By the time this article comes out, the 2022 AFLW All-Australian team will have been announced, and there will be many people – myself included – that will be finding things to complain about with the side overall.

Too many midfielders, why is this player in over that player, why have we stuck midfielders at half forward, we’ve all done that and last year’s team was no exception.

It was why I started doing the rolling All-Australian team for the women’s last year – both on here on The Mongrel and on the A3 Footy Podcast. This year I’ve just kept it exclusively to the podcast, but I will reveal the final side on both platforms, because if you’ve missed one, the other one will surely get you.

It’s a fun exercise to tell you the truth, but it’s also been a difficult task trying to keep up with the players who have made the team week-by-week and those constantly pushing to overthrow them who remain in the squad of 40.

Speaking of which, that was officially announced last week, it was basically when we finished recording our episodes, so that was real nice timing. Anyway, the squad is pretty good, not much I’d change and my final 21 is comprised out of players who made the 40.

I’m glad Shelley Heath made the squad and I’m happy Mimi Hill got in, because she’s pretty bloody cool too, but off six games? Come on guys, where are those who played the whole season? But that’s something for another

So having said all of that, we’re going to break down my All-Australian team of this year, because it’ll be 110 percent better than anything those peanuts who are naming the official team are going to come up with.

 

The Defenders

Libby Birch – Melbourne

In a Melbourne defence that has been rock solid for most of the year, Libby Birch is essentially the pinnacle of it. Whether it was playing a lockdown role to absolute perfection or being the floating third tall in the defensive unit, Birch handled whatever job was assigned to her to absolute perfection this season. Averaged 5.6 intercept possessions per game, on top of averaging 11.8 disposals, 2.9 marks and 2.3 rebound 50s per game.

Sarah Allan – Adelaide

For most of the season, I’ve lauded Sarah Allan as the best defender of the competition, and as we approach the end of this season, I still think of this, because there are many elements of Sarah Allan’s game to enjoy. She’s a terrific one-on-one player, tremendous with her intercept abilities and is able to chase down players or apply pressure with her speed. Averaged 5.4 intercept possessions this year, as well as 11.2 disposals, 1.9 marks and 2.8 rebound 50s per game.

Ruby Schleicher – Collingwood

After a strong enough start to the year that saw well in contention for being a two-time All-Australian, Schleicher came into her own, both intercepting and rebounding out of the back half in the second half of the season. Between rounds seven to 10, she averaged 24.75 disposals, nine intercept possessions, 5.5 marks and 364.5 metres gained per game. Overall, Schleicher averaged 18 disposals, 4.9 marks, 7.2 intercept possessions, 2.1 inside 50s and 3.7 rebound 50s per game.

Kerryn Harrington – Carlton

There aren’t many centre-half back options in the AFLW better than Kerryn Harrington right now. The Blues copped plenty of heat for their inabilities to match it with the better teams in the competition, but the one constant was their captain, who never stopped cracking in when the going got tough. It wasn’t a career year, but Harrington still managed to conjure up handy averages of 14.3 disposals, 3.5 marks, 4.1 intercept possessions and 3.1 rebound 50s per game.

Nat Grider – Brisbane

There were some question marks about the Brisbane backline after Kate Lutkins went down with her ruptured ACL in their round one defeat to Adelaide, but Nat Grider has been one of a few reasons why the Lions’ defensive unit has still held up well this year. Grider averaged 13.8 disposals, three marks and 7.3 intercept possessions per game for the Lions this season – a prominent return in numbers this year.

 

The Midfielders

Lauren Pearce – Melbourne

Between her and the next best ruck in the competition, Lauren Pearce has got a multitude of tools that make her the most dangerous ruck in the competition. She averages 13.9 hitouts, and whilst her counterparts will average more, she’s more dangerous when she takes the ball out of a ruck contest and clears it out for the betterment of the team, she averages 5.1 clearances per game, the most of any Demon, as well as averaging 13.5 disposals, 10.1 contested possessions, 4.1 intercept possessions and 2.9 score involvements per game.

