We have just four teams remaining in the hunt for the 2022 flag and it is time to announce my All-Australian team for season seven. I’ve seen the AFL website’s squad of 42 and immediately turn my nose up at it – some omissions in there that are seriously worthy of scratching your head.
If you’ve been listening on the A3 Footy Podcast, you’ll know that I’ve been doing the rolling All-Australian team this season and a couple of weeks ago on the podcast I named my squad of 44 (just like the men’s league this season, because I can).
So, before I name my final 21 – here are the players that made the squad.
Keep in mind that I’ve included 11 defenders, 11 forwards, 18 midfielders (including four genuine wingers) and four rucks. The final 21 will be down to six defenders (one on the bench, six forwards (one on the bench), two genuine wing players, five midfielders (two on the bench) and two rucks (one on the bench).
Adelaide: Chelsea Biddell, Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, Ashleigh Woodland, Danielle Ponter Brisbane: Nat Grider, Ally Anderson, Sophie Conway, Tahlia Hickie, Jesse Wardlaw, Greta Bodey Carlton: Vaomua Laloifi, Kerryn Peterson, Breann Moody Collingwood: Lauren Butler Essendon: Maddy Prespakis Fremantle: Kiara Bowers Geelong: Meg McDonald, Amy McDonald, Georgie Prespakis, Mikayla Bowen, Chloe Scheer Gold Coast: Charlie Rowbottom, Courtney Jones GWS Giants: Alyce Parker Hawthorn: none Melbourne: Libby Birch, Karen Paxman, Olivia Purcell, Kate Hore, Eden Zanker North Melbourne: Emma Kearney, Jasmine Garner, Tahlia Randall Port Adelaide: Indy Tahau Richmond: Eilish Sheerin, Monique Conti, Courtney Wakefield, Gabby Seymour St Kilda: Bianca Jakobsson, Kate Shierlaw Sydney: none West Coast: Emma Swanson Western Bulldogs: Katie Lynch, Ellie Blackburn, Alice Edmonds
NOTE* Stats included are accurate up to the Semi-Final
Libby Birch – Melbourne
Stats (per game): 13.5 disposals, 184.5 metres gained, 3.6 marks (top 15 in competition), 2.1 tackles, 7.8 intercept possessions (2nd in the competition), 2.0 rebound 50s.
In a defence that has conceded an average of 19 points per game, it’s incredibly diabolical that a player of Birch’s calibre was left out of the AFLW’s All-Australian squad. Birch has been the cornerstone of the Demons’ defence since arriving at the club and has put together another incredibly consistent season.
Meg McDonald – Geelong
Stats (per game): 12.3 disposals, 3.7 marks (top 15 in competition), 7.6 intercept possessions (4th in competition), 2.5 rebound 50s.
After an ordinary season six, she rebounded in fine form for the Cats this season. Disposal and decision-making has been a blight on her game for the past couple of seasons, but she’s got quality users around her now that she can go back to playing to her strengths and that’s to both intercept and shutdown the opposition talls.
The best story of this season – If she hasn’t been the find of the year, then I’ll eat my shoes. After being taken by the Tigers late in the Draft in June, she exploded with 16 intercept possessions in Round One and has only got better in her abilities to run the ball up the ground and has emerged as one of Richmond’s most damaging ball users around the ground.
Biddell’s move from forward to defence earlier in the year was seen as a masterstroke from Matthew Clarke and this year has seen her game propel to new heights. Not only is she a supreme intercepting defender, but her ability to slice through opposition with her kicks and hit her targets consistently have her in as one of the elite defenders in season seven.
I was probably one of the minority that thought Kearney got in the All-Australian team last season on her reputation more than her football. But this season she’s really established herself as a tour de force in the defensive 50. She loves to run with the ball in her hand and the stats will indicate as much. So important to North’s ball movement out of defence.
There hasn’t been much that Breann Moody can’t do this season and it’s because of this that she is my number one ruck in the team this season. She leads all rucks for metres gained and clearances. She’s steadily turning herself into a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of ruck and there aren’t a lot of players who can do what she can in this competition.
It’s hard to leave Anne Hatchard out of this team, but Ebony Marinoff has been a consistent force for not just Adelaide, but in the crowd of contested mids this season. She’s the best player in terms of gaining meterage and has hardly lost any defensive edge when it comes to her tackling. She’s become nearly the perfect midfielder.
