With our 2018 Top 50 AFLW Players countdown out of the way, now it’s time to put a spotlight on those who aren’t as recognised for the work the do.
This is the first installment of Girls Play Footy’s Underrated 21, an annual team of 21 players that are exceptional in their given roles and/or are promising future talents.
While the top 50 is a celebration of great individual performances, this team is all about those who does the little things that impact a match while their teammates receive the media fanfare.
As with the top 50, only players that were on an AFLW list the year prior will be eligible for the Underrated 21, and though there are underrated players that featured in the top 50, they will be ineligible for this team.
This is our Underrated 21 for 2018. We’d also love to know which players you think are underrated in their positions and why.
If you haven’t already, check out our list of the AFLW’s top 50 players ahead of the 2018 season!
Back pocket: Amanda Farrugia (GWS)
Draft History: Pick 64, 2016
The captain of GWS in the inaugural AFLW season, Amanda Farrugia earned a reputation as one of the hardest working small defenders. She rated elite for rebound 50s and above average for uncontested marks, disposals, metres gained and Champion Data ranking points. Defensively, Farrugia ranked elite for spoils and above average for tackles and pressure points, though she was often exposed in one-on-one contests.
Full-back: Kate Lutkins (Brisbane)
Draft History: Pick 79, 2016
Kate Lutkins played with a no-nonsense approach in 2017, outright winning four of her seven one-on-one contests. Though she only ranked average for disposals, her 183 metres gained per game was the fifth most of all key defenders in the competition. Lutkins was also able to pinch-hit in the ruck, and her fearless efforts in contests won her the Lions’ most courageous award.
Back pocket: Caitlyn Edwards (Collingwood)
Draft History: Pick 43, 2016
Caitlyn Edwards was used in a range of positions in 2017, but typically played as an attacking defender. She rated above average for both kicking and handball efficiency when moving the ball, and lost only 25 per cent of her one-on-ones when in contests. She was also able to sneak forward and mark in front of goal, kicking two goals for the season and ranking elite for score involvements and shots on goal for general defenders.
Half-back flank: Emma Grant (Collingwood)
Draft History: Pick 91, 2016
Though her side conceded the third most scores in the competition, Emma Grant was efficient in defence. She rated above average for spoils, tackles and pressure points per 50 minutes, and was involved in the third most one-on-ones (12) for general defenders, outright winning an above average 33 per cent. Her below average disposals saw her fly under the radar at Collingwood, but the work she does off the ball is excellent.
Centre half-back: Alex Williams (Fremantle)
Draft History: Priority, 2016
In a GWS side that was constantly under the pump in 2017, Alex Williams proved difficult to beat in marking situations, winning five of her eight defensive one-on-ones. She had the second-best win rate of any general defender to be involved in at least five contests, and was the third ranked general defender for Champion Data ranking points in the competition. Once her use of the ball by foot improves, she will become a prominent and versatile one-out defender.
Half-back flank: Nicole Callinan (Western Bulldogs)
Draft History: Pick 85, 2016
As a rebounding defender who also pinch-hit in the midfield, Nicole Callinan proved to be versatile defensive asset and one of the few Bulldogs role players who had an impact. She rated above average for intercept marks and ground ball gets, also recording the ninth best disposal efficiency of any of the 70 players to have 60 or more disposals. Having to step up and fill gaps in the Dogs’ midfield in 2017, Callinan will be better off as she likely spends more time in the defensive 50 this season.
Centre: Megan Hunt (Brisbane)
Draft History: Pick 63, 2016
Despite being all over the ground in 2017, Megan Hunt hasn’t received as much fanfare as some of her teammates. She was involved both defensive and offensively, taking the fifth most marks of any midfielder and ranking above average for disposals with elite kicking efficiency. Hunt finished above average for both tackles and pressure applied, and her eight marks in the Grand Final was the most by any player in a game last season.
Half-forward flank: Brittany Bonnici (Collingwood)
Draft History: Pick 27, 2016
Despite the former star junior having limited opportunities on the ball, Brittany Bonnici was dogged in the contest, finishing equal second for tackles at Collingwood. She also rated above average for pressure points per 50 minute, but had limited offensive impact due to her limited midfield minutes. Bonnici earned an AFLW Rising Star nomination for her 18-disposal game against GWS, which is a strong indicator of what she can do when given a more prominent midfield role.
Centre half-forward: Amy Lavell (Fremantle)
Draft History: Pick 61, 2016
A veteran tall marking forward, Amy Lavell was the focal point of Fremantle’s attack in 2017. Though she was only able to manage two goals for the season, the Dockers retained 53 per cent of forward 50 entries directed to her and she ranked third of the top 10 targets in the competition. She was targeted in the fourth most offensive one-on-one contests, winning an impressive 37 per cent and ranking second in the league for score assists (seven).
Half-forward flank: Abbey Holmes (Adelaide)
Draft History: Pick 103, 2016
Statistically, Abbey Holmes was the best contested small forward in the AFLW last season. She ranked third for her position for disposals and led the league’s small forwards for contested possessions per game. Her contested possession rate of 65 per cent was the fifth highest of the 60 players to average more than nine disposals in the competition. Building on her excellent grunt work, Holmes will hope to get more involved on the scoreboard in 2018.