Ebony Marinoff – Adelaide

Last year I made the mistake of leaving her out of my All-Australian team – not even sure how – but it’s a mistake I won’t make twice this year. For Marinoff’s abilities, both inside and out, are too good to ignore. Not only does she extract the clearances with ease, but she’s finding plenty of space and ultimately looks for the meterage at every chance. Averaged just under 400 metres gained this season, as well as 24.5 disposals, 10.4 contested possessions, 4.2 clearances, 3.9 marks, 7.3 tackles and 4.5 inside 50s per game.

Emily Bates – Brisbane

Well, she has just won the league best and fairest, as well as the Coaches Association Player of the Year award a few weeks ago, and there’s a great reason in why she has had such a good season. Because she is a great balanced midfielder who can do it both on the offensive and defensive. This year saw her break career-high averages all across the board – disposals, tackles, clearances, metres gained, contested possessions, inside 50s, score involvements, the lot. 21.9 disposals, 11.2 contested possessions, 315.5 metres gained, 5.6 clearances, 7.1 tackles, 3.3 score involvements and 4.1 inside 50s in 2022.

Ash Riddell – North Melbourne

Speaking of career years, season 2022 is the year we saw the best out of Ash Riddell, as exemplified by her 42-disposal performance against West Coast in the final round of the home and away season. Riddell is not only an accumulator, but knows how to run, cover the ground, and use the footy to the benefit (mostly) of the team. Riddell averaged 29.3 disposals, 362.4 metres gained, 5.1 clearances, 12.4 contested possessions, 3.7 marks, 3.9 tackles and 3.6 inside 50s per game.

Orla O’Dwyer – Brisbane

Solidified her standing as one of the premier wingers of the competition with an outstanding year for the Brisbane Lions. When she has the ball, she often loves to run down the wing and do her utmost to gain as much territory as possible, but also has a significant impact in hitting the scoreboard, or at least helping set up a scoring opportunity. O’Dwyer averaged 14.4 disposals, 6.5 contested possessions, 325.3 metres gained, 4.2 tackles, 3.5 score involvements, 3.9 inside 50s and has kicked 6.4 in her 11 games.

Eloise Jones – Adelaide

Finding a second winger was tough – Sophie Conway, Steph Cain and Kaitlyn Ashmore were all unlucky to miss out, but I went with Eloise Jones who has had a greatly improved year statistically on the wing, averaging career highs in disposals, marks and metres gained and has found a great balance of poise and class in combination with her tough approach to the contest. Jones averaged 14.8 disposals, 3.3 marks, 262.8 metres gained, 2.6 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 3.1 score involvements and 4.2 intercept possessions per game.

 

The Forwards

Greta Bodey – Brisbane

Bodey had been in and around the fringes of the All-Australian 21 over the past month, but it’s verging on the impossible to leave her out of this team. Bodey has been Brisbane’s best forward this year; ultra-quick and dangerous around goals, whether it’s finishing them off herself or setting up her teammates in better positions, the forward line flows better when the ball goes through Bodey – kicked 13.11 this year whilst averaging 4.3 score involvements, 11.5 disposals, 2.6 marks, 3.3 tackles and nearly a goal assist per game.

Tayla Harris – Melbourne

There was a lot of extra pressure from Tayla after the trade from Carlton to Melbourne last off-season, but Harris has put her head down and done the work this season, and it shows both on the field and through her stats, any doubts about her at the start of the year are almost basically erased now. Her 18.11 is second only to Ashleigh Woodland and averaged 3.9 score involvements, 2.2 contested marks and 3.5 marks in total as well as averaging 5.6 contested possessions and 8.4 disposals per game.

