Plenty of big names jumped ship as the AFLW Priority Signing Period took effect. As always, The Doc was all over it and has the Big Questions stemming from this controversial period.
IS CHLOE MOLLOY SYDNEY’S ANSWER?
It’s a tough one to answer, because the Swans have a lot of gaping holes structurally around the ground.
What Chloe Molloy can add is some forward potency, which the Swans lacked over the course of season seven. Both Rebecca Privitelli and Brooke Lochland headed the goals last season, kicking seven apiece, but the output drops rather quickly after those two, with just three other players registering more than two goals for the season – and two of them were first-year players.
So yes, there’s that. But there are another two variables of what Scott Gowans plans to do with her? She’s spent more time in the midfield in season seven, averaging 63 percent of centre bounce attendances – only Jaimee Lambert averaged more. The Swans don’t have that star who takes the risks, who extracts and bursts away from the stoppage. They don’t have that player who takes the game by the scruff of the neck… well not yet anyway.
Much has been written about the kids like Montana Ham and Cynthia Hamilton and boy, won’t they be something when they have a player like Molloy standing alongside her come round one. Molloy is not a big disposal winner; she averaged 13.3 disposals per game but she did average career-highs in clearances, metres gained, inside 50s and contested possessions, and all the while she managed 16 scoring shots for a return of 6.10 in
It doesn’t sound like it’s a lot compared to the game’s best midfielders, but there are two things about this. One is that Molloy has been more of a player that is suited to one position of the ground – whether that’s through the forward line, where she’s played most of her football career or the defence, where she won the 2018 Rising Star award.
The second is that she is yet to hit the prime years of her career. She’ll be 25 in December, and yes, there has been some back trouble. Trouble that hopefully should be solved over the off-season, having had surgery on her back.
We’ve seen in modern footy that players can be in their 30s and be at their peak. So, whilst the facts are there that Molloy is an A-grade talent, capable of winning games off her own back; the Swans need to haul in a few more players of her calbre to make some progress in 2023.
HOW MUCH DOES ASH WOODLAND AND JANELLE CUTHBERTSON ELEVATE PORT ADELAIDE?
They’re massive acquisitions for the Power. It’s pretty clear that they’ve got a direction with their midfield brigade, with Lauren Arnell more than happy to hand the keys to both Abbey Dowrick and Hannah Ewings. Both of whom finished in the top two of the competition’s rising star award, eventually won by the latter.
Their spine is where it all breaks down. They’ve got a forward who’s capable in Gemma Houghton – but the problem is that you don’t know which version you get each week. One week she’ll kick three or four and is the bona fide match-winner we know she can be. The following week she only has three touches and no influence.
There’s no doubt that she’s one of the AFLW’s biggest frustration players, but someone like Woodland, who has been excellent and efficient in putting goals on the board at Adelaide is a terrific acquisition for their forward half.
It gives them the chance to potentially throw Erin Phillips more into the midfield for one last hurrah. She spent more time forward in season seven, but there’s a chance to elevate the on-ball brigade even further with her presence around centre bounces and stoppages. It gives the chance for Hannah Ewings to be more forward, where she’s more than capable of hitting the scoreboard.
Cuthbertson down back offers a strong anchor, but one big question mark is her fitness. She only played four games for Fremantle in season six and five games in season seven – that’s nine games of a possible 22 – she’s had a fractured jaw, lower leg and concussion issues over the past year. When she’s at her best however, it galvanises the defensive half.
There were some bright spots at Port. Indy Tahau really took on the reigns as a key defender and even played further afield at stages last season. Whether or not Cuthbertson’s arrival allows her to play more freely up the ground remains to be seen.
But there were some very good signs from the likes of Alex Ballard and Amelie Borg as well in their first seasons, so that’s a fantastic platform to build upon already for the upcoming season. They would love some extra ruck depth to cap it all off. Montana McKinnon is the name that’s being tossed up right now – and that’s not a bad player to have alongside Olivia Levicki.
SO WHAT NEXT FOR THE ADELAIDE FORWARD LINE?
It was a sticking point towards the end of last season – at times it felt like it was either Woodland, Danielle Ponter or they weren’t kicking a winning score. Now comes a big test for Matthew Clarke in terms of strategy.
They’ve used Chelsea Randall in the forward 50 over the past two years, and whilst she’s come up for them when they needed her, they have missed Randall at a few points with injury, particularly towards the end of the season.
There’s no denying Ponter’s talent, but I still have minor questions on her consistency. The other player that needs mentioning here is Caitlin Gould, who was fourth at the Crows for goals, with a return of 7.4 last season while playing as the number one ruck.
They did play McKenzie Dowrick last season, but I’m not exactly sure if she’s the one that carries the mantle going forward and while Lisa Whiteley has been serviceable, she’s not the answer to the void left behind.
Do they pull the trigger with Zoe Prowse? A first-round draft pick back in the 2021 AFLW Draft, Prowse played six games for the Crows in season seven – predominantly in defence, but that stint in the back half will no doubt have given her a little more understanding of how to play as a forward.
She also averaged 1.7 marks last season and nearly a contested mark per game – so the ability to clunk a grab is there. But I guess it’ll all come down to who else Adelaide may lose during this signing period.
HOW MANY WINS DO HAWTHORN AIM FOR WITH THE ADDITION OF THE BRISBANE GIRLS?
They should be aiming for a minimum of four games next year. Five if they can manage to haul in Cathy Svarc as well, which at the time of writing has not occurred yet.
We know results-wise that the Bombers were the best of the four expansion sides last season, but by the end of the season, I found myself gravitating towards the Hawks more in terms of just how impressed they applied themselves to their games.
While yes, they beat those below them… Sydney, Port Adelaide and West Coast – they were extremely close in games against GWS and Fremantle only losing to both by less than a kick. Whilst they were the 17th ranked side for disposals overall, the thing that impressed me the most was what they did without it.
They were second in the competition for tackles, averaging 71 per game. To me, that says a lot about making sides earn it and there were moments where they lost by five goals or more and they still didn’t drop their head.
Bates is the ‘everything player’ that the Hawks need. Tilly Lucas-Rodd is a fine player, but she is more grunt and power than skill and they’ve got promising talent coming through with both Charlotte Baskaran and Jasmine Fleming – the latter of the two showing more than enough last season to suggest that she’ll be a star in the AFLW and Tamara Smith was a great surprise packet last season, averaging over eight tackles per game and top five at the Hawks for contested possessions.
Bates has shown over the past 12 months that she can do it all – burst away from the clearance, smooth in transition, run all day, and help impact the scoreboard. As far as midfield units go – this is a scary proposition next year, especially if; a) the kids come along in their development and b) the Hawks can pull it off and land Svarc. Maybe they don’t even need her, but she’d be right at home with her ability to tackle.
The addition of Bodey isn’t to be underestimated either, especially once you remember she was named All-Austrailian last season. She kicked 24.24 across both seasons last year in 25 games. While not as accurate as those around her in the competition, it’s pretty obvious that she can generate scores consistently.
She’d provide a good veteran presence in a forward 50 that doesn’t hold much experience. Jess Duffin lead the goalkicking last season, but she’s no longer on the list. The next best goalkickers are Tahlia Fellows and Aine McDonagh – while both were equally impressive, are only just off their first season in the big time.
How Bec Goddard can incorporate the likes of Sarah Perkins, Sophie Locke and Zoe Barbakos into this forward line mix… well, it remains to be seen.
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