AFLW preview: Round 1, 2018

“Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win.” – Bernadette Devlin, Irish civil rights leader.

The beauty of round one is that everyone starts afresh. Regardless how bad your previous season may have been, at this moment, you sit on the same points and percentage as the reigning premiers: zero.

Adelaide will begin its premiership defence this weekend when the second season of AFLW gets underway. Image: Michael Willson/AFL Media

From this point forward, speculation becomes fact. We see what football department got it right when it comes to delistings, trades and draft picks, and we see how they’ve improved their retained footballers, both as individuals and as a team.

This time last year, there was an excitement in the air with history being made, and just hours later, a lockout at Princes Park.

Now it’s different. We’re not making history. Now, women’s football is the norm. Will it still drive fans to pack out Princes Park? Will there be the big Friday night ratings numbers again? And will the images of the opening game again be splashed all over the front and back pages of the major newspapers?

We’ll all know in the next 24-48 hours. Now, let’s get on with the footy!

Don’t forget, you can join our live conversation on Twitter during each match by following us at @GirlsPlayFooty and using the relevant game’s hashtag.

 

Carlton vs Collingwood
Friday, February 2 @ Ikon Park – 7:45pm (AEDT)
TV: Channel 7 (Melb & Adel), 7Mate (Perth, Bris & Syd) and Fox Footy
Stream: AFL.com.au, Foxtel Now (Australia) and Watch.AFL (overseas)
Radio: SEN 1116
Twitter: #AFLWBluesPies

Carlton Blues
B: Jess Hosking – Danielle Hardiman – Lauren Brazzale
HB: Gabriella Pound – Alison Downie – Brianna Davey
C: Shae Audley
HF: Tayla Harris – Kerryn Harrington – Nicola Stevens
F: Maddison Gay – Darcy Vescio – Sophie Li
Foll: Breanne Moody – Sarah Hosking – Katie Loynes
Int: Kate Shierlaw – Lauren Arnell – Georgia Gee – Natalie Plane – Kate Gillespie-Jones
Emg: Tilly Lucas-Rodd – Sarah Last

Collingwood Magpies
B: Sophie Casey – Stacey Livingstone – Cecilia McIntosh
HB: Stephanie Chiocci – Caitlyn Edwards – Emma Grant
C: Moana Hope
HF: Brittany Bonnici – Sarah D’Arcy – Chloe Molloy
F: Christina Bernardi – Jasmine Garner – Jessica Duffin
Foll: Emma King – Jaimee Lambert – Amelia Barden
Int: Iilish Ross – Eliza Hynes – Sarah Dargan – Melissa Kuys – Bree White
Emg: Ruby Schleicher – Holly Whitford

One player on Friday night will truly tell us if a tradition that occurs in the men’s AFL will also happen in the AFLW: booing the champion player that’s left your club for your arch-rival.

Half-back Nicola Stevens won the best and fairest at the Magpies last year, then sensationally requested a trade to the Blues. When she swoops to pick up her first position at Princes Park, we’ll discover if the Collingwood faithful will acknowledge her with silence, or some very vocal ‘unhelpful advice’.

The other big-name Blues recruit everyone will have eyes on is the former Brisbane Lion, Tayla Harris.

Adding Harris to the line-up will give Carlton a key focal point at centre half-forward – one who dominated contest marks in 2017 – all while freeing up the likes of Darcy Vescio and Lauren Arnell to roam the flanks.

The new Blues star forward will create headaches for the Magpies. Do you send your best defender in Meg Hutchins to match up with her at the risk of being lead further up the ground by Harris, or do you go with the 176cm tall Stacey Livingstone, allowing Hutchins to stay in the back 50? Well, it seems as though the job will go to Livingstone, with Hutchins remarkably not named in Collingwood’s 21.

Another interesting sub-plot is where Brianna Davey will actually play.

Quite frankly, the Blues coaching staff could name their new captain to play anywhere and it would be believable. At the AFLW season launch, Davey told Girls Play Footy she expects to play more in defence, but could be thrown into the midfield if or when needed.

Should she play on the ball, Collingwood coach Wayne Siekman does have a joker in the pack: first round draft pick, Chloe Molloy.

During the middle of last year’s VFLW season, Molloy was sent to tag Brianna Davey during the first half of the Diamond Creek versus St Kilda match at Plenty Park. Molloy did respectable job that day, and the Creekers held on for a one-goal win, so it’s something the Magpies might be contemplating.

Talking about a joker in the pack, we have to be honest and say that the Collingwood coaching staff will need every trick up their sleeve to pull out a win in this match.

