With the AFLW kicking off in a few days, I just can’t wait to have the footy back!!
Those that have followed my musings about the women’s footy in the past may be aware that I release a list of the top 50 players post-season. I’ve been doing that since the first season and haven’t stopped since – it’s always been one of my favourite lists to work on.
However, I’ve never really committed to doing a top 50 pre-season. Sarah Black does a tremendous job writing her top 30 players of the AFLW before the start of the season and I certainly don’t dare to attempt to take any shine away from the work she does over on the AFLW website, because she’s a gem!
Which is why I’m going to do something a little different here. The 2020 Top 50 is done and dusted, but I intend to predict ten AFLW players that will be first-time entrants into my top 50 at the end of the 2021 season.
The only ground rule I’m instilling for this piece is that I’m only allowing one person per club, just makes it easier for more clubs to get a look in. And if your favourite player isn’t on the list of ten below, chances are she’s probably been on the end of season list before – Gemma Houghton was on there in 2019, Jess Duffin has been there a couple of seasons. I think you guys get the drift.
Of course, if you haven’t seen who made the top 50 last year, I’ll drop the list down below.
50 Rebecca Privitelli (GWS
49 Lauren Bella (Gold Coast)
48 Liv Vesely (St Kilda)
47 Jade Pregelj (Gold Coast)
46 Kate Surman (Gold Coast)
45 Jesse Wardlaw (Brisbane)
44 Rebecca Beeson (GWS)
43 Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda)
42 Jamie Stanton (Gold Coast)
41 Emma Swanson (West Coast)
40 Gabby O’Sullivan (Fremantle)
39 Georgia Gee (Carlton)
38 Sarah Allan (Adelaide)
37 Kate Hore (Melbourne)
36 Brittany Bonnici (Collingwood)
35 Phoebe Monahan (Richmond)
34 Breann Moody (Carlton)
33 Dana Hooker (West Coast)
32 Stacey Livingstone (Collingwood))
31 Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs)
30 Ebony Antonio (Fremantle)
29 Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast)
28 Chloe Molloy (Collingwood)
27 Alyce Parker (GWS)
26 Sharni Layton (Collingwood)
25 Tayla Harris (Carlton)
24 Daisy Pearce (Melbourne)
23 Ally Anderson (Brisbane)
22 Libby Birch (Melbourne)
21 Kaitlyn Ashmore (North Melbourne)
20 Shelley Scott (Melbourne)
19 Izzy Huntington (Western Bulldogs)
18 Jenna Bruton (North Melbourne
17 Liv Purcell (Geelong)
16 Caitlin Greiser (St Kilda)
15 Monique Conti (Richmond)
14 Ash Riddell (North Melbourne)
13 Kerryn Harrington (Carlton)
12 Emily Bates (Brisbane)
11 Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide)
10 Emma Kearney (North Melbourne)
9 Sabreena Duffy (Fremantle)
8 Maddy Prespakis (Carlton)
7 Kate Lutkins (Brisbane)
6 Brianna Davey (Collingwood)
5 Anne Hatchard (Adelaide)
4 Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood)
3 Karen Paxman (Melbourne)
2 Kiara Bowers (Fremantle)
1 Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne)
And now, the ten I expect to jump into the top fifty by the end of the season.
10 – GRACE EGAN (CARLTON)
She was one of the unlucky ones not to make the top 50 last year, which is why I’ll knock this one out of the way early.
It’s now getting pretty hard for the first-year teenagers to get a look in the top 50. Georgia Patrikios was in the 40s last year and Caitlin Greiser was in the top 20 because she won the bloody goal kicking competition.
But the way Grace Egan went about it last year in a Carlton side that had only lost one game for the entire season suggests that she will find herself in the top 50 sooner rather than later. Whilst a lot of the shine was on Maddy Prespakis and her league best and fairest year, Egan was quietly averaging 14.3 disposals, 4.6 tackles and three clearances per game. She was also averaging over eight contested possessions per game.
And that’s just season one.
