The AFLW off-season has descended into some proper madness. With the maligned priority signing period meaning that the latest expansion clubs getting another bite at some very valuable cherries at the higher end of the ladder (unless you’re Melbourne for some crazy reason).
But the trade period was equally just as bonkers with 37 players finding new homes through trades or through delisted free agency. Add in all the priority signings, 44 AFLW players found new homes this off-season and the landscape of the league has changed significantly.
It’s been a little bit since we’ve talked AFLW football, but the ‘supplemental’ draft is fast approaching and time is of the essence in more ways than one (I do have a life outside here you know).
This is why I won’t detail every trade, but rather list off my 10 biggest moves this off-season.
10 – THE THREE-WAY DEAL BETWEEN COLLINGWOOD, NORTH MELBOURNE AND ST KILDA
It was the first trade done in the off-season, so it makes sense to start off with this one. In all honesty, no one really loses this deal. The Saints needed some on-field leaders and Chiocci and Lambert are players that lead by example and set high standards for their teammates. Coming from a side that won games from being meticulous with their set ups and their ball movement, these acquisitions are big, fat, green ticks for the Saints.
North Melbourne get themselves an additional key target that will make them all the more potent up forward. There’s no denying exactly what Tahlia Randall can do as a forward over the past year and Emma King has proven herself to be a handy addition.
But Shierlaw adds another layer as a true centre-half forward; a player that can lead up the ground to be the bail-out kick and push back with a strong aerobic capacity. Add to the fact that she kicked a very accurate 13.4 this past season, she’ll be a player that could move the needle for North to become genuine premiership contenders.
And then there are the Pies, who picked up two players that should start round one in Tarni White and Grace Campbell.
White will be a handy asset in the middle as Bri Davey and Brittany Bonnici find their feet again after spending over a year out of action; there’s nothing flashy to how she plays, but tackle pressure is big in the AFLW and White brings it in spades. Campbell is a handy player capable of bringing pressure no matter where you play her
The Pies also secured pick 15 in this deal, which was eventually on-traded to the Bulldogs for Nell Morris-Dalton and you’d imagine that she’ll be right in the frame for a round one start too, providing she stays fit. That’s not a bad return for a former captain and a three-time club best and fairest.
All in all, I don’t think any team walks away from this feeling short-changed – a great deal all around.
9 – LAURA GARDINER TO SYDNEY
Perhaps this is one of the more underrated pickups over this off-season, but considering just how much help and support the budding young stars in the red and white need, this is a very shrewd pick-up for them.
They gave up the first overall pick in the upcoming draft to the Cats but given the depth of talent in New South Wales isn’t overly strong, this is a deal that will benefit both teams.
This is going to be a make-or-break year for Laura Gardiner. She was always going to be caught lagging behind the likes of Amy McDonald, Georgie Prespakis, Becky Webster and Nina Morrison. This move to Sydney really gives her the opportunity to make her mark as a bona fide midfielder in her own right.
We’ve seen over the past few years that she’s dominated previous levels of the game – she averaged ludicrously high numbers at the Geelong Falcons in the (very) shortened 2020 NAB League season, and just last year at the Cats’ VFLW team, she took the piss in her last five games, averaging 38.6 disposals per game in that span – which included a 49-disposal game against Port Melbourne.
There’s no doubt that she can find the football and that might’ve been one of Sydney’s bigger deficiencies last season was that they struggled to find genuine ball-winners. Too much was left to their kids, but stocking up with Chloe Molloy, Lucy McEvoy and Gardiner – add a fit and firing Montana Ham to the mix. The Swans have at least got some star talent in the door to lead the way this year.
8 – JADE PREGELJ TO BRISBANE
Look okay, this isn’t necessarily a trade deal, but this is my list, so eat it.
There have been some very strange delistings this off-season and this one is right at the top of the list – special shout out to Jess Matin, one of the sharpest shots in the competition, but still not good enough to get herself a list spot at the Saints, go eat one too St Kilda.
But the delisting of Pregelj from the Suns was a bizarre one, considering how good she has been over the past few years – an All-Australian squad member in 2020; the Gold Coast’s inaugural year. Maybe it’s due to her knee injury that she sustained in February last year, which kept her out of the entire of season seven. But there’s no doubt that there’s a spot in a side for her in the top level.
With the news that Kate Lutkins will sit out this coming season for personal reasons (all the very best her) it presents a golden opportunity for Pregelj to lock down a spot in this side for at least this season and maybe beyond.
