AFL Women’s Top 15 improvers: Cats youth develop while Crows step up

THE AFL Women’s season is only two games in, but there have already been a number of impressive performers in season 2020. We take a look at the top 15 players who have improved their game from season 2019 to season 2020. While we understand that it is a matter of opinion, we have crunched the numbers to bring a factual approach, looking at those players who have bolstered their Draft Central (DC) Points the most in that time frame. DC Points are similar to the traditional fantasy points, with the exception of not including free kicks for or against, as to not penalise or reward players in that aspect of the game. It is a debate for another day, but overall this method is a good measure of improvement based on statistical areas.

What we have listed are the top 15 players in the AFL Women’s who have shot up the rankings in terms of their DC points, looking at their total points this year compared to last, providing an insight into those players who have really stepped it up this season.

eq #1 Rebecca Webster
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 221st / 20
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 7th / 72 (+52)

The clear standout for the Most Improved if there was such an award, with the former Murray Bushrangers skipper playing more midfield minutes in 2020 and benefiting massively. She has gone from a consistent role player in the defensive half of the ground, where she averaged 6.3 disposals, one mark, one tackle and one rebound per game from four games last season, into a ball winning juggernaut of 17 disposals, 6.5 marks three inside 50s and two rebounds per game, covering the ground more than before. It followed on from her strong VFL Women’s season where she spent a lot of time in the midfield, averaging 16.5 touches per game and showing the coaches that she was capable of taking the next step in her game.

eq #1 Phoebe Monahan
Richmond
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 221st / 20
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 7th / 72 (+52)

Crossing from GWS GIANTS to the Tigers over the off-season, Monahan was not as highly recognised as teammate, Christina Bernardi, but she has really stepped it up in season 2020 to match it with Geelong young gun, Webster. Having played at the GIANTS for two seasons and averaging between seven to eight disposals per game, Monahan has shot up to 17.5 per match getting around the ground and primarily playing out of the back half. She has already recorded a massive 6.5 rebounds and three inside 50s to help the Tigers, and while they have lost both their clashes so far, the 26-year-old has provided some good experience in defence for the young Cubs.

#3 Anne Hatchard
Adelaide
2019 DC Rank + Ave: 14th / 73
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 1st / 121 (+48)

The only other player close to the top two in season 2020 is Anne Hatchard. Already a prominent ball winner with the Crows, the absence of Erin Phillips from that midfield group has forced Hatchard to shoulder more of the load with Ebony Marinoff and the other Crows midfielders. Having already averaged more than anyone else on this list last season with 73 DC points to accompany 18.9 disposals, she is far and away the top disposals winner in 2020, averaging 29.5 and holding the league record of 35 touches in a game, whilst averaging the six marks as well. While unlikely to maintain those kind of lofty averages throughout the season, her start has certainly been remarkable.

#4 Sharni Layton
Collingwood
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 207th / 22
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 34th / 55 (+33)

There would be very few who would have expected the former Australian Diamonds netballer to be this high up on the list, if at all. Having played six games last season off no real football experience, Layton rarely got near it and was learning from a blank canvas. Fast forward 12 months, and the ruck looks like a natural at the game, averaging 18.5 hitouts and kicking her first AFL Women’s goal in Round 1. She has also more than doubled her disposals and is clunking her marks, laying more tackles and looking a dangerous prospect for any opposition player considering her frame. While it might look like she burst onto the scene this year, the foundations for this kind of form were built in the VFL Women’s last season, averaging 11 disposals, 15.6 hitouts, three tackles and two marks per game. Stunningly, Layton averages the same DC points as Ellie Blackburn and Jenna Bruton, showing the form she is in.

eq. #5 Danielle Ponter
Adelaide
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 127th / 33
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 24th / 61 (+28)

With the high injury toll at the Crows, some of their next tier was bound to stand up, and Danielle Ponter has been one of those players. In 2019, Ponter played as a pure small forward in her debut season, playing eight games and snaring 13 goals in that time at an impressive 1.6 per game. While no doubt benefiting from the strength of the Crows line-up, she held her spot and then this season has moved further up the ground, averaging 12.5 disposals, 3.5 marks and 3.5 inside 50s per game. She is yet to hit the scoreboard, but is setting others up, using her class and poise to work her way through opposition defensive zones and she has a high upside for the future.

eq. #5 Breann Moody
Carlton
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 185th / 25
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 44th / 53 (+28)

Much like Layton, Moody is a player you might not expect to be on this list as the ruck roles are often underrated at AFL Women’s level and the focus being on the midfielders or key forwards. Along with Layton, Moody has been sensational to start the season, averaging 16 hitouts and 10 disposals, after just the 6.4 and 4.4 respectively from eight games last year. While deployed as a forward who rotated through the ruck last year, she has taken the number one ruck role by the horns and is thriving in 2020.