9 – CATHY SVARC (BRISBANE)
Full disclosure here – I am a huge Cathy Svarc fan, and there might be a little bit of bias here, but should the Lions find themselves in the top six by the end of the season, I’m thinking that this woman plays a strong role in their season and further a claim into the top 50 by the season’s end.
Brisbane’s midfield is based on the brilliance of both Emily Bates and Ally Anderson, but it was Svarc’s first season at the Lions in 2020 and it saw her average very strong numbers in her first year. Yes, she was a mature-aged recruit, but there were many times during the season that I thought she was simply amazing in the contested spaces and eased some pressure off of those two.
Svarc averaged 12.3 disposals, three clearances and five tackles per game last season. She also averaged six intercept possessions per game last season and now that she has had some experience in the big league, I think she could be one player that will take Brisbane a further step or two in 2021.
8 – TARNI WHITE (ST KILDA)
It’s a pretty big call here considering that Tarni White is coming back from a season-ending knee injury last season. But I’m not afraid of a bold prediction or two – last year I predicted Izzy Huntington was winning the Rising Star award and I came off looking like a freakin’ prophet!
Anyway, there was a lot to like about White last season at St Kilda before she went down with that injury in round four. Against Adelaide in round two, she recorded a big game in which she posted 18 disposals, with 16 of them kicks, along with 10 marks as well. On top of that, her abilities to rebound the ball outside of defensive 50 cannot be questioned – averaging 3.8 rebound 50s per game – the most of any Saint last season.
By all reports, she got through the practice match unscathed and that means she’ll be in the mix to play round one. If she can get a full season under a belt, she could be a very handy player in St Kilda’s finals aspirations in 2021.
7 – SARAH ROWE (COLLINGWOOD)
God, I love watching how Rowey plays, she’s just one that plays with such exuberance and energy and it often generates into a positive contribution for the Pies.
Season 2020 was a great year for many at the Pies and Rowe was a case in point, averaging career-highs in disposals, marks and kicked 5.1 for the season. She’s an incredibly dangerous player inside the forward line and even though she plays a bit higher up the ground, a move deeper forward would help push that goal tally into the double digits, but I digress.
Playing as a half-forward type player, she works so well to get into the right spots and often is reliable with her disposals, which makes where she plays in 2021 a very intriguing sub-plot to the Pies’ season. Do they push her into the middle or onto a wing spot? Or do they leave her playing that half-forward role?
Whichever way you want to see it, I expect nothing but continued improvement in 2021, she’s a star in the making.
6 – MIM STROM (FREMANTLE)
I’d like to predict a ruckwoman in here if I may and having a deep thought here, one player I’d love to see push for a top 50 berth this year is Fremantle’s Mim Strom. It’s a bit tougher to predict the rucks here in the AFLW. Nobody would’ve guessed that Sharni Layton would be a top 50 player at the end of last season, but here we are.
Season 2020 was a brilliant year for the Dockers, and for Strom, who made her debut right off the bat, it was going to be a hard ask for an 18-year old to shoulder the ruck duties, especially when their other option Aine Tighe was on the shelf all year. But full credit to Strom she never took a backwards step – averaging 16.3 hitouts, three tackles and over 4.5 contested possessions per game.
Obviously, there’s a lot of scope for improvement, but the fact she’s averaging over a clearance, a mark and an inside 50 per game is a good enough start. And having that experience under her belt now, it’s only a matter of time before we see her explode into one of the elite rucks of the competition and it might happen sooner than you think.
5 – DAISY BATEMAN (NORTH MELBOURNE)
North have had a number of players crack the top 50 over the past few years: Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, Emma King, Jess Duffin. But there could be a number of the younger brigade pushing through sooner rather than later and Daisy Bateman heads the top of the list.
North’s forward line is amongst the best in the competition today, and part of it is because of their good spread of goal kickers. Bateman kicked 7.2 in just her second season in 2020 and also averaged a smidge under three score involvements per game which positioned her inside the top three at the Roos last year.
I think the one thing that people don’t notice is how good she is when she has the ball in her hand. Yeah, she only averaged eight disposals per game in 2020, but she went at 75 percent and out of those eight disposals, five of them were kicks. She’s efficient, can create, and by god she’s going to get a hell of a lot better in the years to come.
