AFLW 2022 ultimate preview: Crystal ball and how every club is shaping up
The sixth AFLW season could be the most unpredictable. Our experts put all 14 clubs under the blowtorch and predict their premier, bolter and the players to watch.
The sixth AFLW season is just days away.
The Brisbane Lions will try to defend their premiership, but there are a host of contenders from the 14 competing clubs – before the comp expands again to 18 clubs next season.
How will your club fare this summer? News Corp experts put every club under the blowtorch and reveal their predictions.
Scroll down to see a detailed preview of every club
Captain: Chelsea Randall
Coach: Matthew Clarke
Ins: Jasmyn Hewett (Gold Coast), Jasmine Simmons (rookie, basketball), Zoe Prowse (Sturt, draft pick 17), Brooke Tonon (Glenelg, draft pick 20), Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide, draft pick 34)
Outs: Chloe Scheer (Geelong), Renee Forth (delisted), Angela Foley (inactive list for ACL recovery), Rhiannon Metcalfe (inactive list for work reasons), Jessica Sedunary (inactive list), Deni Varnhagen (inactive list due to Covid vaccine reluctance)
Off field: There have been big changes in the Crows’ coaching line-up in the off-season, farewelling three assistants after the 2021 season: Narelle Smith (who’s been appointed a SANFLW head coach) along with Tom Lynch (moving interstate) and Scott Thompson. Former Crow Peter Caven (forwards) returns to assist head coach Matthew Clarke, and they welcome a trio of female coaches: Courtney Cramey (midfield), Emma Sampson (backlines) and Leah Kaslar (development). Former Gold Coast Sun Jack Hombschhas signed on as the side’s head of player development, while Phil Harper returns for his sixth season as the club’s Head of AFLW.
Last season: Having finished the 2021 season as minor premiers, the Crows won their way through to their third grand final appearance in five seasons, but went down to Brisbane by 18 points at Adelaide Oval.
Star power: Captain Chelsea Randall and key mid-forward Erin Phillips are reasons enough to watch the Crows. But it’s three-time All-Australian Ebony Marinoff who will look to carry on from her blistering 2021 season, in which she averaged a career-best 23.5 touches a game, 388m gained and topped her side for average clearances per match with 4.5. Class and charisma on and off the field.
Rising stars: In 2021, for the first time, the Crows did not have a single player selected in the AFLPA’s AFLW Under-22 side. So, expect the Crows to look for a lift from their young brigade, who make up slightly more than a third of the 2022 list. Exciting forward Danielle Ponter – the 2021 AFLW Mark of the Year winner – should be set for a big fourth year in the AFLW, while Crows’ former top draft pick Nikki Gore is returning from an ankle injury that sidelined her in 2021.
X-factor: All-Australian full-back Sarah Allan and ball magnet Anne Hatchard are not only two X-factor players in this fit Crows side, but are the backbone of past and future success.
Expected finish: Top four.
– LIZ WALSH
Captain: Bre Koenen
Coach: Craig Starcevich
Ins: Phoebe Monahan (delisted free agent, Richmond). Draftees: Maggie Harmer, Bella Smith, Mikayla Pauga, Luka Yoshida-Martin, Lucinda Pullar. Inactive: Lily Postlethwaite (ACL).
Outs: Lauren Arnell, Jessy Keeffe, Rheanne Lugg, Emma Zielke (all retired); Beth Pinchin, Selina Priest, Jordan Zanchetta (delisted).
Off-field: Emma Zielke (assistant coach), Daniel Webster (midfield coach), Damien Richards (development coach), Phil Lovett(forwards coach), Simon Black (specialist coach), Clark Keating (specialist coach).
Last season: The Lions finally cracked their golden moment by winning the premiership in their third grand final appearance.They finished the year in second position, behind Adelaide, after winning seven of their nine matches.
Star power: Defender Kate Lutkins was one of the Lions’ best during their premiership winning season. She was named best on ground after an outstanding performance in the grand final and will be expected to dominate at the back again this season. She is one of the club’s few foundation players still playing.
Rising stars: Luka Yoshida-Martin has impressed since she arrived at the club and promises to be a quality player for the Lions in the years to come. Pick No.53 in the AFLW draft, Yoshida-Martin switched codes from soccer in her teenage years and the small forward looks set for a standout season.
