Joining the AFLW competition alongside three other expansion sides, Hawthorn will be looking to make its mark this season in what is a historic time for the club and its supporters.
Led by women’s footy trailblazer and inaugural AFLW premiership coach Bec Goddard, the Hawks have acquired the services of a number of experienced AFLW players to complement their heavy investment in youth at this year’s national draft.
A strong contingent of Hawthorn VFLW players will also feature at AFLW level, with nine members of that side set to be part of Hawthorn’s squad for this coming season.
Hawthorn’s VFLW team finished second on the ladder last season, winning 12 games out of a possible 14 during the home-and-away rounds.
A straight sets finals exit ensued; however it was a successful campaign nevertheless for the brown and gold.
A similar charge towards AFLW finals seems unlikely given the side’s recent introduction to the national competition, but it’s certainly not out of the question with the calibre of players at their disposal.
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What to look forward to:
Entering the competition for the first time, there is plenty of intrigue around what the Hawks will offer in season seven.
The blend of youth and experience looms as an exciting watch for Hawks fans. Having picked up seven players on draft night, there is no shortage of young talent on Hawthorn’s list, headlined by pick two Jasmine Fleming.
Hailing from a famous sporting family, Fleming arrives at Hawthorn as a highly touted under-age footballer. Averaging 25.7 disposals and 4.8 tackles across six games in the NAB League Girls season, the 18-year-old midfielder could make an immediate impact at AFLW level.
Fleming is joined by fellow top 10 draftees Mackenzie Eardley, Charlotte Baskaran and Bridie Hipwell, who could also potentially feature early in the season.
Importantly, this influx of youth will be complemented by more experienced campaigners on Hawthorn’s list, including the likes of Sarah Perkins, Kaitlyn Ashmore and Tegan Cunningham.
Ashmore is one of the most experienced AFLW players in the game and is set to reach the 50-game milestone in Round 1 against the Bombers.
The passing down of knowledge from senior Hawthorn players to those new to the AFLW system is likely to play a highly valuable role in helping the club build the foundations for sustained success in the future.
Biggest unanswered question:
Constructing a list from scratch inevitably means that questions will be raised as to whether the playing group has had enough time to gel together heading into a new season.
The current squad consists of a combination of players with and without AFLW experience, meaning the majority will likely need time to adjust to the level.
It also remains to be seen whether the Hawks have enough x-factor within their ranks to kick a winning score. One only needs to look at fellow expansion side Port Adelaide, who have secured the signatures of dynamic forwards Erin Philipps and Gemma Houghton.
It’s a big year for…
Former St Kilda midfielder Tilly Lucas-Rodd will be keen to put her best foot forward for her new club in season seven.
The 26-year-old joins the Hawks having enjoyed a stellar campaign last time around, averaging 20.1 disposals and seven tackles per game. This culminated in All-Australian honours and a top 10 finish in last season’s AFLW best and fairest count.
Lucas-Rodd will likely have to shoulder more responsibility this season amongst a younger crop of fellow midfielders, not to mention the added expectation which comes with being a prized recruit.
Another to keep an eye on will be ex-Melbourne defender Ainslie Kemp. The 25-year-old has endured a wretched run with injury over her short AFLW career, rupturing her ACL three times across three seasons.
After being delisted by Melbourne at the end of 2020, Kemp joined Hawthorn’s VFLW side last year and has been a consistent performer since. A member of the leadership group, the rebounding defender averaged 14 disposals and 4.3 marks across 10 games at VFLW level.
Kemp looms as a vital cog in Hawthorn’s defensive unit, which also boasts the likes of Jess Duffin, Louise Stephenson and Akec Makur Chuot.
It’s hard to look past Hawthorn’s opening round clash with fellow expansion team Essendon. Set to be played on a Saturday night, the match looms as an enthralling contest, with both teams searching for their first win in their AFLW history.
Given the fierce rivalry which exists between these two sides in the men’s competition, it will be an interesting watch to see if this translates to the women’s game.
Hawthorn’s VFLW side lost to Essendon by 53-points in a qualifying final less than two months ago. However, there is significant change in personnel this time around.
A clash with St Kilda at Box Hill City Oval in Round 2 will also draw plenty of interest. Not only will it mark Hawthorn’s first official home game in AFLW, but it will also see several Hawks players line-up against their former club.
Lucas-Rodd, Kate McCarthy and Tamara Luke have all previously donned the red, white and black, and will be hoping to put in a strong performance come September 4. McCarthy, who was recently delisted by the Saints, may just have the biggest point to prove.
A Round 8 encounter with GWS at Henson Park will also be of significance, with it set to be Hawthorn’s first ever interstate trip in the competition.
R1: vs. Essendon, Aug 27 (ETU Stadium)
R2: vs. St Kilda, Sep 4 (Box Hill City Oval)
R3: vs. Richmond, Sep 11 (Swinburne Centre Punt Road Oval)
R4: vs. Western Bulldogs, Sep 17 (Box Hill City Oval)
R5: vs. Sydney, Sep 23, (Swinburne Centre Punt Road Oval)
R6: vs. West Coast, Sep 30 (SkyBus Stadium)
R7: vs. Port Adelaide, Oct 8 (SkyBus Stadium)
R8: vs. Greater Western Sydney, Oct 16 (Henson Park)
R9: vs. Brisbane, Oct 22 (SkyBus Stadium)
R10: vs. Fremantle, TBC, (Fremantle Oval)
AFLW signings: Kaitlyn Ashmore (North Melbourne), Janet Baird (Gold Coast), Jess Duffin (North Melbourne), Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne), Tilly Lucas-Rodd (St Kilda), Akec Makur Chuot (Richmond), Kate McCarthy (St Kilda), Sarah Perkins (Gold Coast), Louise Stephenson (Greater Western Sydney)
Other signings: Zoe Barbakos, Catherine Brown, Dominique Carbone, Tegan Cunningham, Bridget Deed, Tahlia Fellows, Ainslie Kemp, Sophie Locke, Tamara Luke, Aine McDonagh, Isabelle Porter, Jenna Richardson, Eliza Shannon, Tamara Smith
Draftees: Jasmine Fleming, Mackenzie Eardley, Charlotte Baskaran, Bridie Hipwell, Lucy Wales, Emily Everist, Laura Elliot
Predicted Round 1 Line-Up:
The fact that the footy public is yet to catch a glimpse of this team in action makes it difficult to predict exactly where the Hawks will finish come season’s end.
The experience and tactical nous of coach Bec Goddard will likely play a part, whilst the addition of seasoned AFLW veterans to the list should provide Hawthorn with a competitive edge.
A second placed spot on the VFLW ladder last season offers an indication of the talent Hawthorn has on its hands through its VFLW program. However, the transition to AFLW will provide a new set of challenges and represent a significant step-up for many.
History shows that only Geelong (2019) and Gold Coast (2020) have qualified for finals in their first AFLW season. Perhaps, Hawthorn will add to this list. Only time will tell.
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