And if anyone can get the best out of these kinds of players it’s Craig Starcevich and the team up in Brisbane.
In recent memory, the Lions have a good track record of picking up recycled players. Phoebe Monahan was a steal as a delisted free agent a few seasons ago and Dee Heslop played 11 games after being delisted by the Suns at the conclusion of season six last year.
7 – HARRIET CORDNER TO CARLTON
Not a lot has gone right for the Blues this off-season, but they did get some things right; getting rid of Daniel Harford was one of them and the other was the acquisition of Harriet Cordner.
Much like Pregelj at the Suns, Cordner missed the entire season seven as she suffered the dreaded ACL injury in the early goings of season six. But before that, Cordner was putting in some bloody outstanding work as a lockdown-first key defender at Richmond. The problem with the injury was that the arrivals of Eilish Sheerin and Libby Graham catapulted them above her in the pecking order.
There won’t be such issues at the Blues, especially if the plan is to play Kerryn Peterson permanently as a wing option. It leaves the Blues with a sturdy back-line trio of Mua Laloifi, Paige Trudgeon and now Cordner, who can definitely pick up the grunt work, while the other two can play a bit looser off their direct opponents.
And the cost to acquire her was Nat Plane who, if we’re in the business of being honest, is a player that just isn’t cut for it at AFLW level. She struggles to find the ball and when she does, makes a complete meal of it. In the three-way deal, the Saints lost out on this one.
6 – CAITLIN GREISER TO RICHMOND
Well, we’re talking about the deal, so we may as well continue on with the Richmond portion of this deal, and that’s the Tigers landing the 2020 leading goalkicker.
Richmond was in desperate need find a replacement for Courtney Wakefield, who retired at the conclusion of their finals exit. Greiser has shown glimpses of how dangerous she can be in and around goals. The problem at St Kilda was how inconsistent she could be in terms of impacting games.
There won’t be such supply issues at Tigerland. Greiser can be more of a stay-at home forward and the Tigers have the midfield talent and depth that she will get ample opportunities to either make contests or generate scores through her strong marking.
Greiser only kicked 10 goals in her past 19 games, which is slightly alarming given that she kicked 10 goals in her first six games of her career. But having said that, teams would have done their due diligence on her since then.
But this is a great opportunity for her to prove to those that have doubted her that she is a legitimate player and an opportunity for the Tigers to show that finishing in the top four last season was no fluke and they’ve got just the key pillars to do it.
5 – COURTNEY JONES TO RICHMOND
Keeping on with the yellow and black team is the acquisition of Courtney Jones from the Gold Coast, who was traded in a straight swap for Maddy Brancatisano, who was pretty ordinary in the games that she played for the Tigers last season.
It’s a big coup for the Tigers, but this is also a heart-warming story. Jones never really wanted to leave the Suns, but with her younger sister battling a severe illness, she took it upon herself to not just request a trade back home to Victoria. Furthermore, she then shared it to the media in hopes that fans can understand that footballers have lives outside of the ground and especially in the AFLW, they need to make decisions to what’s best for them – and I can 110 percent respect that. If I can give any more percent to it, I would.
On-field, Jones is a quality player. A player that showed in just one season at the Suns she is a great connector between the midfield and the forwards and is a capable goal-kicker in her own right. Her and Tara Bohanna both led the Suns in goals (eight), but Jones was the clear leader in score involvements, averaging four per game.
A Richmond forward line that is going to have Greiser, Jones along with the likes of Katie Brennan, Stella Reid and Emelia Yassir is going to cause a lot of problems for sides next year. Also, Monique Conti kicked 9.8 last season – how are rival clubs going to stop that?
4 – AMY FRANKLIN TO WEST COAST
This is incredibly massive for the Eagles, and it continues to push the needle in their favour for state supremacy in the far-away land of Western Australia. In fact, I think they’re well placed to get their first-ever derby win.
It’s a bit of a steep price with the Eagles coughing up their first two selections in the supplemental draft – picks three and 21 – to land her, but West Coast gain another player that will be well and truly there when they finally get to the point where they not just compete in games for longer, but will be in the finals picture.
Franklin made her name known when she kicked two massive goals in a tight affair against the Bulldogs on debut in season six, but since then, she has struggled at the Dockers; particularly this past season. Some of it was through her own doing, but the Dockers’ ball movement didn’t help them either.
Having said that, the Eagles have an impressive core of youngsters that are going to be the future of the competition: Ella Roberts, Lauren Wakfer, Charlotte Thomas, Courtney Rowley, Bella Lewis, Sarah Lakay and Issy Simmons are all players that were drafted in 2020 or later and all of them are bona fide best 21 players. Franklin adds a tall presence up forward that the Eagles have craved since their arrival to the competition.