X-factor: She was the livewire during the 2021 season and Courtney Hodder is sure to light it up again in 2022. The cross-code star is entering her second year in the AFLW after crossing from rugby union. She displayed plenty of talent last year and registered the Goal of the Year in Round 9. The dynamic small forward will be one to watch again.
Expected finish: First
– CHRIS HONNERY
Captain: Kerryn Harrington, Katie Loynes
Coach: Daniel Harford
Ins: Jessica Dal Pos, Annie Lee, Jess Good, Brooke Vickers, Keeley Sherar, Imogen Milford.
Outs: Katie Loynes, Alison Downie, Tayla Harris, Jess Hosking, Jess Edwardes, Chloe Dalton, Winnie Lang.
Last season: The Blues just missed out on finals after finishing one game behind the sixth-placed Kangaroos. They rebounded from consecutive one-goal defeats to claim five victories from nine games.
Star power: With a sprinkling of All-Australians in the side, Carlton won’t lack star power. Darcy Vescio dominated up forward last season with 14 goals to collect the league’s leading goalkicker award.
Rising stars: Throughout the pre-season, draftees Annie Lee and Keeley Sherar have shown their dedication matches their natural talent. Both will look to break into Carlton’s best 22.
X-factor: Georgia Gee is lightly framed but utilises her speed and elite kicking ability to quickly change games. With 30 matches under her belt, Gee will bring experience to the Blues’ midfield.
Expected finish: Fifth to eighth.
– CELIE HAY
Captains: Steph Chiocci, Brianna Davey
Coach: Steve Symonds
Ins: Sabrina Frederick (Richmond), Alison Downie (Carlton), Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers, draft pick 29), Eloise Chaston (Eastern Ranges/Hawthorn VFLW, draft pick 32), Imogen Barnett (Collingwood VFL, draft pick 33)
Outs: Maddie Shevlin (Richmond), Sharni Norder (retired), Kristy Stratton, Abbey Green.
Last season: Collingwood started its season in blistering form with six straight wins. Losses to eventual grand finalists Brisbane and Adelaide meant the Pies finished third. They were victorious in their first final against the Blues but then went down by four points to the Lions in the preliminary final.
Star power: Brianna Davey. A dual sports star, Davey played soccer for the Matildas and Melbourne Victory in the W-League. But footy is her passion, and during her time at the Pies, she’s garnered a reputation for consistency and quality. She was an All-Australian in 2017 and 2021, and was named best-and-fairest in the 2021 season. She was also named equal best in the AFLW competition last season alongside Docker Kiara Bowers.
Rising stars: Imogen Barnett. The 26-year old is coming off a brilliant season in the Magpies’ VFLW side, in which she was the league’s leading goalkicker, kicking 21 goals in 15 appearances. Now a Rohenna Young medallist, Barnett has earned herself a spot in her club’s best 22.
X-factor: Sabrina Frederick. Now at her third club, Frederick is a proven asset in this league. A two-time All-Australian, she’s demonstrated the ability to be a force up forward, and at just 25 years of age, she still has plenty of good football in front of her.
Expected finish: Top two
– MITCHELL TURNER
Captain: Hayley Miller
Coach: Trent Cooper
Ins: Amy Franklin (Claremont, draft pick 14), Dana East (Swan Districts, draft pick 31), Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle, draft pick 38), Airlie Runnalls (North Melbourne, draft pick 44), Jessica Low (Claremont, draft pick 52), Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts, draft pick 57)
Outs: Evie Gooch (West Coast), Leah Mascall (retired), Ashley Sharp (inactive list for pregnancy), Katie-Jayne Grieve, Tarnee Tester, Jess Trend, Alex Williams (delisted).
Off field: The Dockers have added two former Fremantle AFL players to their coaching line-up in Daniel Haines and Jay van Berlo. The pair join backline coach Lisa Webb. Haines takes over as the club’s midfield coach from Craig Thomas, who is now assistant coach – strategy and training co-ordinator at the club. Van Berlo takes over as the forwards coach from Amy Lavell, who remains as a specialist coach. Trent Cooper continues in his role as head coach, having signed a two-year extension earlier this year.