4 – MIKAYLA BOWEN (WEST COAST)
A special shoutout to Aisling McCarthy, who I think will be right in the mix for a top 50 spot at the end of the season, but I did sort of already talk about her with a bit more depth in the season preview already – if you haven’t read it, what are you doing here?
But here’s another player that has had big wraps on her since being signed on by the Eagles and in her first season in the AFLW, more than held her own. Mikayla Bowen averaged over 10 disposals per game last season playing both in the middle and around the ground. It’s also amazing to think that out of the 10 disposals she averaged last year, seven of those were contested possessions.
The Eagles’ midfield brigade is starting to shape, and once it gets a bit of continuity going, the younger players like Bowen will thrive and be the successors to the elder stateswomen such as Dana Hooker and Emma Swanson. She’s going to be a big player to look out for.
3 – TEAH CHARLTON (ADELAIDE)
Well, remember when I said that it’s getting a lot harder for the teenage first-year players to get a look into the top 50? Well here’s going to be a bold one. You can make a claim for a few players to be on this list: Tyanna Smith, Ellie McKenzie, Jess Fitzgerald, Darcy Moloney come to mind.
But there’s something in the air about Teah Charlton and what role she will play for the Crows in 2021 is going to be very interesting to say the least. She may struggle for midfield minutes this year because Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard calling the shots in the middle. But the thing is, she is going to be pretty dangerous wherever you put her. As a forward option, she’s the perfect height to be too strong for small defenders, but be a real problem for the taller defenders.
Depending on the situation with Marinoff and whether or not her three-match suspension is upheld or not – and believe me, I’m just as flabbergasted as you all are – she could find herself getting valuable minutes right off the bat. It’s an interesting situation indeed.
2 – LAUREN AHRENS (GOLD COAST)
The Gold Coast Suns had a few players crack into the top 50 in their inaugural season. One player that was unlucky to make the grade was Lauren Ahrens.
Ahrens finished equal-second in Gold Coast’s best and fairest alongside Jade Pregelj and both of them played starring roles in the Suns being one of the more strictest defensive units in the AFLW last season. Ahrens averaged 6.6 intercept possessions, 3.4 rebound 50s and 14.7 disposals per game last year, so there was definitely a case to have her inside the top 50 last season. But there were many players unlucky to not make it last year.
The Suns are expected to continue their development as one of the league’s more exciting sides in 2021 and the contributions of Ahrens will help them along the way. I wouldn’t be too shocked to see her storm her way into the 50 by the season’s end. She’s a brilliant intercept defender.
1 – KIRSTEN MCLEOD (WESTERN BULLDOGS)
Well, I needed a Bulldog in here somewhere, right?
It was quite difficult to pick a Bulldog player to put in this list – I like the idea of Gabby Newton making the top 50 at the end of the season, as I do with Jess Fitzgerald – and if her year is anything like her performance in the practice game, then all the Bulldog supporters are going to have a good time this year. Bailey Hunt is another one who I think can elevate herself to the next level.
But I can’t go past Kirsten McLeod. I remember quoting after the loss to West Coast last season that she was the league’s greatest tease. I say that because she is always threatening, but just can’t seem to finish it off consistently enough. Last year she kicked 5.5 – the previous year it was 2.5 and in her first season she kicked 4.8 – do you see the trend yet?
Despite the inaccuracy, I feel that she’s so close to breaking out as one of the elite small forwards of the competition and last year was the perfect example. She was running all around and kicking a few freakish goals along the way. All she needs is an accurate season. It could actually help the Dogs win an extra game or two along the way this season and that would be pretty handy for their development.
And so there’s the list – Who do you think will make the top 50 for the first time?
I’m looking forward to checking back on this one in a couple of months and seeing which ones have some merit and which ones weren’t were downright shocking calls. It’s what I love about predictions, it’s all in a bit of fun.
The AFLW is kicking off tonight, better go get ready for it – Carn the Doggies!