#7 Jasmine Garner
North Melbourne
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 29th / 59
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 3rd / 86 (+27)

Already considered one of the league’s best players, and certainly most damaging, Garner has been played up both ends but seems most at home in the forward half. Last year she broke even with her 2018 season at the Pies, booting the same amount of goals, but without the heavily reliance on her performing, and finding a pure role in attack. At Collingwood she played at both ends, and while 2018 might be considered her best year, she is only track to easily eclipse that in 2020. Right now she is third overall for DC points, and is averaging a massive 19 disposals, four marks, five tackles and a goal a game from her two matches.

eq. #8 Olivia Purcell
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: 39th / 53
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 4th / 77 (+24)

The second of the Cats young brigade to get a mention in this list, Purcell has bolstered herself up to be a genuine Most Valuable Player (MVP) chance. Not only has she maintained her ball-winning abilities, but she showed she can hit the scoreboard, booting two goals in her Round 2 match against Brisbane. Only in her second season, Purcell is averaging six more disposals and four more marks, getting to the outside more often, and also dropping into defence to help out as a key cog in that midfield group. Another player who build form through the VFL Women’s program with a strong season.

eq. #8 Aasta O’Connor
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 144th / 30
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 39th / 54 (+24)

Having an early season purple patch, O’Connor is back in the form that made her a damaging ruck at the Western Bulldogs a couple of seasons ago. Her first season in the blue and white hoops was interrupted and less consistent, but her start in 2020 has been impressive, coaching the younger rucks such as Rene Caris to come through, and is the perfect centre square ruck in the Cats side with the likes of Purcell, Webster and Nina Morrison all running around – players who O’Connor has mentored and watched develop through her role in the AFL Women’s Academy.

#10 Julia Crockett-Grills
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 132nd / 32
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 34th / 55 (+23)

With four players in the top 10, it shows the Cats are doing something right even if it might not be shown on the scoreboard just yet. Crockett-Grills, like Purcell has developed into a fully fledged AFL Women’s midfielder, averaging 15.5 disposals, 3.0 marks and 3.5 tackles per game. She steadily built form in the Cats program last season, playing eight games in the AFLW since being drafted from the premiership-winning Hawks’ outfit. Her VFLW season was even better last year and she has continued that form in 2020 at the elite level.

#11 Stacey Livingstone
Collingwood
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq 110th / 36
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 27th / 58 (+22)

The reliable defender would be a lock for All-Australian if the team was decided right now, and it is little surprise to see her in this rich vein of form considering her VFLW season. She won the Lisa Hardeman Medal for best on ground in the VFLW Grand Final and has rolled that form into the 2020 AFLW season. Now into her fourth season, Livingston has really stepped up her offensive game to match that of her dire defensive work which saw her nullify many key forwards in the past. Now Livingston has become more of an offensive threat, which has shown in her improvements in disposal numbers (+4), rebounds (+2) and marks (+2).

eq. #12 Ash Riddell
North Melbourne
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 35th / 55
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 6th / 73 (+18)

While we have not included players who missed the season last year, Riddell did get on the park in a couple of games before going down in Round 2. Comparing her two games from last season to 2020, Riddell has been more potent on the attack, with six more disposals and three more inside 50s per game. She is still laying her 4.5 tackles per game and able to hit the scoreboard, but she is pushing up the ground and impacting the contest to a greater degree. After an elite VFLW campaign, Riddell is a good chance for All-Australian form if she can maintain her early season showings.

eq. #12 Christina Bernardi
Richmond
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 90th / 39
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 28th / 57 (+18)

The Richmond forward came with plenty of hype in the off-season as one of the famed trio to land at the yellow and black along with Katie Brennan and Sabrina Frederick. Her season at the GIANTS was underwhelming, playing deeper that she did at Collingwood and not having the same impact. Now at Richmond, Bernardi is having a greater influence on the game up the field, averaging 13.5 disposals and 3.5 marks per game, back in the form she was in for the black and white in 2018.

eq. #12 Renee Forth
Adelaide
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 90th / 39
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 28th / 57 (+18)

Of all the marquee players from the inaugural season, the 32-year-old Forth is often seen as flying under the radar. She crossed from the GIANTS to the Crows last season and played in a premiership off the back of an improved year without the injury concerns of 2018. In 2020, Forth has already lifted her numbers across the board, and is averaging double-figure disposals as well as a career-high 3.5 tackles and 3.0 inside 50s per game. Not a known huge ball winner like some of her teammates, she has stepped it up so far and is playing her role well.

#15 Gemma Houghton
Fremantle
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 53rd / 46
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 22nd / 63 (+17)

The Fremantle tall forward is flying under the radar this season despite becoming a real target inside 50. With all the talk around the young crop coming through at the Dockers, Houghton is going about her business to average 13.0 disposals, 4.5 marks, 3.0 hitouts, 3.5 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s and a goal per game. She covers a lot of ground and is doing well in a number of areas and has already been one of the top key forwards this season.

Start a Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *