14/04/2024

Will the Demons be able to replicate what the men's side did in 2021? (Photo: Melbourne AFLW/Twitter)

Melbourne will be contenders yet again this season, but can the women replicate what the men did in 2021?

Melbourne will be contenders yet again this season, but can the women replicate what the men did in 2021?

Last season:

Fourth (7-0-2)

It was yet another promising year for the Demons, who were knocked out in last year’s preliminary final against top-of-the-table Adelaide.

They had plenty of good wins along the way in a tough schedule. In 2021 they played five eventual finalists, going 4-1 against those sides, with their biggest win being against the Crows by 28 points at Casey Fields.

Despite the prelim loss they had a strong ending to 2021, winning their last four home and away games (three against top six sides). They will look to replicate that end of year form in the upcoming season.

What to look forward to:

There’s plenty of headlines heading into the season, but none more so than the return of superstar forward Tayla Harris.

After spending four years at Carlton, the footballer and boxer controversially moved to the Demons after it was reported she wanted her salary at the Blues to increase to $150,000. 

Harris brings plenty of star power up forward too, kicking 29 goals in 37 games and taking plenty of speckies along the way. Adds another dimension and some star power to a talented Melbourne forward line.

Biggest unanswered question:

Despite the positives of the offseason, one negative is the losses of Chantel Emonson and Meg Downie. 

Both of them have been stars in the last few years down back, with Emonson moving to Geelong and Downie retiring. They haven’t done too much to replace them, with their only key signings being a midfielder (Olivia Purcell) and a forward (Tayla Harris).

Draftee Tahlia Gillard has the potential to develop down back, but she is still a young raw talent. It’s a slightly big hole these two leave, but with the depth they have they should be able to fill it.

It’s a big year for…

Daisy Pearce. It’s not been confirmed yet, but there’s plenty of rumours swirling that it will be the Demons’ captain final season.

It’s been an astonishing career from the midfielder turned defender, who was one of the league’s first marquee players. She’s spent her entire career at the Dees, only missing one year (plus three additional games) due to her pregnancy with her twins.

In total she’s played 30 games (all of them as captain), won two best and fairests, was the AFLW Players best captain three times and made the All-Australian side twice. She was also the inaugural captain of the AFLW All-Australian side.

The one thing she doesn’t have is a premiership. And if she is set to end her career this year, she’ll want to get the one thing that’s eluded her.

More AFLW Season Previews

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2022 AFLW Season Preview: Western Bulldogs

Fixture highlights:

It’s a reasonably mixed fixture for the Dees, who face four of the five other sides that made finals in 2021. There are plenty of challenges throughout, including facing the reigning premiers Brisbane up at Maroochydore Oval.

Their season opener against rivals the Western Bulldogs is also an eye-catcher. The Demons will be set to unveil Tayla Harris and Olivia Purcell that day, as well as looking to get a step up in the ledger.

Harris will have to wait to face her former team Carlton until the final round of the year, and will be determined to prove her worth against them at new stomping ground Casey Field.

The only team Melbourne misses, Collingwood, could ultimately end up as a Grand Final opponent. It would be a fateful meeting for ex-Lions teammates Sabrina Frederick and Harris battling it out in their forward halves.

Full fixture:

R1 vs. Western Bulldogs, Jan 8 (VU Whitten Oval)

R2 vs. Richmond, Jan 14 (Punt Road Oval)

R3 vs. St Kilda, Jan 22 (Casey Fields)

R4 vs. Adelaide, Jan 29 (Norwood Oval)

R5 vs. Gold Coast, Feb 6 (Casey Fields)

R6 vs. GWS, Feb 13 (Casey Fields)

R7 vs. Brisbane, Feb 20 (Maroochydore Oval)

R8 vs. North Melbourne, Feb 26 (Casey Fields)

R9 vs. Fremantle, TBC

R10 vs. Carlton, TBC

Ins/outs:

Ins: Alison Brown (St Kilda), Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges, father/daughter), Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons) Tayla Harris (Carlton), Olivia Purcell (Geelong), Eliza West (rookie draft/Casey)

Outs: Tegan Cunningham (retired), Meg Downie (retired), Chantel Emonson (Geelong), Niamh McEvoy (retired), Mietta Kendall (delisted), Shae Sloane (retired)

Round 1 line-up:

Headshots: melbournefc.com.au

Ladder range:

First-Fourth

This side has a lot of talent, and it bought in two stars of the league to enhance their chances even further.

Whilst there are some worry areas, mainly down back, it is still a strong enough side to go all the way. It has terrific leaders in Daisy Pearce and Karen Paxman, and a lot of star power, particularly their new recruits in Harris and Purcell.

They’ll still be up against the likes of Adelaide, Brisbane and Collingwood for the premiership. However, Demons fans should feel confident that their women could potentially replicate what the men did this year.

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