She’ll be in the AFLW’s All-Australian team, but I’d wager she makes it on a wing, because those naming that team haven’t got a clue who plays in what position. McDonald still has flaws in terms of finesse, but when you’re winning the contested ball as frequently as she does and you have players around you like she does, all she should be doing is winning as much of the footy as she can – she defines the premier inside midfielder.
One of the first picked in this team. She often finds herself impacting games through her sheer body of work in the contest, or her ability to impact up forward and on most games this season, it’s been both. There aren’t many players who average high 20+ disposals, 5+ clearances and over 0.7 goals per game this season and Garner is one of those who is at the peak of her powers.
There have been very few wingers who stand out in the way that Sophie Conway has this season. She’s had moments of mischief, but they’ve always been backed up by sublime link-up work, gut-running and scoreboard impact for the Lions in a season where they’ve had no issues finding score on the board in a hurry.
With Liv Purcell (very stiff to miss this team) and Eliza West taking the reigns in the midfield, it’s allowed Paxy to play more on the outside, and this move to the wing has not deviated her form on the field or on the stats sheet. Her five goals this season are a personal best and her ability to influence the scoreboard has been as good as I’ve seen in a while.
Snubbed from the All-Australian team last season, She’s got to be a lock in the team this time around. As far as general forwards go, Bodey is one of the best of small bunch. Second of all mid-sized/general forwards for goals and score involvements and is one of many Brisbane forwards that love a hard tackle.
Another forward that should be locked into this forward line. In a Melbourne forward line boasting heaps of firepower, Hore has given a lot both in the forward 50 and further afield. She currently sits second overall for goals, behind Jesse Wardlaw. She is also the only player in the competition that averages five score involvements per game
If it wasn’t Danielle Ponter who stood up in the forward line in dire straits for the Crows, it was Ashleigh Woodland, who backed up her season six – where she won the league’s goal kicking medal – with another very strong year. Whilst the stats won’t jump off the page, the fact that she managed to score that often from very small numbers jumps out that she’s a very efficient player in a good system.
This season’s leading goal kicker – you can’t not put her in this team. Just a little over 12 months ago was I questioning about whether Wardlaw has got it in her to be the key forward, but this season has arrested all notions of that. She’s a fierce competitor in the air and ultra-reliable in front of the big sticks – the Lions have been a potent scoring team all season and it starts with the full-forward.
I don’t often go down this route with players, but sometimes players are selected on how they finish the season as opposed to the overall picture. There are a few of them who made the team, but none have come home with a wet sail quite like Zanker has at Melbourne. Her past six games (including the qualifying final) have seen her amass 10.2 and currently sits equal-second for key forwards for goals.
Has been consistently solid with her ruck craft this year and has fast emerged as one of the more dominant rucks in the competition, leading all rucks for hitouts and hitouts to advantage, her marking hands have made her one of the most important players in this Bulldogs team structurally. Insane to think that she was brought in at the Dogs as an injury replacement player at the start of this year, now she’s on the cusp of being an All-Australian.
With apologies to Jordyn Allen, Lauren Butler has been one of Collingwood’s most consistent contributors this season. They’ve often been very stingy towards the opposition forwards and a large part of that is through Butler’s influence to both cut off forward 50 entries at the knees and swiftly rebounding the football out of the defensive half.
It’s taken a few weeks for Turbo to get going, but once she did, she became the irresistible force that we all know and love watching. Broke the AFLW’s tackling record in Freo’s last game of the season, recording an incredible 22 tackles, but also asserted her strength and dominance in the clearances and the contested ball once again. Whilst Freo’s season was dismal, her form in the second half of the season was too good to ignore.
Picking midfielders was the hardest thing to do. I won’t list apologies off here, but I chose Conti as the final midfielder due to her amazing two-way running abilities. She nearly averaged a goal per game, and still managed to average elite numbers in clearances, tackles, and contested possessions. She’s an out-and-out workhorse for the Tigers and it’s pleasant to see that the Tigers have given her a midfield that allows her to shine and flourish the way she has this season.
Finding a forward to come off the bench was incredibly difficult, but once Chloe Scheer got going in the forward line for Geelong, the decision was made a bit easier. All her 13 goals came in the back half of the season as the Cats turned the corner in a big way and asserted themselves as a genuine flag threat. For a 165cm forward, her ability in a one-on-one is near unparallel and her hands are among the safest in the game.