The second AFL Women’s home and away season has wrapped up and overall, it was a far more even season than the inaugural.
Five teams were still alive going into the last round and unlike 2017 where we had a clear MVP, a clear leading goal kicker and a few stand-out players, the pool was a lot more even this year and because of this, All-Australian team slots were extremely tight.
Injuries and suspensions also played a big part in shaping the team. The likes of Brianna Davey, Katie Brennan, Isabel Huntington, Steph Chiocci and even Erin Phillips haven’t made the cut because of games missed.
Phillips played five games, but sat out most of the Carlton game and hobbled through the Collingwood match in round seven, limiting her impact.
This changing of the guard has opened the door for a few new names to make it, including a complete reshuffle up forward. The likes of Sarah Perkins, Darcy Vescio, Tayla Harris, Kate McCarthy and Alyssa Mifsud all had disappointing seasons after All-Australian calibre performances last year.
Featuring only eight players that made the side last year, here’s my All-Australian team.
Adelaide co-captain Chelsea Randall is the only defender who retains her spot in the starting backline. Randall had a fantastic season across half back for the Crows and held the side together while Phillips was on the sidelines and will be in the running for the league MVP award. Because of the leadership she showed throughout the season, Randall is the captain of this side.
GWS first-year player Courtney Gum proved experience matters this year and was the face of the Giants’ change of focus to veteran players in 2018. The 36-year-old was a game-changer multiple times this season, including their massive upset over the Bulldogs in round six. She averaged 15 disposals per game and was ranked fourth in the competition for clearances.
At only 19 years old, Chloe Molloy immediately proved why Collingwood took her with the second overall Victorian selection in the draft. In fact, her making this team as a defender is an even bigger achievement given she was drafted as a key forward. Molloy’s ball-use and ability to get plenty of possessions separated her from the pack and she should pick up the Rising Star award too.
Kate Lutkins had a great 2017, but became one of Brisbane’s most important players this season. The 29-year-old anchored the Lions’ backline and was number one rebound defender in the competition with Randall. She averaged 17 disposals this year and will also be around the mark for the league MVP award.
Fremantle defender Ebony Antonio averaged 13 disposals this year and went at 70.2 per cent disposal efficiency across the season, one of only three players in the competition to achieve an efficiency over 70 while also picking up over 12 disposals per game. More than just numbers though, she was Fremantle’s general in defence and was able to move forward at times and kick goals when needed. She was the match-winner in round seven against Carlton.
No ruck separated from the pack this season, but Erin McKinnon’s sheer numbers get her into the side. McKinnon won 26 more hit-outs than any other player, which essentially equates to an extra game. She didn’t get as many disposals as Breann Moody, Emma King or some of the other contenders for this position, but the numbers she put up in the ruck gives her the nod.
Emma Kearney was the stand-out midfielder of 2018, averaging 19.6 disposals per game, but also putting it to use with her speed and burst from stoppages. Kearney took her game to the next level this season, becoming the focal point of the Bulldogs’ midfield. She should be the favourite for the MVP award and will be vital to her side’s chances of winning the Grand Final.
While she didn’t have as flashy a season as 2017, Daisy Pearce still put up consistent numbers through the midfield and led the Demons through there. She was one of three players in the competition to average 18 disposals or more and backed that up with five tackles and 3.7 inside 50’s per game.
Alicia Eva takes the role as vice-captain of this team for her leadership with the Giants this season. Eva was runner-up in Collingwood’s best and fairest last year, but mainly played off half back. She was right in the guts of GWS’ midfield this season and was their most important player across the season. She averaged just below 18 disposals and laid an average of 7.4 tackles per game.
One player that finished strongly over in the west was Fremantle midfielder Dana Hooker. Hooker surprised a few when she took home the Dockers’ best and fairest last year, but she’s backed it up again this season, averaging 17.6 disposals and kicking five goals.
Elise O’Dea doesn’t get the attention of her counterparts in the Melbourne midfield, but she gets just as much of the ball as Pearce and Karen Paxman. What separates her from those two is her spread from stoppages and her speed on the outside. She’s the only player in the competition averaging four inside 50’s per game and she also kicked four goals.
There wasn’t room for Ellie Blackburn in the midfield, but she deserved a spot in the starting 18 and so she takes the customary midfield spot on the half forward flank. Blackburn once again led the Dogs in Brennan’s absence and while she didn’t get as much of the ball as last year, her disposal through the middle of the ground, ability to play a loose role in defence and rest up forward effectively gets her in the team.
One of the most improved players in the competition, Christina Bernardi is very much a smoky for the league MVP award. Bernardi’s kicked nine goals for the season, the third most in the competition, while also averaging 11 disposals per game and four marks. She set up goals for other Collingwood forwards on a weekly basis as well.
Phoebe McWilliams is another player who improved greatly this season. The GWS forward emerged as a marking beast and a genuine key position player. She kicked seven goals and took some of the biggest pack marks of the season.
Slotting in at full forward in the All-Australian side is a player that wasn’t even in the Bulldogs’ full forward position at the start of the year. Brooke Lochland’s emergence in the absence of Katie Brennan and Isabel Huntington was incredible and she goes into the Grand Final as the competition’s leading goal kicker. Lochland also now holds the record for most goals kicked in a single game with seven.
With Tayla Harris moving to Carlton, opportunity opened up for Jess Wuetschner in the Brisbane forward 50 and she took full advantage of it. Wuetschner finished one goal behind Lochland in the goal kicking with 11 and the Lions wouldn’t be in the Grand Final without her ability to hit the scoreboard. She’s a low disposal player, but whenever she gets it, something happens.
Karen Paxman is unlucky to sit on the bench, but she was always going to find her way into this team. The 29-year-old can be summed up best by her game against the Bulldogs where she was best on ground in their losing effort. She averaged 17.7 disposals for the year, but her class and ability to hit targets inside 50 where others would blaze away separates her from most players in the competition.
Sabrina Frederick-Traub willed the Lions into this Grand Final. In the first six rounds, she spent more time up the ground and in the ruck, sacrificing statistics to help her side get over the line, but in round seven, it was the Sabrina show. She kicked four goals – three in the first quarter – to blow the Giants away and ensure her side made it to the big dance.
Last year’s Rising Star winner Ebony Marinoff continues to set statistical records with her tackle numbers. She laid 82 for the season, 28 more than the next player. Those numbers are almost unbelievable. On top of that, she continued to lead the Crows through the midfield, averaging 15.6 disposals per game. Across two seasons, Marinoff has laid 158 tackles which means she’s averaging 10.5 tackles across her career.
Moving across from the Blues, Bianca Jakobsson earns her spot in this team for the havoc she caused in defence this year for the Demons. She ranked fifth in the competition for average marks per game, but it was her intercept marking that really separated her from the rest. Jakobsson drifting across in front of a pack, taking a mark and beginning the Dees’ counterattack gets her into this side narrowly ahead of Jasmine Garner.
The final spot on the bench is won by Brisbane midfielder Emily Bates, who narrowly edged out her teammate Allie Anderson. Both had near identical stats, with Anderson getting a little more of the ball, but Bates’ ball-use got her over the line. She went at 62 per cent by foot this season, which was higher than any midfielder who averaged over 15 disposals per game. Bates didn’t get much plaudits this season, but her class is one of the big reasons the Lions made the Grand Final.