It’s taken me well over a week to come to a decision on my All-Australian team, but the choices are made and the team has been named.
Over the course of the season, writing in a weekly All-Australian team has been a very hard task to do, but naming the final team – taking all the performances into consideration, the players named in the squad, the players I’ve named in each of my rolling AA teams – it could be enough to drive a mere mortal insane.
But now it’s all done, it feels a little like Thanos in The Avengers movie after he snaps his fingers – you feel more at peace with the world… Until everyone looks at it and complains why player A wasn’t in over player B.
Like everything, players will be unlucky to miss out and I’ll rattle out those stiff to not make the cut as we go along, so don’t be too cut that your favourites didn’t get in – there are 13 other clubs in the league after all, so stop thinking about yourself and your club.
So without further delay, here are the 21 players that have made it in my AFLW All Australian Team this year.
*Disclaimer, the team was decided before week one of the finals, but the stats include those of this week’s game.
So with five, plus one on the bench, there was always going to be a tight squeeze for spots, and considering that a lot of tall defenders were playing exceptional footy this year, the defensive half will be a bit top-heavy.
The biggest apology goes to Freo’s Janelle Cuthbertson, who featured strongly at the start of the season, but much like the Dockers’ decline as the season progressed, Cuthbertson’s form took a small dip itself. However, it was still overall a very good year from a player who is only playing in her third year of Aussie Rules Football. I did consider Kerryn Harrington to come off the bench, but her form at the start of the year was what eventually costed her spot in the side.
Ruby Schleicher – Collingwood
If you asked me today who the most improved player in the competition was this year, Ruby Schleicher would be amongst the top three given her ability to both intercept and provide aggressive drive out of defence. Played two games in 2020 in an injury-interrupted year and in years previous was averaging meagre disposal totals of six, four and three touches per game. This year however saw her average 16 disposals, 7.9 intercept possessions, 4.2 marks, 3.1 rebound 50s and 2.9 inside 50s per game.
Stacey Livingstone – Collingwood
She has become the proverbial immovable object in Collingwood’s defence this year, which is massive considering that Ash Brazill didn’t come back in until late in the season and they lost Lauren Butler and Jordyn Allen basically mid-season. Currently leads the competition in rebound 50s, averaging 4.8 per game, and also averages good numbers of 13.4 disposals, 6.9 intercept possessions and 3.6 marks per game.
Lauren Ahrens – Gold Coast
Yes, the Suns got absolutely smashed from pillar to post, but if it weren’t for the efforts in defence from Lauren Ahrens, the losses could’ve been absolutely worse because she was that rock solid in trying to get the footy out of defence more often than not. She averaged the most metres gained out of any defender this season, averaging 321 metres gained per game on top of averaging 16.7 disposals, 7.2 intercepts, 4.8 marks and three rebound 50s per game.
Kate Lutkins – Brisbane
Next to the Pies, Brisbane have got one of the best defensive lines in the AFLW and a big part of that is Kate Lutkins. Ultra consistent, whether it be playing one-on-one against a key forward or it be playing as the third-tall picking off forward 50 entry after forward 50 entry, Lutkins has strung together another fine year without prominently featuring on the stats sheet: Averages 11.8 disposals, four marks, 5.4 intercept possessions and 2.9 rebound 50s per game.
Harriet Cordner – Richmond
Maybe Cuthbertson takes this spot in the eyes of others, but I feel that Cordner’s influence in the defensive half has helped what has made this Richmond side a vastly improved one in comparison to last year. She averaged 12.3 disposals, four marks – including one contested mark, seven intercept possessions and 3.2 rebound 50s per game. As shown as well in her last game of 2021, she can do the shutdown role on key forwards as well or at least make life miserable.
Probably the hardest area of the ground to pick from, because we’ve been spoiled with so many brilliant midfielders this year. Just to prove it, Monique Conti, Tyla Hanks, Georgia Patrikios and Ellie Blackburn all narrowly missed out. I also want to say that Sophie Conway was very close to making it on the wing, but I opted for midfielders that were just as exceptional at winning outside ball.
And as for the ruck spot, there were a few players putting their hand up to be in this side – you’ll have to scroll further down to the bench to see if I have named one or two players for this position.
