AFLW 2020: Inside Conference B

The tougher of the two conferences this season with much more competition for AFLW Finals positioning – there will be at least one unlucky team in Conference B to miss finals in 2020, based on the overall ladder.

AFLW 2020 Inside Conference A: Adelaide, Kangaroos, Geelong, GWS, Richmond, Brisbane, Gold Coast

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MELBOURNE DEMONS

Horror pre-season for the Dees. They lost valuable utility Bianca Jakobsson, as well as Shae Sloane and Kat Smith in the pre-season while starting onballer, Lily Mithen (ankle) went down in the trial match, and heading into Round 1, ruck Lauren Pearce is under a cloud along with their two best forwards in Tegan Cunningham and Kate Hore.

Despite all this, I have them finishing on top of Conference B, with the proviso that Hore and Cunningham both return to the fold soon. If those two - and Mithen - remain out for extended time in what is already a very short season, 2020 will be the one the Dees lament most, because the list is simply elite. Their defence is amazing and will keep them in all games. They should play AFLW Finals regardless, but need some luck to get the first week off. Early injuries better than late ones? 

The Demons kick off their AFLW 2020 campaign with a home game at Casey Fields against North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.

Hedge's Prediction: Top of Conference A. 

COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES

Expect the Pies to put two horror seasons behind them to be the big climbers this season, on the back of their (now) quartet of genuine a-graders in Ash Brazill, Brianna Davey (from Carlton), Jamie Lambert and Chloe Molloy, who is returning from an ACL that saw her miss all of 2019. With Brazill and Davey hunting across half-back chopping off opposition forward forays and exiting from defence effectively, Molloy has been trialled up forward in the pre-season, but really, wherever they all play, it’s a big plus in this competition to have such a critical mass of elite talent. 

Add into the mix another year of VFL for Sharni Layton who could really take a step up in 2020, ditto Katie Lynch and Maddie Shevlin likely to be sharp improvers, a solid defence and a dangerous forward line skill-wise that has not yet been able to fire through lack of frequency. Get gifted a pretty soft draw with 4 bottom-six sides and also miss the Crows.

The Magpies host AFLW newcomers West Coast at Victoria Park on Sunday afternoon to start the season.

Hedge's Prediction: 2nd in Conference B. 

WESTERN BULLDOGS

The Dogs are going under the radar a little after losing Mon Conti and Katie Brennan to the Tigers. Markets and pundits don’t have them as high as they should. Nathan Burke, former St Kilda great and the Bulldogs' new coach, has, from all reports, revitalized the playing group. I love Isabel Huntington across half-back with Hannah Scott, they will be hard to bypass.

Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb are hard nuts in the middle, and they are joined by some really high-end talent from this year’s draft including 2019 #1 pick, Gabby Newton. I count four kids who can come into that centre bounce and impact the contest, plus Eleanor Brown. Bonnie Toogood up forward with Brooke Lochland, solid defence aided by Huntington – there is a lot to like about them this year. 

The Bulldogs head to RSEA Park to face St Kilda in the Saints first-ever AFLW match on Sunday afternoon.

Hedge's Prediction: 3rd in Conference B.

FREMANTLE DOCKERS

The Dockers have lost quite a few to the Eagles new franchise over the offseason, including their first two rucks and star onballer, Dana Hooker, but Freo is still in the AFLW Finals hunt here. Kiara Bowers was just warming up last season, she is an absolute freak and should dominate again this season (B&F?!) whilst Ebony Antonio might be used more in defence in 2020, given Kate Flood and Roxanne Roux will play forward.

They also get 2019 Draft #4 pick, Jasmine Stewart, into that midfield group, which is a big plus after she missed all of last season, but the Dockers year could hinge on the form of Kara Antonio (nee Donnellan) and Gemma Houghton, who will both have to play really well this season. If they can do that the Dockers will feature in finals. 

Fremantle host Geelong in Perth to start their AFLW 2020 season on Sunday afternoon.

Hedge's Prediction: 4th in Conference B.

ST KILDA SAINTS

The Saints look capable of challenging some of their conference rivals for a maiden AFLW Finals berth in their first year, given the strength of their midfield, which - in AFLW - is where a lot of games are won and lost. Nat Exon, Ali Drennan, Rosie Dillon, Olivia Vesely, Nadia Von Burtouch – they have a very competitive midfield which should keep them in every game.

Where they fall over, though, is if they aren’t winning it, their defence looks a little light on. There's a good mix of youth and experience, and the Southern Saints are coming off a great VFLW season, so have to give the Saints a chance on debut. Will need to beat the Dockers and Dogs though. 

The Saints kick off their historic first AFLW season at Moorabbin (RSEA Park) against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.

Hedge's Prediction: 5th in Conference B.

CARLTON BLUES

The markets are way more bullish on the Blues than I am this season. They fell into the AFLW Finals last year by getting lucky in a really weak conference, and they then lost their most experienced player in the off-season to the Magpies.

They get another gun kid through the draft, but if Lucy McEvoy and Maddy Prespakis don’t dominate, the Blues won't be able to get what is a fairly dangerous forward line into the game. I just see them struggling to win 3-4 games in 2020. 

Carlton open the season on Friday night against the Tigers at Ikon Park.

Hedge's Prediction: 6th in Conference B.

WEST COAST EAGLES

It's going to be a tough debut season for the Eagles despite poaching several Dockers, including midfield gun, Dana Hooker. They don’t have the draft talent and they don’t have that quartet of established stars to lean on either – expect they will be challenging the Sun and Lions for the wooden spoon in 2020. 

The Eagles travel East to face Collingwood in Round 1 at Victoria Park on Saturday afternoon.

Hedge's prediction: 7th in Conference B.

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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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