Gore Hill Oval

Both teams are perennial contenders for finals and have enormous athletic potential coming into 2024. The question for the season for both teams is whether they can figure out the adaptions needed to rise to contention with the top teams. North Shore should be commended for their 2023 season and their attitude towards missing out on finals chance due to a cancelled game, which will be sure to motivate them to give 2024 a red hot crack.

The Bombers’ preseason form has been average, but once it comes to the season and full availability, there are plenty of high hopes held. For Manly Warringah on the other hand, its biggest challenge will be the change of personnel from last year to this season, and how that impacts their stages of development field wide.

Both teams have unique features which match up so evenly, and offset each other. In particular, Manly Warringah’s ability to close down the opposition and put immense pressure on the ball carrier will be an area the Wolves pride themselves on. North Shore on the other hand, is very good at releasing by hand and gaining meterage down the field in this manner. Expect a tight game to the point it could even be a draw.

Pennant Hills Demons vs. Sydney University
Saturday, April 6 @ Mike Kenny Oval

The two teams that straddled the finals line last season, both will be looking for the secret ingredients to take that next step this year. Retirements and unavailability will affect Pennant Hills for an unknown amount of time, so the rest of the group and juniors will have to take over and make it their team. Meanwhile, Sydney Uni has showed some marked improved pre season form in certain areas of on field play.

This game will be differentiated by two things. Firstly, Sydney Uni players are coming out of inside football contest much more efficiently as time goes by and this will eventually – despite Pennant Hills famed dogged defense – turn them around too many times and wear them down. A lot of work is gong to be on the shoulders of the the Quinlan Cooper, lead backline without Eleanor Rugg being there to be the on field general.

Secondly, the play through the middle of the ground will be crucial. If Pennant hills try to defend as a priority rather than play for contested wins themselves, it will instantly give Sydney Uni the edge. Both teams need this one to start their desired 2024 journey, with Sydney Uni tipped to win by 13.

St George Dragons vs. UNSW-ES Bulldogs
Saturday, April 6 @ Henson Park

Newcomers to the competition, St George will be going into this game with a long-term view, looking to learn from whatever happens. The Dragons acquitted themselves admirably in the preseason competition, but got taught a huge lesson in what is required at the top end by the East Coast Eagles.

It’ i tough to have your first exploratory hitout against the back-to-back premiers and raging hot team who are absolutely flying, but they would have had to have seen some of the standards required to rise up to be competitive in the the top level.

The Bulldogs would have been frustrated with their last two seasons and will be looking to lift and build on their nice inside work. If they can do that and find the linkages and pathways to goal necessary to compete against the top teams. Expect them to get the job done first-up against the newcomers though.

Parramatta Goannas – who have split from their successful 2023 merger with Mac Uni over the Summer – have the bye first up.

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