24/04/2024

New Richmond recruit Grace Egan will be one to watch this season (Picture: Richmond Football Club/Website)

There are plenty of exciting new faces at each of the 18 AFLW teams as the season gets underway on Thursday. The Inner Sanctum looks at who has the potential to be the best pick-up for your club.

Amber Ward

Only managing 14 games across two seasons with the West Coast Eagles, Amber Ward was traded to the Crows to play for her childhood club. Coming to the Crows for Season Seven alongside Eagles teammate Niamh Kelly, Ward looks to be ready for a breakout season under the tutelage of star defenders, Chelsea Randall, Marijana Rajcic and Sarah Allan.

Ward is a versatile defender that can also match up on key forwards, she also brings her ability to read the play and kick the ball cleanly. Showing glimpses of what she is capable of at the Eagles, she is set to really grow with some of the younger Crows.

Madeline Irwin

Dee Heslop

Coming from the Gold Coast Suns in the off-season, Dee Heslop only managed 23 games in her two seasons up north. At Brisbane, she will provide versatility and depth to the Lions squad, who will miss Indy Tahau down back, who moved to Port Adelaide in the off-season.

Playing as a utility, Heslop has shown the ability to be able to play forward or back as well as on the ball. Being a very physical inside player as well as a great overhead mark, Heslop will look to prove she has what it takes at AFLW level.

Madeline Irwin

Amelia Velardo

Whilst there were plenty of losses this offseason for Carlton this offseason, there were still some shrewd acquisitions by them, one of which was ex-Magpie Amelia Velardo.

Coming across from Collingwood as a part of the Lauren Brazzale trade, Velardo was a regular member of a Pies side that made it to the finals last season. She averaged 9.3 disposals, 110.2 metres gained, and 2.4 marks on a wing or off half back in nine games last season.

In the Blues’ practice match defeat at the hands of the Demons, she was one of the shining lights with her creativity. With the Blues being much younger compared to previous years, she could be set to have a major influence in 2022.

Josh Ward

Olivia Barber 

She hasn’t been at Collingwood for long, but Olivia Barber is already making her mark. Traded from Geelong for pick 33, Barber impressed in the practice match against Sydney, kicking two goals. She made an immediate impact on the game, combining in the ruck with Sabrina Frederick.

Originally selected at pick 21 in the 2020 draft, the versatile ruck/forward has managed 10 games across her first two seasons. 

A Pies supporter growing up, Barber looks right at home in the black and white, and is shaping up to be a prominent feature in the Pies’ lineup in Season Seven.

Monique Quercio 

Federica Frew

Building a list from scratch for its entry into the AFLW this season, Essendon pulled a number of stars from other clubs including Maddy Prespakis, Bonnie Toogood, and Steph Cain.

But from within its own system came VFLW leading goalkicker Federica Frew, who showed in the practice game against Port Adelaide just why she deserved a spot in the inaugural squad.

Frew slammed on two goals in the span of 45 seconds against the Power, showing both her freakish ability to snap on either side of her body, as well as her powerful set shot from basically anywhere in the 50-metre arc.

Kicking 35 goals in 16 matches ranging anywhere from her classic long bombs to checksides off a step from 40 metres out, Frew has all the dynamism and confidence to be an impactful small forward from her debut.

Alex Catalano

Nikki Gore

It was a quiet offseason for Fremantle, however, one of the players it gained was Nikki Gore from the reigning premiers, Adelaide.

Gore comes in having played an integral role for the Crows in their path to premiership glory once more this past season. Despite only playing nine games, she still averaged nine disposals, 2.3 contested possessions & 1.8 tackles per game in 2022.

Whilst not the most outstanding numbers she still consistently performed in a role that she has become accustomed to despite coming into the AFLW as a midfielder. With that versatility she could prove to be a valuable asset for Trent Cooper’s side this season.

