AFLW: All the news ahead of round one of the 2022 season

AFLW: All the news ahead of round one of the 2022 season

The countdown to season seven of the AFLW is on.

As we approach the first bounce of the first August season for the elite women’s competition, experts from the Herald Sun and The Advertiser and Fox Footy predict how season seven will play out.


Premier: Melbourne

Biggest threat: Adelaide

League best-and-fairest: Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide)

Rising Star: Jasmine Fleming (Hawthorn)

Headline I’d love to see: Up on the Dais – Daisy Pearce finally salutes as an AFLW premiership captain.

Premier: Brisbane

Biggest threat: Melbourne

League best-and-fairest: Monique Conti (Richmond)

Rising Star: Jasmine Fleming (Hawthorn)

Headline I’d love to see: Expansion delivers: new side makes the eight.

Premier: Melbourne

Biggest threat: Brisbane Lions

League best-and-fairest: Monique Conti (Richmond)

Rising Star: Montana Ham (Sydney)

Headline I’d love to see: Seventh heaven – Final AFLW expansion delivers.

Premier: Adelaide

Biggest threat: Brisbane

League best-and-fairest: Anne Hatchard (Adelaide)

Rising Star: Hannah Ewings (Port Adelaide)

Headline I’d love to see: Crows become the first AFLW team to win back-to-back flags.

Premier: Melbourne

Biggest threat: Fremantle

League best-and-fairest: Anne Hatchard (Adelaide)

Rising Star: Sophia Hurley (Sydney)

Headline I’d love to see: Finally – Essendon win a final!

Premier: Melbourne

Biggest threat: Brisbane Lions

League best-and-fairest: Monique Conti (Richmond)

Rising star: Montana Ham (Sydney)

Headline I’d love to see: Daisy finally wins her first AFLW flag.

Premier: Brisbane Lions

Biggest threat: Melbourne

League best-and-fairest: Monique Conti (Richmond)

Rising Star: Jasmine Fleming

Headline I’d love to see: Expansion delivers: New side makes the top eight.

Premier: Melbourne

Biggest threat: Adelaide

League best-and-fairest: Madison Prespakis (Essendon)

Rising Star: Jasmine Fleming (Hawthorn)

Headline I’d love to see: We were wrong: AFLW competition has untapped depth despite four new teams.

Premier: Brisbane Lions

Biggest threat: Adelaide

League best-and-fairest: Anne Hatchard (Adelaide)

Rising Star: Jasmine Fleming (Hawthorn)

Headline I’d love to see: Inaugural AFW Showdown attracts more than 35,000 fans.

Finals curtain-raiser an ‘amazing opportunity’
– Lauren Wood

AFLW clubs Melbourne and North Melbourne will clash at the MCG next Friday as a curtain-raiser to the men’s qualifying final between Melbourne and Sydney.

The round 2 match was due to be played at Port Melbourne but the AFL has made the switch to the MCG

The game will be played at 5pm, with the AFL final between the Demons and Swans to kick off at 7.50pm.

AFLW chief Nicole Livingstone said the high demand for tickets and to have it played in front of a bumper crowd were key reasons behind the decision.

“To be able to run out on the MCG and play amazing football in front of a huge crowd ahead of a Final is an amazing opportunity and one we’re so glad we’ve made a reality,” Livingstone said.

AFL clubs and broadcasting boss Travis Auld said the move was the perfect opportunity to promote the women’s game on the biggest stage.

“We’re focused on ensuring our AFLW teams can play large stadiums wherever logistically possible,” Auld said.

“We’ll continue to champion our women’s teams and highlight the amazing talent we have throughout the league by facilitating these kinds of opportunities.”

Saturday’s AFLW round 1 game between Essendon and Hawthorn — two teams entering the AFLW for the first time this season — was sensationally moved a fortnight ago from Port Melbourne’s ETU Stadium to Marvel Stadium to accommodate surging ticket sales.

The AFL is keen to boost the crowd at Marvel Stadium by offering two-for-one tickets.

The stadium mailing list on Monday received a link to access “bring a friend for free” tickets in a bid to see as many people at the huge clash.

Breaking down AFLW’s seven biggest issues
As the seventh season of AFL Women’s looms large, will it be a case of seventh heaven?

Or will the season face its challenges as it did earlier this year?

We take a look at the biggest issues facing the game ahead of its first-ever August edition.

It was midway through the last season of AFLW that the league first floated the idea of August, which was later agreed to by stakeholders and clubs.

