05/03/2024

Olivia Meagher, Meg Macdonald and Maeve Chaplin (L-R) have all signed as injury replacement players on the eve of the AFLW season. (Photos: AFL Women's)

Who are the new faces signing ahead of the AFLW season? We've taken a look at the replacement players who've joined clubs in the past week.

Last minute injuries and untimely illnesses have reared their head on AFLW playing lists, giving new opportunities to the previously overlooked.

Four sides have already signed replacement players this week, with five others having already done so at various stages throughout the off and pre-season.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the new players signed, what positions they cover, and whether they could see an early season debut in 2022.

Maeve Chaplin (Melbourne)

Replacing Isabella Simmons as she was placed on the inactive list with a long term foot injury, Chaplin gets her chance after being overlooked in the draft twice.

A midfielder and half back flanker, the Northern Knights product had productive years as a bottom-ager, in her draft year, and once again when returning as an over-ager.

She was a part of their premiership winning 2019 NAB League campaign, averaging 10.5 disposals, 2.8 tackles, and just over one inside 50 and rebound 50. Chaplin would only get the chance to play three games in 2020, but showed the signs of huge improvement in 2021.

Chaplin averaged 17.3 disposals, five tackles, three inside 50s and 1.4 rebounds 50s for the Knights, while also appearing for Carlton’s VFLW side.

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With the departure of Chantel Emonson to Geelong, the retirement of Meg Downie, the delisting of Mietta Kendall, and Daisy Pearce’s move up forward, Melbourne’s depth down back has been left exposed.

Chaplin could have an early season debut on the cards as a run and carry rebounding defender.

Olivia Meagher (Collingwood)

Much like Lucy Burke at St Kilda, Olivia Meagher gets her chance to be elevated from Collingwood’s VFLW list to the AFLW list after a standout state league season.

The 19-year-old featured heavily across the Pies’ undefeated run, playing 10 games as an inside midfielder with an occasional feature up forward, kicking two goals.

She’s known for her excellent contested work and endurance, attributes which could see her function well as a dedicated tagger.

Meagher playing for Collingwood in the VFLW against Essendon. (Photo: Collingwood FC)

Meagher also brings with her leadership and maturity beyond her teenage years, having previously captained the Eastern Ranges in the NAB League.

Averaging 12 disposals (7.2 of those kicks), and 2.2 tackles, Meagher may not immediately break into what is a stacked finals contending midfield, but the tagging role is one Steve Symonds could look to if necessary.

What will impress is her ability to stand up in big games, winning 16 disposals in the semi-final win over Essendon against a brutally tough contested midfield group boasting Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba, and Georgie Prespakis.

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Meg Macdonald (Richmond)

No, not that Meg Macdonald…

Though sharing a name with Geelong captain Meg McDonald may get confusing for commentators when the two sides meet in Round 8, Macdonald is certainly her own player.

She spent 2021 playing for the Casey Demons in the VFLW as an inside midfielder and defender. The 23-year-old played all 15 games, including the elimination final against Essendon.

After playing the early parts of the season down back, Macdonald made the full time transition into the midfield group halfway through the year. She had her breakout game in a 59-point demolition of Williamstown, collecting 20 disposals, four clearances, 10 tackles, four inside 50s, and kicking her only goal of the season.

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Macdonald also previously played for the Southern Saints and Seaford.

With Iilish Ross and Hannah McLaren both now placed on the inactive list, Macdonald may be best deployed in either a rebounding or lockdown role.

The Tigers midfield now bats quite deep, so it would be hard to see her fitting in there unless in the case of an injury.

Beth Lynch (Richmond)

The second of two new Tigers, Lynch isn’t a new face to the AFLW, joining after being delisted by North Melbourne.

She was initially listed by the Roos as a rookie on their inaugural list, debuting in Round 4, 2019. After underwhelming performances, Lynch was dropped after two more games.

A true utility, Lynch was utilised in roles across both the forward and back lines in four more games, playing two in both 2020 and 2021, but could never quite find one that stuck.

She showed promise as a third tall forward, kicking two goals against Collingwood in the losing qualifying final last year, outshining Kate Gillespie-Jones.

Beth Lynch elevated
Lynch training at Punt Road Oval. (Photo: Richmond FC)

It’ll be a romantic return for the 25-year-old to Punt Road, having played for Richmond’s VFLW team before it was granted entry into the top level competition.

She joins brother Tom to become the first brother-sister duo at the club.

Given Lynch seems to work best as a forward, it’s likely this will be where she’ll be deployed for the Tigers. Outside of Courtney Wakefield and Katie Brennan, it isn’t the tallest forward group, so she could see an early season club debut if coach Ryan Ferguson wants to run a top heavy mix.

McKenzie Dowrick (Adelaide)

Dowrick is a name all too familiar to long time AFLW fans, having played 12 games across two years for both Brisbane and West Coast.

She attained a sort of cult hero following in that time, known for her booming left foot, typically utilised best out of kick outs or off half back.

Dowrick launching one of her trademark rockets for the Eagles. (Photo: AFL Women’s)

She’ll be playing in her third state across her short career, and will no doubt be utilised down back to fill a key hole the Crows were missing.

With Deni Varnhagen placed on the inactive due to failing to meet the requirements of the league’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, Dowrick adds to the depth of players in the defensive group.

She could free up Stevie-Lee Thompson to spend more time up forward, letting her add to her 20 goal career tally after spending most of 2021 on the half back flank.

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