Josh Ward 

Mikayla Bowen

Moving across from West Coast for Season Seven, Mikayla Bowen played all 10 games for the Eagles last season, and put up good numbers in the process. 

Averaging 12.6 disposals, 2.4 marks, and 5.8 tackles per game, Bowen has matured well since her debut season in 2020, and will surely contribute greatly to a Geelong team that is looking to climb up the ladder this year. 

The former AFLW All-Australian has already proven that she can hang with the top midfielders in the competition, and at just 21 years of age, she will surely develop even further in the coming years.

Brandon Patane

Courtney Jones

Bursting onto the scene last year after sitting on Carlton’s list for two seasons, many fans were left wondering why Courtney Jones hadn’t made her debut sooner.

The 21-year-old only went goalless in three of her nine games in season six, including a bag of three against Brisbane in what was her breakout game. Now at Gold Coast, the club will be hoping she can add more life to the forward line.

Kate Surman’s departure leaves the door wide open for Jones to play a prominent role in the Suns’ forward line. With Ashanti Bush, Tori Groves-LIttle and Ashlee Atkins all handy smalls, the Suns can make ground-level pressure inside 50 a major strength of their game.

Defensively, Jones registered four tackles on three occasions in season six. While it’s an area of the game she can still improve upon, her offensive prowess more than makes up for it.

Alex Catalano

Fleur Davies

Joining the Giants from Southport, Fleur Davies will have an instant impact at her new team this season. Losing both Erin McKinnon and Ally Morphett to St Kilda and Sydney respectively, Davies firms as the primary ruck option for GWS this season.

The most promising key position prospect in her state this year, Davies will join the Giants as a great tall marking option around the ground or a key forward if need be. Despite being very raw and needing to gain consistency at the level, she has a massive amount of potential and is someone that the Giants will look to keep around at the club for the future.

Madeline Irwin

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Tamara Luke

In an expansion side that is full of new recruits, experience will be crucial in building a cohesive squad that will trouble their opponents. This is where Tamara Luke comes in. Nicknamed “the Big Show”, Tamara Luke will be where it all starts in the ruck for the Hawks, and they will be looking to her to seize the initiative for the fledgling side.

Hawthorn will be confident that key forward targets Tegan Cunningham and Sarah Perkins will be able to kick a score for the Hawks, but they will need supply from a midfield that will boast a mix of youth and experience. First hands on the ball will be vital to their hopes of success, and Luke winning in the ruck is their best chance of this happening.

Hugh Maclean

Charlotte Wilson

Charlotte Wilson moved to Melbourne, after three seasons with Carlton. The key defender will add to the Demons’ defensive stocks after the departure of Brenna Tarrant to the Swans and the ACL injury suffered by Gabby Colvin.

Only 21 years of age, Wilson is quite experienced for her age, having played 22 games in the navy blue. Carlton rated the 177cm defender and was disappointed to see her leave, but after only playing three games last season, Wilson left for more opportunity.

With the injury to Colvin, Wilson will have the opportunity to continue her development surrounded by a strong, experienced defensive group that includes Libby Birch, Shelley Heath, and Sarah Lampard.

Jordan Janssen

Hannah Bowey

Entering the squad as an injury replacement in Season Seven, Hannah Bowey looks set to be an interesting inclusion over at Arden Street.

The 23-year-old demonstrated poise during her VFLW campaign. Whilst in the black and white, she pocketed a season-high of 15 disposals against Casey in round 14. Bowey is reliable and consistent with the numbers she pockets in her own field performances.

Among her other traits, Bowey brings with her athleticism and speed. Both of which will help to lessen the blow of key players, including Grace Campbell.

Ashleigh Matosevic

Justine Mules

Justine Mules was one of the many players to sign with Port Adelaide and is one of the club’s most underrated signings.

Not only will the 27-year-old play a huge role on the field, playing on the wing, but she will also be one of the many players on the Power’s list with AFL experience and leadership capabilities.