Breann Moody – Carlton
It was tough, but out of Moody and Lauren Pearce, I opted for the ruck that averaged more hitouts, because – call me old-fashioned – but that’s the primary objective of the ruck – Moody was fourth in the league for hitouts, averaging 18.9 per game, but her work around the ground was still gold standard: averaging 11.8 disposals, 1.8 clearances, 241 metres gained and three inside 50s per game.
Brianna Davey – Collingwood
As the season progressed, Bri Davey’s form made her one of the easiest picked. Because she is the player Collingwood go to in order to win the footy direct from the source and as a co-captain, she does it so easily. One of three players that currently lead the competition in disposal averages, averaging 23.9 disposals, as well as averaging five clearances (top five in the AFLW), 3.6 marks, 4.3 score involvements, 5.9 tackles and 3.4 inside 50s per game as well as kicking 6.6 in 10 games.
Kiara Bowers – Fremantle
Another one that would be the easiest picked, she was voted by the Coaches Association as the player of the year, so if that’s not a reason enough for her to be picked, maybe the following stat line will be enough to prove her place in the side: 21.1 disposals, 6.5 clearances, 11 tackles, 3.7 intercept possessions, three score involvements, 2.9 inside 50s and 2.2 rebound 50s were her averages in 2021. Not to mention the fact that she led the competition in both clearances and tackles this year.
Alyce Parker – GWS
Rounding out the midfielders starting in the square is a player that has been one of a rare few shining lights for the Giants this year. When she was drafted, those that knew about AFLW would know that Parker would eventually become a star midfielder and this is exactly what happened in 2021: Averaged 23.9 disposals per game which is equal-leading in the competition, as well as leading the league in metres gained, averaging 385.8 per game. She also averages 5.6 clearances, 5.1 tackles, 5.7 intercept possessions and 3.9 inside 50s per game
Karen Paxman – Melbourne
It’s hard to pick a wing spot, but I’ve opted for players that have had more impact on the outside. With Tyla Hanks’ emergence in the middle, Karen Paxman has a little bit more of a co-pilot seat in 2021. However, Paxman still manages to churn out very good performances. She currently averages 22.2 disposals per game, with eight of those being contested. She also averaged numbers of 3.5 intercept possessions, 3.7 tackles, 4.1 score involvements and 3.5 inside 50s per game and kicked 4.5 for Melbourne this year.
Brittany Bonnici – Collingwood
After a breakout year of sorts in 2020, Brittany Bonnici has found another level in her game this year and in games I’ve watched this year, she covers the ground and runs from end to end harder than most this year. Bonnici averages 23.8 disposals per game of which over nine of those are contested – meaning that she pushes hard on the spread to win uncontested ball so well. On top of this, she averages 316 metres gained, 3.1 clearances, 3.5 tackles, five intercept possessions and 3.2 inside 50s per game for the Pies so far this year and
For the largest part of this season, forwards have been pretty easy to pick, but with the form of a few players picking up late in the season, it made for a few changes late in the year.
Melbourne’s Kate Hore had been considered over a few weeks, but there was no room for her on the bench considering the scoring midfield options that are named on the bench, and Katie Brennan was extremely close to being in this team, but her start to the year had meant that she had just missed out, despite kicking 14 goals in her last six games.
Chloe Molloy – Collingwood
I’ve been telling people that Chloe Molloy’s best footy is as a forward and wouldn’t you know, she was second to Darcy Vescio for goals kicked at the end of the home and away season, kicking a goal in all but one of Collingwood’s games, including the final against North. All up, she’s kicked 16.6 from averaging under nine disposals per game, 2.5 marks and averages 3.1 score involvements per game. She’s proven this year that she can step up as a forward when required and is a key piece in this Collingwood team.
Dakota Davidson – Brisbane
It was between her and Katie Brennan for the last spot in the forward five. It was a very difficult decision, but in the end, I gave it to the vastly improved Dakota Davidson – what stood out was the fact that she hit the scoreboard in seven of her nine games in a top-two side. She kicked 13.4 for the Lions in 2021 after kicking just two in six games last year. She also averaged 2.8 tackles and 7.3 disposals. Sure Katie averaged more disposals and had more score involvements, but Davidson’s impact on contests deserve recognition and believe it or not, do more than what the stats line might suggest.
Gemma Houghton – Fremantle
God, she was frustrating to watch last year, fluffed up a lot of plays, missed easy shots and somehow was still enough to get her an All Australian nod last year. This year it’s safe to say that she’s locked in well and truly after a much better season in the purple: Houghton kicked 15.8 for the year from averaging 10.8 disposals, 2.7 marks and 4.5 score involvements per game. Freo’s scoring power was questioned a fair bit this year, but Houghton’s influence on the contest was by far the most consistent.
