AFLW 2020: Inside Conference A

The easier side of the draw this season, Conference A looks a race in three, with the  Crows, Kangas and Cats all possessing the lists capable of playing AFLW Finals in 2020.

Could injuries to key Cats put the Tigers in the frame for a maiden finals berth? Are the Giants being universally disrespected? Will the Crows even drop a game??

Let’s find out.

AFLW 2020 Inside Conference B: Melbourne, Collingwood, Bulldogs, Fremantle, Saints, Carlton, West Coast

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ADELAIDE CROWS

Captain Chelsea Randall won’t play, Erin Phillips may only feature in the last 4-5 games, but they have brought in Courtney Gum from the GWS Giants, which is a big in for the Crows. They also get Rhiannon Metcalf back in the ruck, which - whilst I personally don’t rate her that highly - will release Jess Foley to a half back or full forward role. Foley and Gum behind the ball across half-back could be a big plus for them in 2020.

They have the best list, a solid defence, the best starting midfield (even sans Phillips!) and - hands down - the most talented, skilful forward line in the competition. Will walk into finals for mine. 

The Crows kick off AFLW 2020 with a Round 1 match against the Brisbane Lions at Hickey Park on Saturday evening.

Hedge's Prediction: Top of Conference A. 

NORTH MELBOURNE KANGAROOS

They've lost Jamie Stanton (GC Suns) and Jess Duffin (pregnant) which gives me plenty of pause before touting them this season. In fact, had the Cats not been hammered with injuries pre-season I’d have had North pushing it uphill to finish top 2 this year. Fortunately there are 3 finals places per conference so barring catastrophe they should make it. 

A very dangerous forward line (made more so by Emma King being able to spend more time down there this season), and elite starting midfield with Ash Riddell back to join Emma Kearney and Jenna Bruton, makes them very dangerous prospect if they're winning it out of the middle, but I’ve got their defence at just a tick above average and they will really miss Duffin this season. Their clash against Geelong in Round 6 could determine finals placings. 

The Kangaroos kick off their 2020 AFLW campaign with a Saturday afternoon away clash against the Melbourne Demons at Casey Fields.

Hedge's Prediction: 2nd or 3rd in Conference A.

GEELONG CATS

The markets are SERIOUSLY underestimating the Cats pre-season, but news of gun defender Meg McDonald missing the first 3-4 games does make the road to finals harder for them now. The Cats get 2019 #1 AFLW Draft Pick, Nina Morrison,back, they have a fit Mel Hickey, they have a fit Phoebe McWilliams – it’s a strong side right across the ground. I see no clear weaknesses in their list.

Having said that, McDonald’s absence and a lack of pre-season for some stars (Morrison, Olivia Purcell) may cost them the Round 1 game vs Fremantle, which could prove crucial to them playing finals. Will have to beat North and Collingwood coming home if they drop R1, but they have the list to do it. If their list gets healthy, they play finals. Simple as that. 

Geelong kick off their second AFLW campaign with a trip to WA to face the Fremantle Dockers on Sunday afternoon.

Hedge's Prediction: 2nd or 3rd in Conference A.

GWS GIANTS

With all due respect to the next few teams,  there is a mini cliff after the Cats in terms of list strength and finals aspirations. The Giants lost Gum to Adelaide, and will be relying on the Irish pair of Yvonne Bonner and Cora Stauntonfor goals, with Staunton returning from a badly broken leg. Brittany Tully will help plug the Gum gap a little, but I see no real improvement in their defence or midfield - or up forward for that matter.

Even with a good draw, Giants midfielders Alicia Eva, Bec Beeson and Alyce Parker will have to play out of their skin in 2020 to win more games than they lose. Getting Suns first up is handy.

The Giants face the Gold Coast Suns in Sydney on Saturday afternoon.

Hedge's Prediction: 4th in Conference A.

RICHMOND TIGERS

The Tigers went out and paid big dollars for four established AFLW names, and whilst I rate two of them very highly (Monique Conti and Katie Brennan), I’m not convinced that selling the draft farm to get two forwards of questionable game-winning ability in Sabrina Frederick and Christina Bernardi is the way to go. We'll see, I guess.

There are huge question marks on the Tigers defence, and whilst they can put a solid starting midfield (including Brennan in a change of position) down for Round 1, they are one injury away from being exposed on-ball as well. I have them winning 2-4 games in 2020, they are lucky they’re in with the QLD teams.

Richmond launch their inaugural AFLW campaign with the season opener against Carlton at Ikon Park on Friday night.

Hedge's Prediction: 5th in Conference A.

BRISBANE LIONS

The Lions have been raided for three seasons now, and the latest pillaging from their cousins down the M1 has well and truly pushed past a critical mass of talent needed to compete. No Nat Exon, no Sabs, no Yorston, no Dowrick, no Virgo – basically, they’re cooked in 2020.

Ali Anderson is a gun, Kate Lutkins is a gun, they have a decent forward structure with Jess Wuetschner and youngster Jess Wardlaw both capable of converting, but if Emily Bates, Emma Zielke, Lauren Arnell and Jordan Zanchetta don’t bring their absolute best every week, Brisbane will be lucky to win even two games in 2020. The game against the Suns may well be a wooden spoon clash, and - harsh as it sounds - could possibly be the only points a Queensland team bank in 2020. Have Lions winning that one, but only just.

The Lions open their AFLW season against the Crows on Saturday evening.

Hedge's Prediction: 6th in Conference A.

GOLD COAST SUNS

They drafted reasonably well, they pilfered the Lions pretty well too (Jacqui Yorston and Sam Virgo in particular), landed marquee local, Jamie Stanton, and jagged mobile ruck Jas Hewittfrom the Crows, in what could be a great get, but the Suns still look light on everywhere else.

A few injuries in the pre-season to some gun youngsters who'd have started R1 have not helped. Stanton, Yorston, Jade Pregelj and Jasmyn Hewitt will compete well with most on-ball brigades, and the Virgo - Leah Kaslarcombination down back can hold the tide for a while, but again, too much youth and inexperience on every line to be confident of many wins in 2020. Will need to kick VERY straight!

The Suns open their inaugural AFLW campaign against the Giants in Sydney on Saturday afternoon.

Hedge's Prediction: 7th in Conference A.

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Hedge

Cruelly denied sporting glory due to recurring shin splint complaints and an aversion to warm-up laps, Hedge now spends his days golfing, fishing the leaves out of the Club 20 pools and identifying value plays in PGA, AFL, AFLW and T20. All you really need to know about him is he's more than comfortable taking 3I off the tee on a Par 5, and more than capable of pulling driver off the deck second shot.

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