Intriguing subplots of the AFLW pre-season

The AFLW pre-season officially kicked off on Monday, and after a long cold winter we are now only a couple of months away from the beginning of the second season.

Still, there’s a solid pre-season of training to get through before the first bounce, and there are more than a few players and issues to keep your eye on.

AFLW league best and fairest Erin Phillips addresses her team. Image: Michael Willson/AFL Media

We’ve compiled a handful of them here.

 

Lion captain’s return to the track
Brisbane captain Emma Zielke broke three ribs and punctured a lung during the AFLW State of Origin match earlier this year. It was clearly a significant injury, and while senior coach Craig Starcevich said last week that the midfielder was back running and moving without pain, keen eyes will be watching as she gets back to training, especially as the physicality steps up a notch.

Is Darcy right to go?
Similarly, all eyes will be on Carlton’s Darcy Vescio who injured her PCL during the VFLW season, and she is expected to be on a modified training schedule at the Blues. Very little word has come out of the Blues’ camp, so her performance in the pre-season will be interesting given she was the AFLW’s leading goalkicker in 2017.

The top draft picks
The 2018 number one draft pick, Isabel Huntington will have plenty of Bulldogs supporters excitedly looking forward to season two. But, given she hasn’t played top grade footy for two years after breaking a leg in 2015 and suffering an ACL in 2016, Huntington will need to prove herself on the track over the next two months to be assured a call-up in round one. The number two draft pick and joint leading goalkicker for the 2017 AFLW season, Collingwood’s Chloe Molloy, will be closely watched by Pies fans. While Molloy injured her shoulder in the VFLW Grand Final and didn’t participate in the Draft Combine, it’s expected she will complete a full pre-season.

Ch-ch-changes
There was plenty of movement during the inaugural AFLW trade period, but perhaps the biggest move was that of Brisbane forward Tayla Harris to Carlton. Much was speculated at the time about the move, and Harris moved to Melbourne soon after and played two games for the St Kilda Sharks in the VFLW 2017 season. Nicola Stevens’ move to Carlton, Jaimee Lambert’s move to Collingwood, Bianca Jakobsson’s move to Melbourne, Alecia Eva and Maddy Boyd’s moves to the Giants, and Kellie Gibson’s return to Western Australia make them all players to watch across the pre-season as they settle into new teams, and in some cases new states.

Can she get even better?
Adelaide’s Erin Phillips took the inaugural AFLW season by storm, co-captaining the premiership winning Crows and taking out the league best and fairest, and she did so without a full pre-season. Phillips is already back in Australia and expected to complete a full pre-season which Crows fans, and no doubt many others, will be watching closely. Could Erin Phillips improve further in 2018?

Returning superstars
The AFLW was robbed of two star players in 2017 as both Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers and GWS’s Renee Forth succumb to ACL injuries in the same state league game late in 2016. In Forth’s case, she also ruptured her MCL and lateral meniscus. At the time of the injuries, both players were clearly in the top 20 best players in the country, and Bowers specifically was rated as Girls Play Footy’s number two in our AFLW Top 50 players back in January. From all reports, both players are ready to put in solid pre-seasons and show what the country missed out on.

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