Last season: Fifth. The Dockers started their season with a hot run of form, winning their first four games before succumbing to eventual premier Brisbane in round 5. The Dockers lost their last two home-and-away games and were knocked out by Melbourne in the first week of finals. They finished the season with six wins and three losses.
Star Power: The Dockers have welcomed no new recruits. Key defender Janelle Cuthbertson emerged as one of the competition’s premier defenders in 2021 and featured in the All-Australian team. She will only improve. Kiara Bowers, one of the game’s top midfielders, and powerful key forward Gemma Houghton make the Dockers an exciting prospect in 2022.
Rising Stars: Sarah Verrier debuted in the 2021 season, playing every game and averaging six touches, four kicks and 2.7 tackles. With impressive football smarts and a penetrating kick, Verrier is one to watch in 2022.
X-factor: Joint-winner of the AFLW fairest and best in 2021, Kiara Bowers is sure to dominate again in 2022. In 2021, she averaged an impressive 21.1 touches, 12 tackles and 5.8 clearances per game.
Expected finish: Top four
– HARRY GELL
Captain: Meg McDonald
Coach: Dan Lowther
Ins: Chloe Scheer, Chantel Emonson, Claudia Gunjaca, Olivia Fuller, Rachel Kearns, Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell, Gabbi Featherston, Annabel Johnson.
Outs: Aasta O’Connor, Rebecca Goring, Mia Skinner, Maddie Boyd, Nicole Garner, Richelle Cranston, Olivia Purcell, Millie Brown (inactive), Denby Taylor (inactive), Renee Garing (inactive).
Off-field: Former Geelong midfielder and opposition analyst Dan Lowther has stepped into the coaching role, and will have a familiar support team around him, including assistant coaches Aaron Black, Josh Finch, Elise Coventry, Jess Foley and David Morgan.
Last season: 13th. Just the one win, which came in the last round of the season.
Star power: Becky Webster. Finished third in Geelong’s best-and-fairest in 2021 then backed it up with fourth place in the VFLW competition from just five games. At 21 she has so much upside and will be one of the leaders of the Cats’ engine room again. Hard at it but a nice user of the ball on the outside, she looms as one of the biggest improvers in the competition.
Rising stars: Georgie Prespakis. Geelong’s first pick and the No.2 draft selection overall, Prespakis will add class to the Cats side and won’t be daunted by the step up to senior footy. Watch for Gabbi Featherston as well, who has enough versatility to have an impact anywhere.
X-factor: Nina Morrison. It will have been close to two years since her last game when she steps out for round 1, and so much has changed since that fateful night. While Morrison is flying and full of confidence, only time will tell what her prolonged absence will have done to her game. If she returns to the form she displayed in her early matches at this level then the Cats will be delighted.
Expected finish: Bottom half of the ladder.
– LACHIE YOUNG
Captain: Alicia Eva
Coach: Alan McConnell
Ins: Chloe Dalton and Katie Loynes (both Carlton), Jasmine Grierson (North Melbourne), Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers, draft pick 37), Jess Doyle (Manly Warringah Wolves, draft pick 49), Brodee Mowbray (Southern Power, draft pick 55), Georgina Fowler (East Coast Eagles, draft pick 59), Casidhe Simmons (UNSW/ES Bulldogs, draft pick 60), Isadora McLeay (North Shore AFL Sydney, replacement player), Ally Dallaway (East Coast AFL Sydney, replacement player).
Outs: Elle Bennetts (Western Bulldogs), Jess Dal Pos (Carlton), Aimee Schmidt (West Coast), Taylah Davies, Sarah Halcorsen, Jodie Hicks, Britt Tully (all delisted), Jess Allan (inactive list for work reasons), Yvonne Bonner (inactive list for pregnancy), Emily Goodsir (inactive list for pregnancy), Isadora McLeay (replacement player on inactive list after tearing ACL).
Off field: The Giants have been relatively stable in the off-season, making only one change to their coaching line-up for the 2022 season, farewelling senior assistant Roger Morton and welcoming Lloyd Perris, who’s come across from a development role with the Sydney AFL side. Perris will look after the midfield, while Jon Vlatko (forwards) and Darren Ratten (backline) will support veteran coach Alan McConnell. Briana Harvey returns as the head of AFLW for her third season.