It’s meant little downtime for players and club staff with the “off-season” lasting just a handful of weeks, if that, before pre-season began yet again.

Expansion clubs – who thought they might well have had another six months or so up their sleeves to build coaching panels and playing lists – were swiftly flung into top gear to get their act together in time.

It’s been a whirlwind, but they’re now on the home stretch.

Fatigue will no doubt become a factor in the latter part of the season with AFL Women’s players and staffers essentially having been on the clock since around last October, but many are pointing out that this will – hopefully – be the last time the game faces this issue as it settles in what is hoped to be a long-term home in August every year.

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We know, but we have to go there.

The Omicron variant ran rampant through the competition earlier this year, causing chaos everywhere it went. Fixture changes, finals moved, teams ravaged.

That’s not to say it won’t happen again.

The latest Covid variant is thought to be more transmissible and skilled at evading vaccine protection, meaning clubs intend to remain vigilant.

While many aren’t keen to place stringent limits on players and their movements – particularly many still work, study and provide care to others – it’s safe to say players will be making smart choices of their own.

As recently revealed by the Herald Sun, should the government opt to shorten the mandated quarantine period for Covid cases from seven days to five following the predicted winter wave, the league could also follow suit.

The Bombers’ first round meeting with Hawthorn has already been shifted to Marvel Stadium and more games could yet be on the move.

Melbourne faces North Melbourne at Port Melbourne’s ETU Stadium, with the first-ever Dreamtime game between Richmond and Essendon also scheduled for that ground, raising suggestions ticket sales could warrant more upheavals.

And why not?

Hawks senior coach Bec Goddard declared in starting the push to “Move it to Marvel” that “no one rises to low expectations”, and women’s sport around the globe is seeing record numbers of crowds flock to games.

Why not here, Essendon forward Bonnie Toogood said recently.

Hawk Lou Stephenson played a practice game on the MCG on the eve of the season, and said “there were a few tears” pre-game.

“We deserve to be there,” she said.

“We’re professional athletes now. That’s the stadiums and the credit that we deserve to be at.”

It was arguably the first issue highlighted when four new teams – Hawthorn, Essendon, Port Adelaide and Sydney – were announced as joining the competition in 2022, 2.0.

Is there enough talent in the market to sustain an extra 120 players joining the competition, and what would it mean for state leagues, too?

Depth is key to premiership hopes – particularly in the Covid era.

Only time will tell, but the recent AFLW draft presented a vast number of strong prospects who have come through a solid Australian rules pathway.

Industry figures remain optimistic given the numbers of participants in women’s football across the country that AFLW is going to become stronger with the development framework continuing to lay the foundations – just like the boys have had for decades.

Players have already noticed a significant increase in what they’ve been able to achieve in being contracted for more hours at clubs.

Some have already opted to step back from work, according to Demons defender Libby Birch, who recently said “if you’re not totally doing that, the competition is going to surpass you”.

“You’ve got to sort of take back your work now and become more of a footballer,” she said, in the wake of the game’s latest collective bargaining agreement that significantly boosted both player pay and contracted hours.

Fitness and ball skills have been notably improved already in the wake of clubs having more access to players in the new era.

But some club officials have warned of the fine line teams will have to balance with some players still employed or studying and balancing their football commitments.

Year 12 students have allowances to train less and have to be supported by their clubs.

Concerns were raised by some AFLW players last season that access to facilities and resources needed to lift, with some players even reportedly resourcing their own rehabilitation at times.

Some teams still don’t face each other, which remains a bugbear for some players.

Some teams have never even met across the six seasons of the competition thus far.

Season growth will be a key element to the negotiations of the next collective bargaining agreement, which will begin in coming months, after the league maintained the season at 10 weeks plus finals.

The AFL Players’ Association is eyeing a full-time, 18-round competition by 2026 – if not sooner.

Incremental growth is the preferred option for players.

New season, new colours.

Expansion delivered one of the busiest off-season sign and trade periods in recent years, with two league best and fairest winners picking up their boots and shifting across town.

Superstar Crow Erin Phillips is going back to her roots at Port Adelaide – where she grew up with dad Greg – as skipper alongside ex-Docker Gemma Houghton, while former Blue Madison Prespakis has a new home at the Bombers.

Safe to say the expansion sides made their presence immediately felt, making a big play for top players at most clubs.

And while they weren’t always successful, they certainly made an impression and ruffled a few feathers along the way.

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