2019/20 AFLW off-season review: Brisbane

WITHOUT a doubt the team hardest hit by the expansion clubs was Brisbane, losing half of its list over the off-season. State rivals Gold Coast picked off seven players, including a number of young stars from last year’s draft and experienced heads. Nat Exon and Kate McCarthy were two of Brisbane’s best last season but departed for the Saints, Sabrina Frederick went to Richmond and McKenzie Dowrick headed home to Perth to fly with the Eagles. It meant all up, 11 players were lost to expansion clubs, while Bella Ayre and Ruby Blair retired and Megan Hunt and Krystal Scott were delisted. Adelaide’s Rheanne Lugg was the only established AFL Women’s player who joined the den. Brisbane had to head to the draft.

Head to the draft they did, picking up the two brightest Queensland talents available in Lily Postlethwaite and Isabel Dawes. Remember those names because the pair will no doubt have an impact in 2020, particularly Postlethwaite who captained her state Under 18s side and could well play midfield first up if given the chance. Catherine Svarc had a terrific season in the QAFLW and provides midfield strength, while the selections of Hannah Hillman, Tahlia Hickie and Lucy Bellinger give the Lions versatility in the key position spots. Selena Priest, Dakota Davidson and Maria Moloney earned a call-up after impressive QAFLW seasons, while they also pre-signed a couple of rookies in Orla O’Dwyer from Gaelic football and Greta Bodey from soccer. All in all, while Brisbane lost a lot of talent, they invested in the future, and wile they might be a year off contending, they sure are going to be an exciting team in 2020.

OFF-SEASON CHANGES:

IN: Rheanne Lugg (Adelaide), Orla O’Dwyer (Gaelic gootball), Greta Bodey (soccer), Lily Postlethwaite, Isabel Dawes (Maroochydore), Catherine Svarc (Wilston Grange), Hannah Hillman, Tahlia Hickie (Coorparoo), Lucy Bellinger (Glenelg), Selena Priest (Coolangatta-Tweed Heads), Dakota Davidson, Maria Moloney (University of Queensland)
OUT: Tori Groves-Little, Paige Parker, Sam Virgo, Jacqui Yorson, Lauren Bella, Leah Kaslar, Emma Pittman (Gold Coast), Nat Exon, Kate McCarthy (St Kilda), Sabrina Frederick (Richmond), McKenzie Dowrick (West Coast), Bella Ayre, Ruby Blair (retired), Megan Hunt, Krystal Scott (delisted)

2020 TEAM LIST:

Ally Anderson
Lauren Arnell
Emily Bates
Lucy Bellinger
Shannon Campbell
Arianna Clarke
Gabby Collingwood
Sophie Conway
Dakota Davidson
Isabel Dawes
Jade Ellenger
Natalie Grider
Tahlia Hickie
Hannah Hillman
Jessy Keeffe
Breanna Koenen
Rheanne Lugg
Kate Lutkins
Maria Moloney
Lily Postlethwaite
Selina Priest
Catherine Svarc
Jesse Wardlaw
Sharni Webb
Jess Wuetschner
Jordan Zanchetta
Emma Zielke

Rookies: Greta Bodey, Brianna McFarlane, Orla O’Dwyer

POTENTIAL 2020 SIDE:

B: Jess Wuetschner – Kate Lutkins – Natalie Grider
HB: Rheanne Lugg – Lucy Bellinger – Lauren Arnell
C: Catherine Svarc
HF: Sophie Conway – Tahlia Hickie – Emma Zielke
F: Isabel Dawes – Jesse Wardlaw – Lily Postlethwaite
R: Hannah Hillman – Ally Anderson – Emily Bates
INT: Shannon Campbell – Arianna Clarke – Gabby Collingwood – Jordan Zanchetta – Breanna Koenen
EMG: Sharni Webb – Jade Ellenger – Jessy Keefe

DEPTH: Dakota Davidson, Maria Moloney, Selina Priest, Greta Bodey*, Brianna McFarlane*, Orla O’Dwyer*

Trying to guess the Lions’ best 21 is incredibly difficult for two reasons. First off, Brisbane has had such a list overhaul of changes, there will be some players in new roles or perhaps making way for the young stars to come in, and the balance between youth and experience will be a tough call for coach Craig Starcevich. The Lions drafted versatile talls with Hillman and Hickie able to rotate through the ruck or key forward which could be the way they opt to go, with Jesse Wardlaw also filling that role. Bellinger can play up either end, but given the strength of the forward half and a missing role at half-back, she could team up with Kate Lutkins as reliable key defensive posts. Jess Wuetschner has played in defence over the winter so expect her to fill that new role, while the experience of Lugg and Lauren Arnell will be crucial off half-back.

The forward half is quite inexperienced with Postlethwaite and Dawes capable of stepping straight in and while they are long-term midfielders, will probably play forward and relieve the likes of Ally Anderson and Emily Bates who made the midfield their own last season, while the mature-age Catherine Svarc could step into the role. Emma Zielke and Sophie Conway could rotate through there, but with Conway coming off a long term injury, it is fair enough to ease her back into it up forward. There is a lot of youth or players yet to really impact consistently at AFL Women’s level, but Nat Grider is a season in and expect her to own a defensive role, while the bench has plenty of versatility in terms of height and roles. It might be a challenging year for Brisbane in 2020, but they will be better for it because they could be back challenging in 2021 once the team has been established.

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