After making the preliminary finals for the first time since the top-eight format was introduced, the Cats made very few changes to their roster. They traded out Annabel Johnson to West Coast, who, after having an excellent season seven in 2022, playing every game, only played one game in 2023 due to injury.
They traded in Bella Smith from Brisbane, a player starved of opportunity in 2023 after missing all of 2022 due to an ACL injury. She’ll come in and provide handy depth in the midfield position for the Cats, who boast many big names but don’t quite have the depth at their disposal.
It was a quiet-ish draft for the Cats as well. They were destined to capture Bryde O’Rourke with the Father/Daughter rule and got her at 23, matching Melbourne’s bid. She’s seen plenty of time in the midfield but will likely start as a forward. She’s got good pace and loves to take the game on, but at 175cm, she’s got good potential to cause problems in the midfield.
They surprised some with their first-round selection, taking key forward Chantal Mason at pick 18. She’ll start behind both Jackie Parry and Aishling Moloney in the pecking order, but the Cats were impressed with Mason’s form in front of goal for the Geelong Falcons last year, kicking 36 goals in 15 games, including a stretch that saw her kick 21 goals in four weeks.
There was not a lot of movement from Geelong this off-season, but I was happy with the core players that nearly got them into their first Grand Final.
Traded In: Katie Lynch (Western Bulldogs), Charlotte Wilson (Melbourne), Ella Smith (Brisbane)
Traded Out: Lauren Ahrens (Western Bulldogs), Giselle Davies (Sydney), Ali Drennan (West Coast), Kalinda Howarth (Collingwood), Bess Keaney (Essendon), Jasmyn Smith (Western Bulldogs), Claire Ransom (Delisted Free Agent, GWS)
After being knocked out in the first week of finals on their own home ground, the Suns got busy in targeting key defenders at the trade period, acquiring All-Australian Bulldog Katie Lynch and Dee Charlotte Wilson, and also picked up midfielder Ella Smith from Brisbane, who should get more of a look into their midfield unit.
With that, they traded out six players. Ali Drennan might be the most notable of the lot, given her form for the Suns over the years, but this year, she was caught behind Claudia Whitfort and Charlie Rowbottom and overtaken by Lucy Single in the midfield.
Other notable losses include Kalinda Howarth, who despite injuring her knee early in the piece last season, still is one of the more exciting players at their disposal, as well as vice-captain Bess Keaney and the intercepting prowess of Lauren Ahrens.
They had an excellent draft night, securing small forward Keely Fullerton with their first draft selection at pick 36, a player that damages the opposition with almost every disposal she gets and who can also push up onto the wing. Followed by taking rebounding defender Taya Oliver with pick 44. A player who was named half-back in the QAFLW team of the year and finished in the top five in the league’s best and fairest.
They got bargains for Academy pair Kiara Bischer and Sienna McMullen with their next two picks. Bischer is another tall defender type, who thrives in the one-on-one contests, while McMullen is an elite mover of the ball along the wing, blessed with great speed and evasiveness.
They finished up their draft haul by taking key position utility Annabel Kievit out of the Northern Territory; despite her limited exposure to the game, she has excellent upside with her size and athleticism and can be used at either end.
Interesting is how I’d describe GWS’ off-season, and that’s perhaps me being polite. It wasn’t a good year for Cam Bernasconi’s group, and a lot of their inclusions don’t look like the kind of players that will move the needle in the positive for them next year.
What I do like is the acquisition of Mikayla Pauga from Brisbane. She’s the kind of player that the Giants would love, continually throwing herself in the contest in the hopes that they can get the ball moving in their favour. She’s also shown that she can go forward and have a positive impact.
Kaitlyn Srhoj, with their first draft selection at pick three, is a good selection and should immediately find a spot in their best 21, whether it’s straight into the engine room or perhaps start across half back or on a wing. She’s got a great aerobic base, is a prolific user of the ball by both hand and foot and has the height and the size to be a damaging prospect on the inside.
However, that’s where the ticks stop for the Giants regarding acquisitions. Courtney Murphy is an untried ruck-forward out of Brisbane; Claire Ransom has upside but has struggled to find form at the Gold Coast. Aleisha Newman will arrive at her fourth club and Daisy Walker was picked up as a delisted free agent from a Carlton side that is still currently rebuilding.
The losses of Jodie Hicks and Ally Dallaway may hurt to a degree; they were honest toilers on this side and are players that can be replaced. Rene Caris has potential, but it looks like they’ll give Fleur Davies every chance to build on her work in the ruck heading into the new season.
With their second and final selection, they opted to go with inside midfielder Indigo Linde, who produced a good campaign for the Ranges, averaging over 16 disposals per game in the Talent League last season.
