AFLW previews: Round 1
AFTER a busy few months of training following the conclusion of the VFLW season, eight AFLW sides are primed and ready to tackle 2018 as they strive for the ultimate goal – a premiership. Each week AFL Draft Central will preview the weekend’s matches and look ahead to what is set to be an entertaining sequel to the inaugural 2017 season.
Carlton vs. Collingwood
Friday February 2
It was the game that set the bar for the whole AFLW competition in its inaugural season last year. Carlton and Collingwood were meant to go head-to-head at Olympic Park, but the game was moved to Ikon Park. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, as crowds from all over Victoria and beyond, flocked to the historic ground to witness history being made. Expect even more fans to arrive at Princes Park on Friday night, in anticipation of what these two spearheads can deliver in 2018. But forget the big names, the players to watch will include one of last year’s joint TAC Cup Best and Fairest winners. Former Calder Cannon, Chloe Molloy will be making her presence known in the forward line, after renowned forward,
Moana Hope was named in the midfield. However, you won’t be seeing dual-code athlete, Ashleigh Brazill suit up for the Magpies, as hamstring tightness kept her out of the side. This is good news for former Calder Cannon and U18 Vic Metro representative, Sarah Dargan, after a solid pre-season has earned her opportunity to showcase her speed and clever ball use on the AFLW’s biggest stage.
Melbourne vs. GWS
Saturday February 3
This match sees former VU Western Spurs gun, Ashleigh Guest suit up against her old side. Guest left behind life in Victoria to play with the Giants this year, but without much luck, as the Giants walked away with the wooden spoon in the inaugural AFLW season. Now, with an opportunity to start fresh at the Dees, Guest and her teammates will be hoping to kick-start their season with a victory. But the Giants won’t be a walkover this year, after upsetting minor premier, Brisbane, in January’s practice match. Pick 17, Tanya Hetherington has been thrown straight into the deep end, as the Giants have trusted in her to play a solid defensive role at full back. Melbourne captain and Darebin Falcons gun, Daisy Pearce will start at full forward, so all eyes will be on Hetherington at the first bounce. But expect her and former Calder Cannons coach, Alicia Eva to provide some much-needed speed in the middle of the ground for GWS. As for Melbourne, Tegan Cunningham has trained the house down in the pre-season and has been rewarded with a role in Melbourne’s elusive forward line.
Adelaide vs. Brisbane
Saturday February 3
This match could perhaps be even bigger than the opening match, as 2017’s grand finalists go head-to-head in an exciting grand final rematch. Despite losing their 2017 marquee player, Tayla Harris, the Lions have plenty of talented youngsters that can take her place in 2018. Former Yeronga junior, Jordan Zanchetta will be out to prove that she has what it takes, after recovering from an ACL injury. At Norwood oval, she’ll have the opportunity to play alongside and complement captain, Emma Zielke in the midfield. But she’ll have to break through one of the toughest back-lines in the AFLW, as the likes of former Salisbury star, Sarah Allan and 2017 Northern Territory recruit, Stevie-Lee Thompson are fit and firing for the 2018 season. Allan will be joined by her sister, Jessica, who was recruited at pick eight in the 2017 AFLW draft. Expect her and former Gungahlin Jet, Rhiannon Metcalfe to combine ruck duties in Adelaide’s opening match, which could begin the story of another stellar season for the Crows.
Western Bulldogs vs. Fremantle
Sunday February 4
VU Whitten Oval
Expect the Dockers to put up a huge fight in their season-opener, after a disappointing 2017 season saw them finish second-last on the ladder. Recruited from East Fremantle, Ashlee Atkins will be hoping to help the Dockers improve on the scoring front. The 24 year-old can play in the midfield, but is more renowned for her goalkicking, so be sure to keep an eye out for the electric forward on Sunday evening. For the home side, expect a big debut from high draft picks, Isabel Huntington and Monique Conti. After both having stints at Melbourne Uni, these talented players will now have the opportunity to play together in Bulldogs colours. Huntington was ridiculed by injury last year, and will be seeking a fresh start in season 2018, and there’s no better way to do it then to secure a win at the Western Bulldogs’ spiritual home.