The top 20 players in any competition are the absolute elite, and it’s no different for the AFLW. There may only be 240 players in the league, but these rankings represent the best of the ever-growing number of females playing the game.
Most articles in this series have had a long-winded introduction that somewhat attempts to justify the selections; not this one. These players speak for themselves.
Instead, we’ll leave you with something to look forward to following the countdown.
On top of the AFLW Top 50 Players list, we have also put together what we are calling the ‘Underrated 21’, a position-based team of AFLW players who do not feature in the top 50 countdown but deserve credit for their work.
It must be remembered that this top 50 is to credit those who stand out because of their individual performances. The idea is for the Underrated 21 (21 players per team still doesn’t feel right) to acknowledge the role-players that don’t get the praise they deserve.
But on with the show. In the penultimate article of this year’s top 50 AFLW players countdown, we look at the women ranked 20-11.
It should never be forgotten that all four Victorian AFLW clubs passed up on Sarah Perkins in the AFL Draft in one of the biggest draft blunders – in any sport – of all time. She quickly became a cult sensation in the first AFLW season, and earned a reputation as the hardest working forward at ground level. She finished the season with 11 goals from eight games, the second most of any player, and was the only key forward that played three or more games to finish in the top five for both score assists and pressure applied. Adelaide had a heavy reliance on Perkins, targetting her with kicks into the forward 50 61 times, 24 more than any other player in the AFLW.
Playing an astounding 97 per cent of game time throughout the season in a team that made the Grand Final is impressive, but to do so as the number one key defender, as Leah Kaslar did, is stunning. She rated elite for spoils and was above average for intercept possessions and tackles. Kaslar lost just 13 per cent of her defensive one-on-ones, the best percentage of the 12 defenders to feature in at least 10 defensive one-on-one contests, a number made more impressive considering she consistently took on the opposition’s best marking options.
As part of Melbourne’s ‘big three’ midfielders, Elise O’Dea still doesn’t get as much recognition for her abilities as she should – yep, still – which comes with the territory of being in a team with so many star midfielders. She rated elite for disposals, metres gained and uncontested possessions, earning herself a position in the All-Australian midfield. She was also above average for inside 50s and score involvements, getting involved across half-forward as much as she did in the back half. O’Dea is now reaching the prime of her career, but it’s still believed that she can take her game up a notch, a frightening prospect for opposition teams.
In a Western Bulldogs defence that didn’t perform as expected in 2017, Hannah Scott still managed to be the competition’s standout small defender. She was excellent at cutting out the opposition’s ball movement, averaging the most spoils of all general defenders and also ranking number one for intercept possession. As well as winning turnovers, her ability to move the ball was well above all other general defenders, gaining a total of 385 metres per match, 133 more than the next best defender. Frankly, it’s unbelievable that Scott missed out on All-Australian selection.
In what was a balanced Lions line-up with a range of contributors, Emily Bates acted as the dominant ball winner and the key to their outside movement. She finished number two in the AFLW for Champion Data ranking points per 50 minutes, and ended the season with more contested and uncontested possessions than any other Lion. She also ranked second at the club for both clearances and tackles, proving she is adept at doing the rough stuff as she is at using the ball on the outside. As a result, Bates won Brisbane’s best and fairest in 2017, and is poised to become a top 10 player as she further develops.
Bowers naturally slides down the rankings due to her being out for 12 months with an ACL injury, but rest assured, she will be one of the competition’s best players in 2018. A Five-time WAWFL best and fairest winner, Bowers has long been considered Western Australia’s top player and has a case for being one of the best of all time, and her absence in the Fremantle line-up stood out like a sore thumb. Champion Data has covered four matches of Bowers’ since 2013, averaging 140 ranking points per game, second only to Daisy Pearce in that period. With plenty of time to fully recover since her injury, we predict Bowers will be back in the top 10 (if not higher) in 12 months time.
Considered to be the biggest marquee signing of all 16 players, Chelsea Randall is a versatile workhorse who gets the job done all over the field. She was the only midfielder in the competition to rate elite for both intercepts and shots at goal, quite a remarkable statistic. She won more intercept possessions than any other midfielder, also ranking second for intercept marks. What would be most exciting for Crows fans is that Randall’s 2017 season came after she had played limited footy in 2016. She will be even better in 2018 – good luck stopping her.
Ebony Marinoff had developed a reputation as someone who can easily accumulate disposals and damage the opposition, but her all-round game was taken to a remarkable level in the 2017 AFLW season. She applied 76 tackles (9.5 per game), 27 more than any other player in the league, and still managed to find the ball 19 times per game. She also posted elite numbers for metres gained and contested possessions, proving her ability to use the football has not been lost despite the focus on solid tackling. Unsurprisingly, Marinoff was the inaugural winner of the AFLW Rising Star award.
Emma Zielke has long been the pulse of Queensland footy and continued to be just that in 2017. Though others had more impressive individual numbers than her, you could safely argue that the team wouldn’t have achieved the success it did without Zielke in the team. She won more than half of her possessions in contested situations, leading the Lions for both clearances and tackles. She was also able to get forward and have an impact on the scoreboard, rating above average for goals, score involvements and score assists. In our eyes at least, she is the most inspirational leader in the competition.
Unsurprisingly, Emma King continued to thrive in the ruck in the 2017 AFLW season, carrying on her excellent string of form. She attended the most ruck contests of any player in the league, leading the competition for hit-out win percentage and hit-out-to-advantage win percentage. Those stats are made even more impressive by her having an average of 28.4 hit-outs per game, 6.4 more than second place and a remarkable 11.4 more than third. Without any doubt, King remains the competition’s premier ruck, and having spent more time in the forward line in the VFLW in 2017 bodes well for her versatility.