Last season: Ninth. The Giants had a tough 2021, with Covid outbreaks in Sydney forcing the team into a regional hub during pre-season before being relocated to Adelaide for the opening round. It was a season also marked by the high-profile injury to Irish recruit Brid Stack, whose neck was fractured during a pre-season game. They finished the season with four wins and five losses.
Star power: The Giants have welcomed two ex-Carlton stars to their team in Olympian Chloe Dalton and AFLW foundation player and former Blues captain Katie Loynes. Loynes brings a wealth of football intelligence and leadership, while Dalton – a former WNBL basketballer and Rugby 7s Olympic gold medallist – is all class. Captain Alicia Eva and Irish Gaelic Football legend Cora Staunton are reasons alone to watch the Giants.
Rising stars: Georgia Garnett debuted in the 2021 season, playing seven games and averaging 10.6 touches, 6.6 kicks and 2.1 tackles per match, which saw her duly rewarded as the club’s rising star.
X-factor: She might only be 21, but Alyce Parker is already one of the stars of the Giants’ outfit, in 2021 becoming the first GWS player to win dual club champion awards and be twice named All-Australian. In 2021, she averaged an amazing 23.9 disposals and 5.1 tackles.
Expected finish: 5th-8th.
- LIZ WALSH
Captain: Hannah Dunn
Coach: Cameron Joyce
Ins: Claudia Whitfort, Vivien Saad, Charlie Rowbottom, Teagan Levi, Ashanti Bush, Giselle Davies, Alana Barba, Tara Bohanna, Shannon Danckert, Jacqueline Dupuy
Outs: Jordann Hickey (delisted), Molly Ritson (delisted), Paige Parker (delisted), Georgia Bevan (delisted) Leah Kaslar (delisted), Sally Riley (retired), Sam Virgo (retired), Annise Bradfield (inactive), Emma Pittman (inactive) Maddison Levi (inactive), Teagan Levi (inactive).
Off-field: Sam Iles (assistant coach – midfield), Kieran Daley (assistant coach – forwards), Jarrod Wells (assistant coach – defenders), Matt Bedford (development coach/ runner), Brooks Mustey (development/ bench coach).
Last season: It wasn’t the season Gold Coast was hoping for with a winless 14th (last) placed finish.
Star power: The 2020 All-Australian Kalinda Howarth was perhaps not as scintillating last season as she was in her breakout year, however she is reportedly set for a change in positions which could see her firing again in 2022. Midfielder Alison Drennan also impressed during the pre-season 2km time-trial, which could bode well for her next year.
Rising stars: Ashanti Bush was drafted at No.8 in this year’s AFLW Draft and the exciting Northern Territory prospect looks to have a promising future. The 19-year-old played several games with Hawthorn’s VFLW team in 2021 and is a talented forward which will prove very beneficial for the Suns in their upcoming season.
X-factor: Powerful midfielder Charlie Rowbottom was the Gold Coast’s top pick in this year’s draft and promises to add some real talent to the Suns squad.
Expected finish: 9th
- CHRIS HONNERY
Captain: Daisy Pearce
Coach: Mick Stinear
Ins: Tayla Harris (Carlton), Olivia Purcell (Geelong), Eliza West (Casey Demons, rookie-listed), Alison Brown (Casey Demons, draft pick 45), Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges, draft pick 41), Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons, draft pick 42)
Outs: Tegan Cunningham, Meg Downie, Niamh McEvoy, Shae Sloane (retired), Chantel Emonson (Geelong), Mietta Kendall (delisted)
Last season: The Demons finished the home-and-away season with four straight wins, including a final-round two-point victory over eventual premier Brisbane. They were eliminated in a preliminary final.
Star power: Pearce has been the big name for the Demons for years but she did hurt her knee towards the end of the last campaign and didn’t play finals. Harris comes across from the Blues as a high-profile recruit.
Rising stars: Tyla Hanks took out the Rising Star award in 2021 and looms as the most exciting Melbourne young gun. Eliza McNamara is also highly rated.