Forward pocket: Jenna McCormick (Adelaide)
Draft History: Pick 23, 2016
Jenna McCormick injected an extra element to Adelaide’s forward line when she joined the team in round two after playing in the W-League Grand Final the week prior. She was lively at ground level and strong defensively, ranking above average for pressure points per 50 minutes among general small forwards. She only touched the ball six times a game, but operated at an above average disposal efficiency and kicked four goals for the season.
Full-forward: Phoebe McWilliams (GWS)
Draft History: Priority, 2016
Spots in GWS’s forward line were open heading into the season, and Phoebe McWilliams stepped up to claim the mantle as the Giants’ number one key forward. She kicked Giants’ first AFLW goal, going on to kick seven total in a side which averaged only 18 inside 50s per match. McWilliams was elite with the ball in hand, operating at the best disposal efficiency of any key forward in the competition, and had the best kicking efficiency of any GWS player.
Forward pocket: Deanna Berry (Western Bulldogs)
Draft History: Pick 9, 2016
Deanna Berry was prolific as a small forward last season, ranking second at Melbourne for scoreboard impact and equal second for score involvements. With an offensive mindset, she ranked elite for shots at goals and goals per game, kicking five goals for the season. She will need to apply more pressure for the Bulldogs in 2018, having been traded from Melbourne.
Ruck: Rhiannon Metcalfe (Adelaide)
DOB: Pick 74, 2016
Rhiannon Metcalfe is very much an old-school style of ruck, winning hitouts and throwing her weight around at ground level. She averaged 17 hitouts per game (third in the competition) and outright won 53 per cent of taps, the second most in the AFLW. Though she didn’t get her hands on the ball much, Metcalfe rated above average for score assists, disposal efficiency and score involvements.
Ruck-rover: Shae Audley (Carlton)
Draft History: Pick 46, 2016
Shae Audley was tasked with doing the lion’s share of inside midfield work for the Blues in 2017, as she had the highest contested possession rate of all players in the AFLW to have more than 50 possessions. She ranked number one at Carlton for both clearances and tackles, and was fourth in the AFLW for pressure points per 50 minutes. Audley had 7.3 contested possessions per game to go with just two uncontested, showing just how hard she had to work for the ball.
Rover: Catherine Phillips (Melbourne)
Draft History: Rookie, 2016
Stepping up from being a rookie signing in 2017, Cat Phillips had the fourth best disposal efficiency of the top 50 ball-winning midfielders, a remarkable achievement for someone still relatively new to the game. She ranked sixth at Melbourne for total disposals and fifth for scoreboard impact to go with her five goals. Her excellent ball use continued in front of goal, recording the equal sixth best shot at goal accuracy of the 38 players to average at least one attempt on goal per game.
Interchange: Lauren Pearce (Melbourne)
Draft History: Pick 25, 2016
Lauren Pearce was the number one ranked ruck in the competition for Champion Data ranking points last season, averaging 103 per game. It was largely due to her work around the ground, rating above average for disposals, contested possessions and clearances. Pearce also dropped back to help defenders to rate above average for intercept marks, and won a hit-out to advantage from 13 per cent of her ruck contests, which was fourth in the competition.
Interchange: Brittany Gibson (Brisbane)
Draft History: Pick 141, 2016
Despite being Brisbane’s last pick in the 2016 AFL Draft, Brittany Gibson started the 2017 season with what was arguably a best on ground performance against Melbourne across half-back. She was routinely used in the forward half, however, rating above average for metres gained and elite for kicking efficiency. Though somewhat overlooked in their line-up, she was a key part of the Lions’ forward ball movement, ranking above average for inside 50s and score involvements.
Interchange: Isabella Ayre (Brisbane)
Draft History: Pick 51, 2016
A promising key forward, Bella Ayre was acquired by the Lions in the Carlton trade involving Tayla Harris. She was starved of opportunities with the Blues, only targeted 10 times with kick into the forward 50 for the entire season. Of those 10, the Blues retained six, ranking fifth of the 29 players with 10 or more targets. Ayre still had more Champion Data ranking points than Harris per 50 minutes of game time, and kicked four goals for the season.
Interchange: Rebecca Beeson (GWS)
Draft History: Pick 32, 2016
Though she flies under the radar, Bec Beeson is one of the most promising young players in the league. She had the fourth most disposals of any teenager in 2017, and her 10.4 disposals per game were the most of any small forward. Though Beeson only had limited scoreboard impact with three goals and two assists from her seven matches, her defensive pressure was impressive, recording the fifth most pressure points amongst small forwards.
Interchange: Kirsty Lamb (Western Bulldogs)
Draft History: Pick 138, 2016
Emma Kearney receives due recognition for her inside work, but Kirsty Lamb went just as hard in contested situations. She rated above average for both contested possessions and clearances, ranking third at the Bulldogs in both areas. She was also above average for pressure points, and had the equal fourth most goals of all midfielders in the competition. Lamb’s kicking efficiency dipped as a result of playing inside, but she was still able to get the ball outside to her midfield group.