Not only are they coming up against a side that some AFLW captains predict will make the Grand Final, and punters have backed in this week to win the flag, but injuries mean they’ll also be without exciting youngster Darcy Guttridge and professional netballer Ash Brazill.

Prediction: Carlton by 20 points.

 

Melbourne vs GWS
Saturday, February 3 @ Casey Fields – 5:05pm (AEDT)
TV: Fox Footy
Stream: AFL.com.au, Foxtel Now (Australia) and Watch.AFL (overseas)
Radio: None
Twitter: #AFLWDeesGiants

Melbourne Demons
B: Laura Duryea – Meg Downie – Bianca Jakobsson
HB: Katherine Smith – Jasmine Grierson – Catherine Phillips
C: Elise O’Dea
HF: Lily Mithen – Richelle Cranston – Shelley Scott
F: Tegan Cunningham – Daisy Pearce – Kate Hore
Foll: Erin Hoare – Karen Paxman – Melissa Hickey
Int: Ashleigh Guest – Lauren Pearce – Maddy Guerin – Emma Humphries – Aliesha Newman
Emg: Harriet Cordner – Alyssa Mifsud

GWS Giants
B: Amanda Farrugia – Tanya Hetherington – Nicola Barr
HB: Ellie Brush – Louise Stephenson – Renee Forth
C: Courtney Gum
HF: Britt Tully – Phoebe McWilliams – Rebecca Beeson
F: Cora Staunton – Jacinda Barclay – Jessica Dal Pos
Foll: Erin McKinnon – Maddy Collier – Alicia Eva
Int: Pepa Randall – Rebecca Privitelli – Maddie Boyd – Elle Bennetts – Jodie Hicks
Emg: –

If you were to look at the online tips and betting markets, you’d be thinking that this game will be a blow-out.

The Demons are the choice of many to win the flag, they’re on their home deck, and from viewing the first half of their practice match two weeks ago, they seem to be working like a well-oiled machine.

However, you would be a fool for thinking the Giants will be pushovers.

Let’s remember first that the Giants did defeat the Demons last year, so they have no fear of the team in the red and blue.

Although Melbourne looks sharper, GWS has recruited some of the most respected female footballers available during the off-season.

Tanya Hetherington is a premiership-winning full-back, and although she might give away 10cms in height to Tegan Cunningham, her experience and footy smarts should cover the new Demons forward.

In the centre, the ‘Darebin Midfield Mafia’ of Daisy Pearce, Elise O’Dea, Karen Paxman and Melissa Hickey won’t have it all their own way. The Giants not only have All-Australian Jess Dal Pos, but she’ll now be aided by champion WA footballer Renee Forth and veteran Courtney Gum.

One curious thing spectators will be looking out for on Saturday is whether there will be an Irishwoman versus Irishwoman match-up at some stage.

In one corner wearing the red and blue, defender and Ireland’s IC17-winning co-captain Laura Duryea, and in the other corner wearing orange, charcoal and white, forward and Ladies Gaelic Football legend Cora Staunton.

If they go head-to-head, you can be sure it will be making press back in Ireland, and might be a welcome publicity boost for the ARFLI Women’s competition.

Prediction: Melbourne by 7 points.

 

Adelaide vs Brisbane
Saturday, February 3 @ Norwood Oval – 6:45pm (ACDT)
TV: Channel 7 (Melb & Adel), 7Mate (Syd & Bris) and Fox Footy
Stream: AFL.com.au, Foxtel Now (Australia) and Watch.AFL (overseas)
Radio: None
Twitter: #AFLWCrowsLions

Adelaide Crows
B: Stevie-Lee Thompson – Talia Radan – Anne Hatchard
HB: Angela Foley – Chelsea Randall – Dayna Cox
C: Ebony Marinoff
HF: Rheanne Lugg – Jessica Sedunary – Sally Riley
F: Jasmyn Hewett – Sarah Perkins – Eloise Jones
Foll: Rhiannon Metcalfe – Erin Phillips – Justine Mules
Int: Deni Varnhagen – Jessica Allan – Sarah Allan – Ruth Wallace – Georgia Bevan
Emg: Rachel Killian – Sophie Armistead

Brisbane Lions
B: Nicole Hildebrand – Shannon Campbell – Jamie Stanton
HB: Kailtyn Ashmore – Leah Kaslar – Breanna Koenen
C: Megan Hunt
HF: Kate Lutkins – Sharni Webb – Kate McCarthy
F: Jessica Wuetschner – Tahlia Randall – Jordan Zanchetta
Foll: Sabrina Frederick-Traub – Emma Zielke – Emily Bates
Int: Ally Anderson – Arianna Clarke – Gabby Collingwood – Sophie Conway – Brittany Gibson
Emg: Kalinda Howarth

These teams are so evenly matched it’s ridiculous, but there’s one out that will separate the two sides this Saturday night: the Lions’ Renee Cowan.

