Five biggest talking points heading into the AFLW season

AFL Nation - Wed, 30th Jan 2019 - 0 Comments

The AFLW season kicks off on Saturday, with Collingwood and Geelong opening the season down at GMHBA Stadium.

Here are the biggest talking points going into Round 1.

HOW WILL THE EXPANSION TEAMS GO?

Geelong and North Melbourne are the latest teams to enter the AFLW, and both teams have taken completely different approaches to building their sides.

The Kangaroos recruited 15 players from other AFLW clubs, while Geelong recruited 22 of its players from its VFLW list.

Both sides have come out of their practice matches with a win, with the Cats getting over the line against the Blues and the Kangaroos thumping the Demons.

Interestingly, the two expansion teams will not come up against each other in the home and away season, meaning fans will not get a true indication of which team is the superior side.

WILL THE CONFERENCE SYSTEM BE A HIT?

Initially, the AFL threw up the idea of reducing the amount of games in the AFLW season from last year, which was met with significant backlash from fans and players.

In order to fit all of the AFLW games into the tight seven-week period, the AFL decided to introduce a conference system for the first time.

The 10 teams will be split up into two conferences for the 2019 season, with Conference A featuring Adelaide, Fremantle, Melbourne, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, while Conference B includes Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong and GWS.

Each team will play three "crossover" games, having the opportunity to play against teams from other conferences. The top two teams from each series will play in preliminary finals for the first time, with the Grand Final to follow.

The conference system allows teams to play preliminary finals for the first time, and play other teams outside their conference, making for some interesting situations in terms of the conference ladders.

But perhaps a full home-and-away fixture would’ve been the easier solution, whereby each team would play each other once. Time will tell if the AFL’s risky experiment has worked.

WILL THE NEW RULES WORK?

A host of rule changes have been added to the AFLW season for 2019, with the competition adopting eight of the nine changes made for the AFL.

The AFLW-specific changes include throw-ins being brought in by 10 metres and a last disposal rule for balls going out of bounds between the 50m arcs.

These rules were trialled in the AFLW practice matches and were intended to reduce congestion and free up space. When Brisbane took on the Giants, there were five consecutive boundary throw-ins, which raises the question as to whether the rule will work heading into the season.

However, it largely worked well with players being able to utilise the corridor more. The last-touch rule wasn’t as prominent in the practice matches, with players easily manipulating the rule by fumbling the ball over the line.

HOW WILL THE DRAFTEES GO?

The 2018 AFLW Draft contained some of the most promising up and coming stars yet, with a lot of players benefitting from a full football pathway from junior to senior ranks.

Madison Prespakis is a player who has worked her way up from Under 9s at Romsey to playing for Carlton as an 18-year-old. The tenacious midfielder was the highest metropolitan pick due to her incredible football IQ, coming off a TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest and an Under-18 Championships MVP award in 2018.

Another one to watch will be Chloe Scheer, who wasn't drafted as an 18-year-old due to an ACL injury. She can play as a key position forward or tear it up in the midfield, and won three senior Best and Fairest awards in the SAWFL.

We'll have to wait and see whether these draftees can have an immediate impact at AFLW level.

HOW WILL THE CROSS-CODERS GO?

Each club had to recruit two cross-code rookies prior to the AFLW season. These had to be players who had not played competitive football for three years prior to May 1 last year.

One of the most notable signings was former Australian Diamond and Magpies netballer Sharni Layton, who was recruited by Collingwood. Layton is likely to be used as a key position player throughout the season, thanks to her height and athleticism.

Yvonne Bonner has proved a hit at the Giants, teaming up well with fellow Irish recruit, Cora Staunton in GWS’ practice match earlier this year.

With the likes of Staunton exciting last season, the future of the cross-coders in the AFLW looks promising.

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