X-factor: Lily Mithen’s huge tank and hunger for the ball already has her as one of the Demons best midfielders and she is only going to get better.
Expected finish: Top four
– SIMEON THOMAS-WILSON
Captain: Emma Kearney
Coach: Darren Crocker
Ins: Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons, draft pick 13), Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers, draft pick 19), Kim Rennie (Western Bulldogs, draft pick 28), Perri King (Tasmanian Devils, draft pick 43), Jasmine Ferguson (Collingwood VFLW, draft pick 51), Ella Maurer (Tasmanian Devils, draft pick 56)
Outs: Tahni Nestor (delisted), Beth Lynch (delisted), Jas Grierson (GWS Giants), Viv Saad (Gold Coast Suns)
Off-field: Darren Crocker (senior coach), Brad Murphy (assistant coach), Natasha Hardy (assistant coach), Zac Read (assistant coach), Stephanie Binder (VFLW senior coach), Mark Kovacevic (talls coach), Lauren Spark (player development coordinator), Tahni Nestor (player development assistant), Rhys Harwood (talent and football performance manager).
Last season: Sixth place in the home-and-away season. Knocked out in the qualifying final by Collingwood.
Star power: Jasmine Garner is one of the premier athletes in the competition. Three consecutive All-Australian selections, to go with two club best-and-fairests – there’s hardly an accomplishment the veteran is yet to achieve. In just two seasons at the club, Garner has become the leading goalkicker in Roos history, with 22 goals across her 24 appearances. North will be banking on her retaining that kind of production this year.
Rising stars: Tess Craven. The Kangaroos’ first-round draft pick hails from Geelong and has been highly touted for her natural ball-winning and skill under pressure. A high-IQ young athlete, expect Craven to make an immediate impact in the senior side.
X-factor: Kaitlyn Ashmore. The AFLW veteran has seen it all and more in her time in the league. The 30-year-old was North’s leading goalkicker in 2020, but her versatility in moving further up the ground will be invaluable as the club looks to target fellow goalscorer Jas Garner.
Expected finish: Top six
– MITCHELL TURNER
Captain: Katie Brennan
Coach: Ryan Ferguson
Ins: Jess Hosking (Carlton), Poppy Kelly (St Kilda), Maddie Shevlin (Collingwood), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers, draft pick 5), Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons, draft pick 16), Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne VFLW, draft pick 55), Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons, draft pick 57)
Out: Sabrina Frederick (traded to Collingwood), Alice Edmonds, Emily Harley, Luka Lesosky-Hay, Phoebe Monahan, Cleo Saxon-Jones, Holly Whitford, Alana Woodward (all delisted)
Off-field: All 2021 coaches have been reappointed, with the addition of Emma Grant (development coach). Ryan Ferguson (senior coach), Nathan Chapman (forward line and specialist coach), Andrew Browne (midfield and stoppages coach), Lauren Tesoriero (backline coach), Emma Grant (development coach), Kate Sheahan (Head of Women’s Football)
Last season: After a winless inaugural season in 2020, the Tigers showed signs of improvement as they claimed three victories and finished 11th.
Star power: Dual All-Australian Monique Conti will lead the Tigers’ midfield with the 21-year-old coming off two best-and-fairests in consecutive years. Another All-Australian in Katie Brennan will be a threat up forward after having a career-best season in 2021.
Rising stars: Richmond’s top draftees Stella Reid (pick 5) and Emelia Yassir (pick 16) have been impressive during their first pre-season. The pair will be looking to use their football smarts and classy ball movement when the opportunity arises at AFLW level.
X-factor: Ellie McKenzie showed her explosive speed and penetrating left foot in her debut season. She will look to continue the strong form that saw her finish runner-up in the NAB Rising Star award.
Expected finish: 9th
– CELIE HAY
Captain: Hannah Priest
Coach: Nick Dal Santo
Ins: Lucy Burke (Southern Saints VFLW, replacement player), Paige Price (rookie-listed), Alana Woodward (delisted free agent, Richmond), Leah Cutting (undrafted free agent), Ella Friend (draft pick 4), Ash Richards (draft pick 12)
Outs: Poppy Kelly (Richmond), Claudia Whitfort (Gold Coast), Selena Karlson (retired), Alison Brown, Clara Fitzpatrick, Tamara Luke, Nadia von Bertouch (delisted)
Last season: The Saints won three games to finish 11th, below Richmond on percentage.