Losing Sam Virgo to an ACL during the off-season was a big blow to the Lions; however, they were comforted in picking up a quality defender from Yeronga to replace her.

Cowan’s omission through injury opens up a hole in the Brisbane defence they may struggle fill.

Not helping the Lions was the facts that the Crows picked up quality forwards like Jasmyn Hewett, Eloise Jones and Ruth Wallace, leaving them far from short of options to choose from.

Both sides did lose marquee players in the off season: the Crows’ Kellie Gibson, and the Lions’ Tayla Harris.

The Crows have covered Gibson’s loss by spreading the load, while the Lions have bet their chips on former Carlton forward Isabella Ayre.

Although Ayre did rate as having a ‘poor’ season according to Champion Data, she did rate higher in their ranking points than Harris. The Lions see plenty of upside in her, but it’s going to have to be shown quickly when fronting the reigning premiers on their home turf.

If the Lions are looking for a light of hope, that shines brightly on its midfielders.

During the trade period, Brisbane acquired the services of the highly-rated Nat Exon through the Harris trade, plus picked up the silky skilled Jordan Zanchetta at the draft table, who missed the first season through injury.

Prediction: Adelaide by 16 points.

 

Western Bulldogs vs Fremantle
Sunday, February 5 @ VU Whitten Oval – 4:35pm (AEDT)
TV: 7 (Perth) & Fox Footy
Stream: AFL.com.au, Foxtel Now (Australia) and Watch.AFL (overseas)
Radio: none
Twitter: #AFLWDogsFreo

Western Bulldogs
B: Aisling Utri – Aasta O’Connor – Libby Birch
HB: Hannah Scott – Isabel Huntington – Brooke Lochland
C: Ellie Blackburn
HF: Nicole Callinan – Bonnie Toogood – Deanna Berry
F: Monique Conti – Katie Brennan Jenna Bruton
Foll: Tiarna Ernst – Emma Kearney – Angelica Gogos
Int: Daria Bannister – Kirsty Lamb – Naomi Ferres – Hayley Wildes – Emma Mackie
Emg: Bailey Hunt – Lauren Spark

Fremantle Dockers
B: Brianna Green – Alex Williams – Tiah Haynes
HB: Hayley Miller – Jodie White – Ebony Antonio
C: Dana Hooker
HF: Stephanie Cain – Evangeline Gooch – Gabby O’Sullivan
F: Melissa Caulfield – Stacey Barr – Ashley Atkins
Foll: Alicia Janz – Leah Mascall – Kara Donnellan
Int: Belinda Smith – Tayla McAuliffe – Amy Lavell – Ashley Sharp – Lara Filocamo
Emg: Cassie Davidson – Lisa Webb

My advice to Michelle Cowan right now is don’t bet on a race, don’t enter a raffle and don’t buy a lotto ticket.

Cowan and her Dockers are just having a rotten run of luck with injuries.

Already this year they were missing Kirby Bentley for the season (knee), Kellie Gibson indefinitely (hip flexor) and Kiara Bowers for the first few games.

It’s not to say their opponents don’t have their own injury worries, with Ellyse Gamble and Kimberley Ebb missing, but with respect to those Bulldogs players, the Dockers’ missing trio are elite footballers who will win you games off their own boot.

Everything about this game points to good times for the Doggies.

After missing a large chunk of last season, captain Katie Brennan is back, fit and raring to go – a much welcome morale (and goal kicking) boost.

Izzy Huntington played limited time in the practice match at Ballarat, but just oozed class every time she went near the ball.

Meanwhile, #AastasBack! What was clearly notable in the Ballarat game is that Aasta O’Connor is prowling the field like when she was at her dominate best five years ago.

For the Dockers, it’s not all doom and gloom, with Evangeline Gooch and Emily McGuire set to bring plenty of excitement throughout this season.

Zeroing in on this match, Freo’s star midfield duo in Kara Donnellan and Dana Hooker will have their hands full trying to get the better of the Bulldogs’ Emma Kearney and Ellie Blackburn.

While the battle that will have everyone reaching for their popcorn is Katie Brennan versus Ebony Antonio. It’s a classic duel that never fails to deliver, with Antonio being one of the few defenders that has the athleticism to run all day with KB.

Prediction: Bulldogs by 30 points.