Kate Hore – Melbourne

It was a bit of a tough year for the small/mid-sized forwards, but Hore was third for all general forwards for goals, kicking 11.11 this season, and averaging four score involvements per match. Her speed and composure with the ball in hand is one of many reasons why the Demons are in the Grand Final. Hore also averaged 11.5 disposals, six contested possessions, 2.9 marks and three tackles per game this year.

Daisy Pearce – Melbourne

Before her five-goal performance against Fremantle, Daisy Pearce was heading out of my rolling All-Australian side for good, after having settled into the forward six (five plus one on the bench) nicely from the mid-way point of the year. But she has been thrusted into the defensive end at times when the Dees needed her to but has still finished her year nicely and well in the top three general forwards for goals – kicking 13.7 from averages of 10.4 disposals, five contested possessions, 2.1 marks and 3.9 score involvements per game.

Ashleigh Woodland – Adelaide

It probably goes without saying, considering she took out the competition’s goal kicking award, but Ashleigh Woodland’s second full season at Adelaide saw her reap the rewards as the full-forward of the team. Her 19 majors during the home and away season was enough to take home the prestigious award, and her pair of goals in the final against Fremantle has taken the total up to 21.8 for the year. Woodland averages 8.9 disposals, 0.7 contested marks, 2.9 tackles and 3.9 score involvements this year.

 

The Interchange

Breann Moody – Carlton

Much like last year, it was impossible to separate the best two ruck in the competition, because they play different styles. Whereas Pearce is the extra midfielder with the secondary position to play behind the footy, Moody’s more centric on the ruck contest, before veering out to play either as the spare behind the ball or as a target up forward – given Carlton’s struggles this year, she’s played a lot back as the support. Averaged 19.7 hitouts per game, as well as averaging 11.9 disposals, 2.2 clearances, three marks, 3.3 intercept possessions, 2.7 score involvements and 3.1 inside 50s per game.

Anne Hatchard – Adelaide

I’ve been on the record about her kicking and composure inside the forward half, but despite that, it’s been another superb season from the Adelaide midfielder. She’s got that great balance between her inside work and her abilities to spread out of stoppage, but it’s also her marking hands which have been a significant improvement on her game – Hatchard averages 6.6 marks per game, and over 1.1 contested marks. But she also averages 24.1 disposals, 2.5 clearances, 4.3 score involvements and 4.4 inside 50s per game.

Hayley Miller – Fremantle

If ever there was a player that mounted a case for most improved player this year, right at the top of the list is Fremantle’s Hayley Miller. After being appointed as captain on the eve of the season, Miller put in a banner season, averaging career-highs all across the board, her ability to punish on the scoreboard as well as her ability to win the contested ball a key highlight to her game – averaging 18.7 dosposals, 10.3 contested possessions, 371 metres gained, 3.6 clearances, 3.3 marks,6.1 tackles, 3.8 score involvements, four inside 50s per game, as well as a tally of 10.8 in front of goals.

Cora Staunton – GWS

With the honourable mention to Katie Brennan, Cora Staunton’s string of form has made it impossible to ignore and with that, gets a spot on the bench as the forward rotation. For an Irish export at 40 to come here and find ways to hit the scoreboard consistently in the way that she does is remarkable. There are flaws to her game, but footy is about putting goals on the board and Cora does this well for her age. She kicked 18.9 this season, whilst averaging 3.1 score involvements, 1.9 marks and 7.5 disposals per game.

Maddy McMahon – Geelong

There were some names to consider for the defensive rotation on the bench; Lauren Butler, Sarah Lampard, Marijana Rajcic and Emma Kearney were all up there as well, but Maddy McMahon’s consistency in the defensive half for Geelong this year just wins out. Her kicking has been questionable this year, but I can’t say the same about her efforts in the air and her ability to pick off the opposition passes with monotonous regularity. McMahon averaged 7.4 intercepts per game this season, whilst averaging 11 disposals, 3.8 marks and 1.9 rebound 50s per game.

 

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!