30/05/2024

With preseason well underway, there's plenty to get excited about ahead of the upcoming AFLW season. (Image: @lionsaflw /Twitter).

Although the 2023 AFLW season is a while away, all 18 clubs are already in action with preseason kicking off last week.

With the first week of preseason already in the books, many fans will be waiting to see who’ll be holding the premiership cup at the conclusion of the season.

While we wait for the season to start in September, The Inner Sanctum takes a look at a few of the early storylines to get excited about.

How far can the reigning premiers go in season 2023?

It was a fairy tale finish for the Melbourne Demons last year, who after defeating the Brisbane Lions in last year’s grand final, capped off their season campaign with the silverware firmly in their hands.

One season on and it would be safe to say that the reigning premiers will be aiming for another taste of success after winning it all in season seven. Melbourne head into the new season with most of its premiership-winning side still intact.

However, Melbourne will be without their inspirational captain Daisy Pearce after she announced her retirement from the game last season. The Demons also bid farewell to Sabreena Duffy, Ali Brown, Ella Little and Maggie Caris.

There’s no reason to say that Melbourne is in trouble in season eight, given that its premiership side remains pretty much the same.

The side will be heading into the new season with a number of new names in 2023. Most recently, they picked up Saraid Taylor who has been seen in the VFLW with Port Melbourne. Former GWS talent Georgina Fowler and Gaelic footballer Aimee Mackin also signed on with the club.

Is a new era on the horizon for Carlton and Fremantle?

In season seven, both Carlton and Fremantle had disappointing campaigns.

For Carlton, it was a season encompassed by a nasty run of injuries, a win record of two games and the loss of head coach Daniel Harford. All in all, the Blues finished off the season 14th on the ladder.

The departure of Lucy McEvoy in the off-season most certainly wouldn’t have helped the club, who were already reeling for a string of high-profile names that have exited over the last few years.

Carlton will see a stack of talent join the ranks for season 2023. Former Richmond star Harriet Cordner will be donning the navy blue and white, as well as Tahlia Read after she was traded from Fremantle in the off-season.

Irish rookies Erone Fitzpatrick and Dayna Finn have also signed on with the Blues. They also picked up Lulu Beatty, Madeline Hendrie, Marianna Anthony and Chloe Wrigley in the supplementary draft.

Despite finishing slightly higher than Carlton in 12th place, it wasn’t much better for Fremantle who also battled with an unlucky run with injuries.

The side would ultimately be going after their third coach, after it was announced that Trent Cooper would not be offered a contract extension. The Dockers will also be heading into a new season without their captain Kara Antonio after the stalwart retired at the end of the season.

Fremantle has had a busy off-season picking up Tahleah Mulder, Emmelie Fiedler, Jae Flynn, and Joanne Cregg in the Supplementary Draft. Serena Gibbs has also headed up to Fremantle after being formerly with Carlton.

How much will the return of players shake things up?

Injuries are never fun, plain and simple. In season seven there were a number of big names that were sidelined due to injuries.

While some will still be waiting to get back into things later in the season, others are looking poised to make their return at the start of season eight.

Collingwood will be eager for the return of both Brittany Bonnici and Brianna Davey from their respective knee injuries as it looks to back up their finals finish in 2023.

Essendon’s first signing Georgia Nanscawen will be a huge addition for the Bombers as the former Hockeyroo aims to return in time. The 31-year-old went down with an ACL in last year’s VFLW Grand Final.

Carlton could also see a boost to their stocks with both Mia Austin (ankle) and Phoebe McWilliams (foot) working to return to the game.

As too are the likes of West Coast’s Lauren Wakfer and Brisbane’s Lily Postlewaite, who have been recovering from ACL injuries as well.

Other names looking to make a return from injury include Gab Colvin (Melbourne), Montana Beruldsen (Sydney), Rhi Watt (Melbourne), Georgia Gall (Melbourne), and Alice Mitchell (Sydney) to name a few.

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What will be of the Brisbane Lions?

A major storyline to watch out for in season eight is how the Brisbane Lions look in the upcoming AFLW campaign. The team suffered massive losses in the off-season when the Hawthorn swooped on Greta Bodey and Emily Bates.

The competition’s leading goalkicker Jesse Wardlaw has also moved over to St Kilda, something that wouldn’t be ideal for the side. Wardlaw impressed for the Lions last season, averaging two goals per game with an accuracy of 66.7 per cent (19 goals altogether).

To add to their misfortunes, the club recently announced that they’d be without Zimmorlei Farquharson after she was put on the inactive list for the season. Sharni Webb and Luka Yoshida-Martin have also been ruled out for the season due to a ruptured Achilles and ACL injuries respectively.

Despite this, the club will be pleased with the new additions of Jennifer Dunne, Ellie Hampson, Jade Pregeli, Courtney Murphy, Poppy Boltz, and Analea McKee.

Can the Sydney Swans shake off their first-year woes?

It wasn’t the inaugural season that Sydney would have been hoping for, as the side failed to register a single win, which ultimately left it at the bottom of the ladder. 10 straight losses saw the side become the third team in the AFLW to go winless in a season.

But a new year means a new season to hopefully improve.

It seems very likely that the Swans will have a better season in 2023. Though it won’t be easy as the Swans faced an early stumbling block following the news that both Maddy Collier and Hayley Bullas were ruled out with ACL injuries.

But the continual development of young talents of Montana Ham, Cynthia Hamilton and Sofia Hurley will be beneficial for the side heading into the new season.

The incoming new seven faces also is a positive sign, with the likes of Chloe Molloy and Lucy McEvoy among those that have joined the club for 2023.

Could Hawthorn be a surprise finals contender?

One of the four expansion teams last season, Hawthorn put up a season that surprised many people, finishing second highest out of the four newest teams (just behind Essendon) at 15th.

In their first year, the women in the brown and gold had three wins to their name in season seven and have built a strong system under head coach Bec Goddard which includes a list stacked with talent.

Kaitlyn Ashmore, Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Sarah Perkins, and Akec Makur Chuot – who took her game to another level last season, are some of the established names on the list. Young guns Jasmine Fleming and Tahlia Fellows shone for the side, as did Charlotte Baskaran.

The Hawks have added Lions duo Greta Bodey and Emily Bates into the mix, along with former Collingwood star Kristy Stratton and newcomer Casey Dumont to an already established foundation, a recipe that could set the Hawks up for plenty of success in 2023.

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