3 – KATE SURMAN TO GEELONG
From day one, I’ve been a big fan of Kate Surman. She’s a player that adds a lot of spark and is capable of changing games through her work up forward.
At Port Adelaide, she struggled, but she certainly wasn’t alone in that regard; a lot of their senior heads were disappointing. But the Cats add another lively small forward who has the ability to pass herself off up the ground as another midfielder around the stoppages.
The Cats were often criticised for not putting enough score on the board and were left lacking in the Finals last year against North Melbourne. Chloe Scheer was a breakout star and Shelley Scott was a terrific find, but they’d love an extra player capable of tearing a game apart, and Surman is a player that will add plenty of creativity across the forward half.
In her last year at the Suns, she kicked 4.6 and averaged 2.4 score involvements per game. She’s got a lot of potential to average career-best numbers in both categories with an elite Cats midfield and a defensive unit capable of producing repeat inside 50s en masse.
2 – SARAH GOODWIN TO ADELAIDE
Sarah Goodwin was Port Adelaide’s second draft selection in last year’s AFLW Draft, pick seven overall. There was a lot of wraps around her on the back of her strong campaign for Glenelg in the SANFLW women’s season in 2022, she was touted as an efficient rebounding defender and a good intercept in the process.
At Port, she only managed just the five games and averaged only 7.6 disposals and 2.6 intercept possessions. She’s a known runner in the defensive half and that’s something the Crows could use a bit more of this season. Chelsea Biddell was the clear standout, averaging over six rebound 50s per game in season seven, the next best was Sarah Allan who averaged just two.
There was a sizeable gap between Biddell’s 7.4 intercept possessions per game and the next highest winner – Sarah Allan averaged 4.8 per game. So it becomes quite evident that the Crows targeted Goodwin to be one of their main players in the future and if her two games at Glenelg this year is any indication (27 and 33 disposals in her two games), she’s going to have a very strong say in this team.
They gave up Jasmine Simmons – who wasn’t really getting games to start with – and some additional picks to secure her. The Crows still have to address the big hole left by Ash Woodland’s defection to the Power, but as far as stocking up their future goes, it’s as good as it gets for them.
1 – ST KILDA AND GOLD COAST IN THE FIVE-TEAM DEAL
There are loads to dissect with this deal. But I’m going to start this with a question: How in the blue hell did Brisbane end up with Ellie Hampson and Pick 40 for a player that won the league’s goalkicking medal in season seven? And by some margin too I might add.
It is in no way intending to disrespect Hampson: she’s a tough player and a fair contested ball winner – she will be a feature in this Lions team this season, but in a competition where goals can be few and far between at times, Wardlaw is worth her weight in gold and then some.
For the Saints, it’s a great acquisition, but a part of me worries that she’ll be a victim of floundering in a different system, especially one such as St Kilda, where the results haven’t been as elementary as it has been at the Lions.
But what we do know about Wardlaw is that she’s a solid contested marking player and incredibly accurate – averaging 1.1 contested marks per game and 22.7 in her 12 games for Brisbane last season – it gives the Saints a premier target to kick to, especially with both Shierlaw and Greiser no longer there.
Don’t underestimate the acquisition of Serene Watson either. She has shown across her past few seasons at the Suns that she can adapt and play numerous roles around the ground. From a spot in the defensive half, to roles in the midfield – both inside and out. What Nick Dal Santo has in mind for her will be a developing story as the 2023 year unfolds.
But the other big winner is the Suns, who pick up three players and St Kilda’s first round pick in the supplemental draft, which stands at pick six.
Jordan Membrey and Clara Fitzpatrick are players that will slot right into the Suns team and play straight away. Membrey is the kind of player you can rely on in front of goals and has always provided solid leading patterns, whereas Fitzpatrick is best suited in defence and should form a solid tandem with Viv Saad and Lauren Ahrens.
Ella Maurer has only played just one game and was taken late in the 2021 Draft. It’s fair enough she struggled for opportunity at North given the talent that was ahead of her, but there could potentially be an opportunity for her as a pressure forward given that was where she was playing for North in her only game in her career to date – at 21 years of age, there’s good potential for her to break into the midfield if she digs deep and works hard.
For my money, the Lions really should’ve got pick six and one of Membrey or Maurer as part of the deal – would’ve been much better compensation for losing the best forward from last season.
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