2022 AFLW early look: Western Bulldogs

IN an early look at the upcoming AFL Women’s 2022 season, Draft Central checks out each of the 14 clubs over the next three weeks ahead of preseason commencing. Wrapping up the series is Western Bulldogs, who finished narrowly outside the top six, four points and percentage behind, but strung four wins together early in the year.

LAST SEASON:

Position: 8th
Wins: 5
Losses: 4
Draws: 0
Points For: 300 (9th)
Points Against: 340 (9th)

No doubt Western Bulldogs fans might have wondered ‘what if?’ they had been able to knock off St Kilda in the opening round of the season, instead going down by nine points, They got on a roll to win the next four games – including a memorable 13-point win over the Demons – before having a couple of wakeup calls against Collingwood (in the second half) and Adelaide which hurt their percentage. A narrow loss to North Melbourne in Round 7 effectively handed the Roos sixth spot, though the young Pups showed they have plenty to look forward to in the coming years.

OFF-SEASON:

Ins: Elle Bennetts (GWS), Richelle Cranston (Geelong), Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers), Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers), Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
Outs: Angelica Gogos, Lauren Spark, Amelia Van Oosterwijck (retired), Katy Herron, Danielle Marshall, Kim Rennie (delisted)

Inactive: Nil.

The Western Bulldogs were able to have a relatively low-key off-season in terms of movement, with Elle Bennetts being the only trade target coming into the club, welcoming the outside runner from the GIANTS and shuffling back down the pick order. There they were able to make three selections in five picks to welcome in some young troops to replace the outgoing retirees and delistees. Katy Herron and Danielle Marshall were two of the three delisted players, with the latter in particular a surprising cut, with Kim Rennie unable to get a deal done to the Roos in trade week, and instead was picked up by North Melbourne in the AFLW Draft. Three players retired with Angelica Gogos and Lauren Spark having memorable careers, whilst youngster Amelia Van Oosterwijck also decided to call time. Post-trade week, Richelle Cranston was quickly snapped up from the Cats as a delisted free agent to add extra punch to the Bulldogs’ lineup inside 50, and then the Dogs went about getting the need for speed in the AFLW Draft. With their three selections, they picked up Oakleigh Chargers’ best on ground in the NAB League Girls Grand Final, Amanda Ling. Tipped to go as high as Top 5 leading into the draft, Ling slid into the second round where the Dogs scooped her up with fellow top-ager, Elizabeth Snell. Aurora Smith completed the trio of speedsters, with an outstanding season playing on a wing for Murray Bushrangers.

2022 TEAM LIST:

Deanna Berry
Elle Bennetts
Ellie Blackburn
Eleanor Brown
Richelle Cranston
Naomi Ferres
Jess Fitzgerald
Ellyse Gamble
Elisabeth Georgostathis
Isabella Grant
Ashleigh Guest
Britney Gutknecht
Sarah Hartwig
Bailey Hunt
Isabel Huntington
Gemma Lagioia
Kirsty Lamb
Amanda Ling
Brooke Lochland
Katie Lynch
Kirsten McLeod
Celine Moody
Nell Morris-Dalton
Gabby Newton
Isabella Pritchard
Hannah Scott
Aurora Smith
Elizabeth Snell
Annabel Strahan
Bonnie Toogood

KEY QUESTIONS:

  • Can the Western Bulldogs force their way into finals in 2022?
  • Will the inclusion of Cranston allow less pressure on their key position options?
  • Will the dominant VFLW talents like Britney Gutknecht (six total AFLW games), Isabelle Pritchard (four) and Isabella Grant (two) take that next step and become AFLW regulars?

PREDICTION:

Western Bulldogs are a side that will be one to keep an eye on over the coming years. There is every chance the Pups graduate into finalists, and should at the very least, contend for AFLW finals again. They will likely be another year off being a title contender, but they are certainly building in the right direction, and their core of youth is as good as any other side in the competition. If they continue their upward trend, expect them to arrive sooner, rather than later.

Picture credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images via AFL Photos

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