Despite playing an outside role, the three-time premiership player is just as tough and tenacious inside the contest and will help lead the Power’s younger midfielders.

Last season, Mules averaged 8.3 disposals, 1.9 marks, and 1.8 tackles. Mules’ impact won’t be solely defined by the number of disposals she gatherers, her impact of leading and showing the younger members of Port Adelaide’s inaugural squad the way will be just as valuable.

Jordan Janssen

Grace Egan

With the Tigers searching for added depth in their midfield, Grace Egan will be a great addition to the ranks.

Egan averaged 14.4 disposals, 3.3 tackles, and 5.3 contested possessions last season for Carlton, and she will look to build on these numbers even further alongside star midfielder Monique Conti, as well as former Blues teammates, twins Sarah and Jess Hosking.

The 22-year-old has contributed well in her three seasons at IKON Park, and will definitely help the Tigers move up the ladder if she can replicate this form in Season Seven and the future seasons.

Brandon Patane

Erin McKinnon

St Kilda could have a steal on their hands after receiving former GWS Giant Erin McKinnon during the trade period. The 23-year-old played a pivotal role in the ruck for the Giants throughout the past six seasons she’s been tied to the club.

A stellar campaign last season saw her cemented as one of the competition’s best ruck duos alongside Ally Morphett. McKinnon delivered a classy performance during a Round Nine clash, where she finished with 27 hit outs.

At a height of 189cm and with 41 AFLW games under her belt, McKinnon will help to bolster the Saints in the ruck department. The 2018 All-Australian will also bring with her versatility given her ability to play up forward. A dynamic and reliable player on the field, McKinnon averaged 20.5 hit outs during the previous season.

Ashleigh Matosevic

Aliesha Newman

While Sydney struggled to pull in the big-name recruits that they were chasing, they were able to sign crafty forward Aliesha Newman ahead of the club’s inaugural season. 

Before joining the Swans, Newman played 39 games across both the Demons and Magpies and makes her the most experienced player on the Swans list. Her experience at AFLW level will be instrumental, not just on the field but off it as well, with the Sydney Swans opting for a young side.

From her seven appearances for Collingwood last season she averaged six disposals and scored two goals for the season.

Newman is known for her attack on the ball and using her speed to her advantage, she has a great sense for the goals and will combine nicely with the likes of Rebecca Privitelli and Brooke Lochland.

Elly McNerney 

Kate Bartlett

The Eagles have been in desperate need of quality goalkickers for their whole time in the AFLW so far. The addition of Bartlett to the squad gives them just that in season seven.

Aimee Schmidt showed plenty of promise in the backend of the season, but the club has lacked a major focal point inside 50. This is exactly where Bartlett comes in.

Bartlett was previously listed by the Bulldogs, but never earned many opportunities ahead of the likes of Izzy Huntington, Bonnie Toogood, and Brooke Lochland. She only played one game before she was delisted.

She is without a doubt one of the shining stars of the WAFLW, having kicked 86 goals in 39 appearances. Bartlett has displayed a knack for kicking goals from any angle, and showed off this season that she can get higher up the ground and be impactful with her possessions.

At only 22, Bartlett is set up to become a mainstay of the Eagles for a long time to come.

Alex Catalano

Daisy Bateman 

The Bulldogs lost a few avenues to goal with the losses of Brooke Lochland, Bonnie Toogood and Isabel Huntington but gained firepower up forward with Daisy Batemen making the move to the Kennel for season seven.

Before making the move to the Bulldogs, Bateman played 34 games for North Melbourne after being recruited with the Kangaroos’ first draft pick in the 2018 draft. Over her career to date, Bateman has scored 22 goals and is known for her great read of the play in the forward half as well as her goal sense.

From her 10 games in 2022, the crafty small forward averaged 7.5 disposals and scored three goals. Bateman will fit in nicely with the current Bulldogs forwards, working with the likes of Deanna Berry and Nell Morris-Dalton.

Elly McNerney

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