Easily the best part about compiling a top 50 of this magnitude is the discussion that accompanies it.
Reading the different takes following the release of the first 10 players in our 50 best players list was a great reminder that AFLW is right around the corner, and that fans remain passionate about the individuals who compete in it.
Maybe the most difficult part about compiling the top 50 is knowing what to value most. Some value lots of disposal, valuable midfield ball-winners and star performances, others value efficiency, strong contributions from role players and consistency.
It’s these assessments that can so drastically alter a list of this nature. Many players who can be placed in the 40s in one list could make the top 20 or higher in another with the right explanation – it all depends on what aspects of their game you value most.
No top 50 is ever going to be alike – that’s what we love most about doing ours. If you disagree, we want to know why and hear your take. Some even sent through their own top 50s after yesterday’s release, which is the best reaction we could possible receive.
Moving on to the next lot of 10, these players are those we have adjudged to be ranked 40-31. As was the case yesterday, whether you agree or disagree, we want to hear your opinion on social media!
Shelley Scott was a jack of all trades in 2017, having an impact both forward and back as a versatile role midfielder. She was above average for both contested and uncontested possessions, also operating at an excellent disposal efficiency of 63.1 per cent. While also contributing around the ground, she bobbed up at vital moments to be involved in crucial scores for the Demons, placing second at the club for both goals (five) and assists (four). In a Melbourne team that features so many midfielders, Scott is perhaps the most versatile of all.
After missing the first two games of the season through injury, the injection of Emma Swanson as both a ball-winning midfielder and a rebounder helped change the course of GWS’s season. She averaged an elite 10 contested possessions in 2017, also ranking as elite for intercept marks and boasting an impressive 2.6 rebound 50s per game. Swanson’s best footy is still ahead of her, and her efficiency down back may see her spend more time across the half-back line.
Ranked as the competition’s best key defender in last year’s top 50, Ebony Antonio was asked to contribute more in the midfield due to Fremantle’s lack of depth rather than play in her traditional role. Antonio’s natural athleticism helped her excel, posting above average disposal numbers for midfielders. Her defensive qualities remained in the elite category despite playing more in the centre, finishing above average for intercepts, intercept marks and tackles. With Fremantle’s midfield receiving some much-needed depth, Antonio may go back to playing key defence in 2018.
Though clubs passed up on Laura Duryea in the 2016 AFLW Draft, the Irishwoman’s selection as a free agent was fruitful for Melbourne as she showcased her well-known lock-down skills in a key defensive role. She rated elite for rebound 50s and proved to be strong in contests, outright winning 50 per cent of her defensive one-on-one duels and posting elite spoiling numbers. Though she was snubbed for the All-Australian team, Duryea was named in the back pocket of Girls Play Footy’s 2017 Team of the Season.
2017 proved to be a difficult season for Jaimee Lambert, struggling with a hip injury that didn’t allow her to fully display her forward-running skills for the Bulldogs. As a result of Katie Brennan also being out of the squad, she was even forced to play a key position at times despite her small stature. Regardless of her struggles, she still managed to kick five goals in her six matches, the second most of all Bulldogs. With a full bill of health and the chance to play her natural game in a scoring-minded Collingwood side, expect Lambert to be back to her brilliant best.
Having long been the reliable performer for South Australian teams in the past, the Crows opted to play a superstar bash-and-crash midfielder in Courtney Cramey in a defensive role. The decision proved to be a stroke of genius as Cramey acted as the defensive general for the Crows, predominantly using the ball by foot at an excellent 67.1 per cent disposal efficiency, and amassing an average of 204 metres gained per game, almost double the average for general defenders. Cramey saved her best for last in an unbelievable 23-disposal Grand Final, tallying 177 Champion Data ranking points which was second only to Erin Phillips on the day.
As the 135th pick in the 2016 AFLW Draft, Jasmine Grierson proved to be an absolute steal. Though she was known as a forward-running midfielder prior to the draft, Grierson played behind the ball and ranked tenth for intercept possessions and fourth for metres gained. Totalling an above average 11 disposals per game, her disposal efficiency of 75 per cent was the best of all 55 general defenders to play more than three games. With the ability to use the ball so smartly coming out of the defensive half, Grierson has the potential to become a great rebounding midfielder that can go forward and snag a goal.
Perhaps one of the most underrated performers of the 2017 season, Lara Filocamo went about her inside midfielder role with no nonsense. Over half of her average 15.3 disposals were contested, also posting above average numbers for clearances and tackles. Her bash-and-crash style was a great benefit to the Dockers in their surprising down season, but Filocamo’s proven ability to win inside ball against the competition’s best bodes well for her side ahead of what will be an improved midfield effort this year.
The runner-up in Carlton’s best and fairest, Danielle Hardiman was exceptional as a key defender. She was the third-best key defender in the competition based on Champion Data’s ranking points, and she won more than half of her disposals via intercept possessions, where she ranked second in her position. Though she was above average for intercept marks, her best work was done when the ball hit the ground. As part of a formidable defensive duo with Brianna Davey, Hardiman was also second in the competition for average rebound 50s with 3.5 per game, finishing behind only Davey.
Despite winning Collingwood’s best and fairest award, Nicola Stevens was traded to Carlton where she will join an already impressive defensive duo on paper. As a versatile defender who is as good in the air as she is on the ground, she recorded the most pressure points per game and equal second most tackles per game of all key defenders. She was also above average for intercept possessions and spoils per game. Perhaps Stevens will display more of her ball-winning ability in the revamped Carlton defence.