Traded In: Eliza West (Melbourne), Casey Sherriff (Melbourne)
Traded Out: Nil
Delisted: Janet Baird, Zoe Barbakos, Sarah Perkins
Retired: Tamara Luke, Tegan Cunningham, Akec Makur Chuot, Catherine Brown
Drafted In: Mikayla Williamson (Pick 17), Sophie Butterworth (Pick 45) Jess Vukic (Pre-Listed), Laura Stone (Pre-Listed), Hayley McLaughlin (Pre-Listed)
A pretty good off-season for the Hawks, as they look to continue developing their list and push closer towards a top-eight spot in 2024.
They only made one trade in the trade period, giving up pick five as part of a package deal for the premiership pairing of Eliza West and Casey Sherriff. Eliza West shores up that Hawthorn midfield, which will see Emily Bates, Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Jasmine Fleming and now West all over stoppages and centre bounces, which will excite Hawthorn fans.
Sherriff will be a fine acquisition and should slot into Hawthorn’s best side, likely to be half forward or the wing, but she has also seen time in defence during her career to date. She’s a great runner, and the Hawks won’t say no to a player like that.
They picked up a good haul of young talent to help build their first dynasty. Laura Stone was touted as a sure-fire top-10 draft selection before being snapped up by the Hawks as a pre-listing signing. Stone was named captain of the Coates Talent League team of the year as a half-back flanker but also saw significant minutes in the midfield.
They also signed talented ruck-forward Jess Vukic, and outside midfielder Hayley McLaughlin. Vukic and McLaughin saw time in the VFLW last year, representing Vic Metro alongside Stone.
At the Draft, they plucked one of the sliders of the draft in Mikayla Williamson, a midfielder with exceptional endurance abilities and explosive speed that could see her move on-ball later in her career. She will likely start at half-back or on the wing.
Traded In: Lily Johnson (Port Adelaide)
Traded Out: Eliza West (Hawthorn), Casey Sherriff (Hawthorn), Libby Birch (North Melbourne), Maddy Gay (Essendon), Charlotte Wilson (Gold Coast)
After crashing and burning in the finals after an impressive opening two months of their AFLW premiership defence, Melbourne returned to the well of 2020, taking risks in moving players on for draft capital. It worked then, taking Alyssa Bannan, Eliza McNamara, and Megan Fitzsimon – all of whom are firmly among the best 21 players for the club.
This time around, they traded out premiership players Eliza West, Casey Sherriff, Libby Birch and Maddy Gay and landed themselves three draft selections inside the top 25 when it came to draft night. They also managed to pick up Lily Johnson from Port Adelaide as part of the 11-team mega trade – a mid-sized player who can play either forward or back.
On draft night, they started by taking Alyssia Pisano at five – a great selection for them and adding another dynamic forward capable of kicking bags of goals rapidly. The following two picks are where their draft haul gets a bit screwy, taking a punt on two players with high upside but also big red flags in terms of their chances of being flag fancies, at least in the short term.
Pick 12 saw the Dees take Ryleigh Wotherspoon – a player with great athleticism and an excellent sporting pedigree, representing both Queensland and Australia in cricket and being an established soccer and softball player. Having only recently returned to footy, she possesses great power and was on Brisbane’s train-on list in 2023. She’s still very raw; she’ll take some time to develop.
Pick 24 saw them pick up a player coming from consecutive ACL injuries in Jacinta Hose – a 185cm prospect who can play both ruck and forward and has excellent athleticism. However, she won’t be available this year as she works to recover from the injury. They secured father/daughter prospect Jemma Rigoni with their fourth selection at pick 29… before taking tall defender Delany Madigan with the final selection in the draft.
It’s more of a wait-and-see deal with their draft haul, which is unimpressive for a side that is supposedly still in the premiership window. Pisano could slot in and play almost immediately, Johnson might have a spot in the side for round one, but the others will likely take time.
Drafted In: Ella Slocombe (Pick 26), Georgia Stubs (Pick 30)
North Melbourne didn’t make many moves in the off-season, but the ones they did were recruiting moves from the top shelf.
Libby Birch from Melbourne is a dual-premiership player and will immediately bring another level to a North Melbourne defensive unit that was already pretty bloody hard to topple in 2023. They did move on Ellie Gavalas, but given that she was on the outer for a lot of the season, it was always going to be an uphill battle to retain.
On draft night, they used their first two selections on players that could’ve easily been off the board by the time the Roos went on the clock. Ella Slocombe was touted to be – at worst – a late first-round pick, some even had her going inside the top 10. However, she slid down to North’s first pick at 26. She’s a player with powerful athleticism and a pretty impressive skill set already. She played plenty of time up forward and in the midfield in WA, holding her in good stead as she looks to assert herself inside North’s best 21.
They picked another midfielder in Georgia Stubs at pick 30 – a player who enjoyed an excellent year for the Eastern Ranges in the talent league. Stubs can also run from half-back, and that’s likely where she’ll start off her career in the blue and white. They also recommitted to drafting Lucy Burke with their third selection – purely as a key position utility, convenient that she can play all three areas of the ground, too.
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