Darcy Vescio – Carlton
Couldn’t leave out the player that won the goal kicking award in the All-Australian team. Darcy Vescio’s start to the year epitomized her last few years – inconsistent, but as the season progressed, Vescio really started to put together consistently awesome games up forward, which included a career-best five against the Gold Coast. All up, she kicked 16.4 for the season off 9.1 disposals, 3.1 marks and 3.1 score involvements per game.
Izzy Huntington – Western Bulldogs
After scooping home a collection of awards last year playing in defence, Izzy Huntington was moved forward this year in attempt to get more scoring power out of the Bulldogs, which absolutely worked, I mean they got five wins out of it, and a big part of the reason for the Dogs’ improvement is Izzy. She led the league in contested marks, averaging 2.3 per game, but she also kicked 12.9 off averaging under nine disposals, 3.4 score involvements and 4.4 marks per game.
THE INTERCHANGE BENCH
Erin Phillips – Adelaide
She just makes this team look a lot better with her in it. She stepped down as co-captain this year, but her form line looks as damaging as she was when she was leading the team. Playing more along the forward half than in the middle, Phillips’ numbers are still very good: 18.3 disposals, 2.9 clearances, 5.2 marks – 1.1 contested, 2.3 tackles, 5.6 score involvements, 3.4 inside 50s and 12.8 from nine matches this year. She won’t be winning the league best and fairest this year, but her form up forward should have her considered for an AA spot at least.
Jasmine Garner – North Melbourne
She was numero uno in my top 50 last year and Jasmine Garner has backed it up with another very good year, playing both as a starting midfielder at centre bounces and pushing forward to impact on the scoreboard. She averaged 20.6 disposals per game, along with 5.5 clearances per game – third in the league, 4.1 score involvements and 3.2 inside 50s per game. She also managed to snag 9.6 from her 10 games this year so almost got that one goal average, but still it was another marvelous year.
Sarah Allan – Adelaide
Unless you live in South Australia, to the outsiders, it feels like Sarah Allan has been quietly building together another brilliant season. If you’ve watched the Adelaide games this year and last, you’ll know that it’s exactly what you expect from her. All-Australian last year, and I hope she gets another one this year, because her form in holding down the defensive line is so consistent: She currently sits in the top five for averaging intercept possessions, with an average of 7.2 per game. Allan also averages 12.4 disposals, 2.2 marks and three rebound 50s per game.
Catherine Svarc – Brisbane
Those that read the weekly reviews will know how much I love how Cathy Svarc goes about her football. You might claim it’s bias, and I absolutely respect your decision to be wrong. Taggers don’t get recognition in football, but Svarc is the perfect two-way midfielder, able to shut down star midfielders, while being able to win the footy herself. She averages just under 10 disposals per game, 6.8 of them being contested ball as well as two clearances and 7.2 tackles per game, shutting out the likes of Monique Conti, Brianna Davey and Karen Paxman during the year.
Lauren Pearce – Melbourne
It was going to be bloody hard to keep her out of this team, but the way that Lauren Pearce plays her footy, it’s just impossible to leave her out. She’s sixth in the league for hitouts, averaging only 15 per game, but it’s her work around the ground that effectively allows her to play as another midfielder. In 2021, she currently averages 14.3 disposals – the most of any ruck, whilst averaging 3.8 clearances, 2.5 marks, 3.7 intercepts and 2.2 score involvements per game.
The 2021 AFLW All-Australian Team
B: Ruby Schleicher (COLL), Stacey Livingstone (COLL)
HB: Lauren Ahrens (GCS), Kate Lutkins (BL), Harriet Cordner (RICH)
C: Karen Paxman (MELB), Alyce Parker (GWS), Brittany Bonnici (COLL)
HF: Chloe Molloy (COLL), Dakota Davidson (BL), Gemma Houghton (FREM)
F: Darcy Vescio (CARL), Izzy Huntington (WB)
FOL: Breann Moody (CARL), Brianna Davey (COLL), Kiara Bowers (FREM)
INT: Erin Phillips (ADEL), Jasmine Garner (NM), Sarah Allan (ADEL), Cathy Svarc (BL), Lauren Pearce (MELB)