AFLW 2022: Who's Best Placed To Win It All?

Footy’s back, and we’re now just two sleeps away from the start of the sixth season of AFLW, with another exciting instalment ahead of us.

With the other four clubs joining the competition next season, this will be the last time we can analyse the league’s current crop of 14 teams before the player pool becomes a little diluted and we’re introduced to completely different squads. 

Let’s take a look at each club and where they sit heading into 2022 

Adelaide Crows

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $6.5

The most successful club in the short history of AFLW, the Crows look to be in for another solid season overall. The absence of Angela Foley (ACL) will hurt, as her intercepting and tidy work off half-back was an important aspect of the Crows’ play, while Rhiannon Metcalfe (work) leaves a big hole in the ruck.

Adelaide drafted well to add to their young squad, with Brooke Tonon and Zoe Prowse like-for-like long-term replacements for the aforementioned duo, while Jasmyn Hewett arrives as an older head to compete with Caitlin Gould for the ruck spot.

With a midfield as damaging and tough as the Crows have as well as the continued strides forward Sarah Allen undertakes to become the best key defender in the league, we can expect this team to be a contender once again.

Watch for Ashleigh Woodland to take a leap forward after booting 9 goals last season.

Brisbane Lions

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $6

Losing a heap of experience isn’t exactly the way the Lions would’ve hoped to respond from their first Premiership, but Lauren Arnell and Emma Zielke enjoyed great careers and looked to finish off on a high.

Luckily for the Lions, the existing and increasingly youthful squad is full of talent that will look to take their games to another level as being the hunted, led by new captain Breanna Koenen and the experienced Kate Lutkins in defence.

The level of young talent in this Brisbane team is what makes them so exciting and relevant in 2022.

Key forwards Dakota Davidson and Jesse Wardlaw might be the best young duo in the competition with Courtney Hodder at their feet, while Nat Grider could elevate herself to become one of the best intercept defenders in the entire competition.

It wouldn’t surprise to see the Lions in the top four again.  

Carlton 

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $15

No team lost as much talent as the Blues in the most recent AFLW off-season and covering that much quality could prove to be too difficult this season.

Tayla Harris, Jess Hosking, Katie Loynes and Alison Downie all departed having been regulars-to-stars in the best 21, although Jess Dal Pos adds some grunt into the midfield and potentially in the forward line, depending on where she’s deployed.

The upside at Carlton is the increased opportunity and responsibility given to talented young players.

Lucy McEvoy, Abbie McKay and Mimi Hill will all play plenty of midfield again, while draftee Imogen Milford will get a chance to replace Harris immediately.

This was the highest possession team of 2022 but expect coach Daniel Harford to play more counter-attacking football this season.

Making finals would be a great effort for the Blues.

Collingwood

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $5

The best defensive team in the competition of last season have sharpened up their attack by signing Sabrina Frederick, who will be an incredible target that allows Chloe Molloy to roam a little more freely and stake her claim as one of the league’s top players.

Sharni Norder retires, yet the shrewd acquisition of veteran Alison Downie as well as Frederick will help cover the ruck absence, while it feels like Brianna Davey has an even higher level that she can reach through the midfield.

Ruby Schleicher is a player with sky-high potential as a tall utility who enjoyed a great 2021, averaging 16.1 disposals, 276.6 metres gained, 8.2 intercept possessions, 3.1 rebound 50s and 2.7 inside 50s. Higher individual accolades await.

The Magpies are most certainly a Premiership contender in 2022.

Fremantle

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $8

A finalist last season, the Dockers look relatively settled on paper without a heap of transactions, with the massive exceptions of Sabreena Duffy (work) and Ash Sharp (pregnancy) not being available for the upcoming season.

Immediately, that removes 14 goals from last year’s team and the only replacements have been recruited through the draft.

It’s a risk relying on youth to come in and breakout, particularly with none of the youngsters looking like they’ll take on the roles of the absentees.

Expect typical competitiveness from a Kiara Bowers team, but with fixture madness involved, the Dockers could miss finals.

Geelong

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $81

The main excitement around Geelong this year will be whether we finally get to see the best of young Nina Morrison, as well as just how good Georgie Prespakis is in her first year in AFLW.

As a team that finished second-last in 2021, losing Olivia Purcell is such a hard pill to swallow, but allows more room for reigning best-and-fairest Amy McDonald to shine in the midfield with the aforementioned duo.

This is a young group that will keep struggling – they’re disjointed when trying to get the ball into attack and there isn’t enough experience and quality to shut down the opposition.

The expectation is that the Cats will be fighting for the wooden spoon again this year.

Gold Coast

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $101

Last year wasn’t good for the Suns as they took home the wooden spoon after a winless season.

The positive here is that the only way is up and with Lauren Bella and the draft’s first pick, Charlie Rowbottom, the long-term potential of this midfield is superb.

Vivien Saad is a nice addition to add some experience and flexibility to the team, while the Suns have raided the state leagues and added some good tackling and attacking options.