Star power: Georgia Patrikios is the Saints’ star player but there is a very big chance she doesn’t play this season as she continues to resist getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
Rising star: Patrikios and Tyanna Smith are the Saints’ two best young players but Patrikios won’t get the Covid-19 vaccine and Smith has done her ACL and will miss the season. Friend comes in as the No.4 draft pick and is already one of the Saints’ most promising players.
X-Factor: Smith would be this player after her fine debut year, but with her on the sidelines the Saints will look to Cat Phillipsto inspire them in the midfield.
Expected finish: Bottom four
– SIMEON THOMAS-WILSON
Coach: Nathan Burke
Captain: Ellie Blackburn
Ins: Elle Bennetts (GWS), Richelle Cranston (delisted free agent, Geelong), Alice Edmonds (replacement player, formerly Richmond), Amanda Ling, Aurora Smith, Elizabeth Snell
Outs: Ange Gogos, Lauren Spark, Amelia Van Oosterwijck (retired), Katy Herron, Danielle Marshall, Kim Rennie (delisted). Inactive: Gabby Newton (shoulder)
Last season: The Bulldogs started the season with four wins in five games, but struggled towards the end of the year. After dropping three consecutive games, they finished in eighth position.
Star power: Three-time All-Australian Ellie Blackburn has been an integral part of the Bulldogs’ midfield since their inception and will look to continue her dominance after averaging 19.6 disposals in 2021. Elle Bennetts moved across from GWS during the trade period and will support Blackburn through the midfield.
Rising stars: Isabelle Pritchard and Isabella Grant will be looking to cement their spots in the best 22 after both making their debuts in 2021. Draftee Amanda Ling will hope to continue her dominant NAB League form when she steps up to the Bulldogs’ midfield.
X-factor: After playing every game in her debut season, Jessica Fitzgerald is expected to delight fans with her class at contests.
Expected finish: Fourth to eighth
– CELIE HAY
WEST COAST EAGLES
Captain: Emma Swanson
Coach: Michael Prior
Ins: Evie Gooch (traded from Fremantle), Aimee Schmidt (GWS), Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco, draft pick 3), Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder, draft pick 21), Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder, draft pick 24), Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts, draft pick 40), Emily Bennett (Claremont, draft pick 47)
Outs: Mhicca Carter, Beatrice Devlyn, McKenzie Dowrick, Brianna Green, Alicia Janz, Demi Liddle, Julie-Anne Norrish, Kate Orme, Chantella Perera, Katelyn Pope (delisted)
Off field: Senior coach Daniel Pratt has been replaced by Michael Prior. Prior, who has never been a head coach, is nevertheless familiar with West Coast’s program, having headed the women’s high performance academy at the club. The Eagles have also welcomed development coaches Kerry O’Sullivan and Pia Faletti to the coaching panel.
Last season: 12th. The Eagles struggled in 2021. With star midfielder and inaugural club champion Dana Hooker ruled out for the season after dropping a knife on her foot, the Eagles were always up against it. However, they remained largely competitive and unearthed several talented youngsters in Mikayla Bowen and Bella Lewis. They finished the season with two wins and seven losses.
Star Power: The Eagles have welcomed two recruits in reliable defender Evie Gooch and speedy forward Aimee Schmidt. Making the move from rival Fremantle, Gooch will bring stability to the Eagles defence, while former Giant Aimee Schmidt will provide another option going forward. Hooker will be a welcome inclusion come round 1 and speedster Niamh Kelly will continue to provide electrifying pace through the midfield.
Rising Stars: Talented youngsters Mikayla Bowen and Bella Lewis spent a lot of time on the ball in 2021. The exciting duo gained confidence as the season progressed and are sure to go to another level in 2022.
X-Factor: After missing last season through injury, Dana Hooker will provide much needed grunt to the West Coast midfield. She is a star of the Eagles’ outfit and has featured twice in the AFLW All-Australian team.
Expected finish: 9-12th
– HARRY GELL