This is a young playing group that is seeking more room for improvement and it should come in 2022, even if they’re fighting to leave the bottom of the ladder.

GWS

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $26

The Giants were quite disappointing with a 4-5 record and a percentage of just 74.1.

The off-season saw a lot of movement within the squad which lends itself to the thought of instability a lack of continuity across the playing group, although Alyce Parker being one of the best players in the competition will make sure they never drop down too far.

Perhaps the biggest loss will be Britt Tully, whose contested work was really important in the clinches but chose to step away and put the team first with a list spot available, although Jess Allan and Elle Bennetts are best 21 departures too.

It feels like another middling season for the Giants is approaching us, which is an unenviable position to be in without droves of talent coming through.

Melbourne

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $4.8

On a yearly basis, Melbourne are seen as one of the best teams in the competition, yet they haven’t been able to break through for that elusive flag.

The exciting Tegan Cunningham retired and in response, the Demons only went and signed Tayla Harris and Olivia Purcell who are absolute difference-makers to an incredibly strong squad.

Melbourne’s biggest asset is how well rounded they are, with even contributions in each area of the ground and no reliance on any one player in particular.

Harris’ inclusion is extremely exciting for the group, but the flow-on effect it will have on Eden Zanker will be huge.

Zanker could become a top-10 player in the competition as an unstoppable key forward/ruck, and if that happens, Melbourne already has one hand on the Premiership cup.

North Melbourne

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $8

It’s a fairly settled squad at the Kangaroos, but perhaps the ceiling has been reached.

Many expected this group to enter as a Premiership contender verging on winning the competition, but in three seasons they haven’t been able to and are likely in the bracket just below the very top.

Nothing has changed with the elite midfield depth, Ash Riddell, Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner all averaged above 20 disposals, 4.5 tackles and four clearances a game, while Jess Duffin was as clean as ever returning to the group.

Perhaps if we’re being overcritical, the focal point in attack is still up in the air with Garner and Sophie Abbatangelo kicking 9 goals each to lead the club last season, while the main contenders in the competition have key forwards that can win games off their own boot.

This is a finals-quality team, you’d just want more if you’re a fan of the club.

Richmond

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $51

Despite losing Sabrina Frederick, the additions of Jess Hosking, Poppy Kelly and Stella Reid particularly through the draft elevates this Richmond team more than people might think.

In addition to these players, Richmond already has a few stars of the competition running through the midfield in Katie Brennan, Monique Conti and Ellie McKenzie, which is a base that is really encouraging for a club in its infancy.

The key word for the Tigers in 2022 will be versatility – they have a number of players, including Brennan and Sarah D’Arcy, that can play multiple roles on gameday and contribute in different ways, which seems to be an asset the best teams in footy use.

They won 3 games in 2021 with a relatively healthy percentage, we can expect more strides forward for Richmond this year.

St Kilda

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $51

With Tyanna Smith out for the season, a lot of the year hinges on whether Georgia Patrikios does indeed sit out as has been discussed.

If she does, then this Saints team that promises so much on paper is almost a lock to finish in the bottom four, missing two of their brightest young stars throughout the midfield, while also losing Claudia Whitfort to the Suns.

They’ll be reliant on Caitlin Greiser in attack again which the opposition will know about, while it’s simply vital that Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Tarni White continue to impress and perhaps get more midfield time with their points of difference.

It could be a tough season for Saints fans.

West Coast

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $71

West Coast undertook a lot delistings and added more youth to the team, which will likely produce the results we all expect.

The return of Dana Hooker is super important to help develop the young players at the club, but it isn’t enough to magically transform the Eagles into a completely different team.

Truthfully, West Coast are still trying to find their way in AFLW and existing restrictions in their home state are unlikely to help the team’s cause.

If you’re seeking players to follow, Mikayla Bowen enjoyed a great 2021 and will take her game forward well, while Niamh Kelly’s pace is always a highlight.

Western Bulldogs

Top Sport Premiership Odds- $13

The 2018 Premiers have been really disappointing since their glory days, finishing 8th last season and not looking like the quality of a finalist.

Expectations are relatively low on this group as a result, Gabby Newton’s out for the season which robs us of another young player to watch, but what has gone largely underappreciated are the smart recruits the Bulldogs have brought in.

Elle Bennetts will really help this midfield that dropped off after Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb, Richelle Cranston is a really handy acquisition and signing Alice Edmonds as a replacement player has big upside.

Add in Blackburn and the wildly talented Isabel Huntington and to write this team off completely would be a big mistake.

The Bulldogs are past the days of looking to sneak a win or two for the entire season.

Dem’s Predicted ladder

Melbourne

Collingwood

Brisbane

Adelaide

North Melbourne

Bulldogs

————-

Richmond

Fremantle

Carlton

GWS

Gold Coast

St Kilda

West Coast

Geelong


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Dem Panopoulos

Dem is a lover of sport with a keen eye for analytics. A passion for statistics that defies logic given his MyCricket numbers, you can see and hear him share his thoughts and views on Twitter @dempanopoulos

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