For the first time in AFLW history, all 18 teams will be represented in season seven.
With a short turnaround ahead of the new start date of August 25, established players will look to take their game to a new level thanks to a significant pay rise and increased contact hours.
Here are the ones to watch.
Eloise Jones’s role in the midfield and her willingness to defend just as much as attack makes her a real asset to Adelaide’s game style.(Getty Images: Paul Kane)
Club: Adelaide Crows
AFLW appearances: 41
A two-time premiership player, Jones spent more time on the ball last season and her impact was keenly felt. The move inside saw her average a career-high 14.5 disposals, 2.6 inside 50s and 3.4 marks, and with Erin Phillips now at Port Adelaide, Jones’s role in the midfield only becomes more important this season.
Coming from a role in the forward line and out on the wing, Jones’s attacking mindset is a real asset for the Crows, complementing star midfield duo Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard. Not only this, her endurance and willingness to defend just as much as attack plays perfectly into Adelaide’s intercepting, suffocating game style.
Shannon Campbell is one of the league’s most reliable defenders, with her ability to read the ball often unmatched.(Getty Images: Chris Hyde)
Club: Brisbane Lions
AFLW appearances: 49
One of the most reliable defenders the league has seen, Campbell’s no-fuss game style has been vital for Brisbane since the competition began. Standing at 173cm, she often gives up height in her key defensive match-ups, but her relentlessness and ability to read the ball means she is rarely beaten.
After kicking the Lions’ first AFLW goal back in 2017, Campbell rediscovered her knack of sneaking forward and hitting the scoreboard last season, goaling in each of the final three matches. It is this game awareness that makes her tough to beat, but also someone that forwards must be accountable to at the same time.
Maddy Guerin showed her worth late last season, and now with a couple of more well-known players off the field for the Blues, she looks set to make her mark.(Getty Images: Kelly Defina)
Club: Carlton Blues
AFLW appearances: 18
With Maddy Prespakis out the door and Lucy McEvoy facing a delayed start to the season due to a shoulder injury, there has been concern about the strength of Carlton’s midfield. Rising Star Mimi Hill will no doubt lead them in the middle of the ground, but Maddy Guerin is the one who looks set to take the opportunity to establish herself at the Blues.
Late last season, Guerin emerged as a reliable two-way runner and strong contested ball player, including a career-best performance against former side Melbourne in round 10. Throughout the season she averaged 12.3 disposals, 3.3 inside 50s and 3.7 clearances, and now has the potential to improve yet again thanks to the opportunity that has opened in Carlton’s midfield.
With her teammates out with injury in season six, Mikala Cann showed us all her skills and desire.(AFL Photos via Getty Images: Daniel Carson)
Club: Collingwood Magpies
AFLW appearances: 33
Last season, when Collingwood was searching for options to replace the injured Brianna Davey and Britt Bonnici in the midfield, it was Mikala Cann who stepped up and stamped her authority around the ball. The 21-year-old looks set to continue that role consistently through the middle in season seven.
Taking recovery and preparation seriously, it is not just Cann’s skill that has seen her develop, but her professionalism and desire to improve. Last season Cann averaged a career-high 15.6 disposals, 3.3 clearances and 4.1 tackles, while also pressing forward and kicking three goals.
Daria Bannister kicked 13 goals across the last two seasons for the Kangaroos, now she’s at Essendon and ready to make her mark.(AFL Photos via Getty Images: Michael Willson)
Club: Essendon Bombers
AFLW appearances: 25
Daria Bannister had a horror start to her AFLW career. Knee injuries and a broken collarbone kept the 19th draft pick to just four games in her first three seasons, but since getting a clean run she has really come into her own as a damaging small forward.
Thanks to her neat footwork and positioning in attack, Bannister has kicked 13 goals across the last two seasons at North Melbourne, and now lands at Essendon to offer some real unpredictability and danger in attack. She will often bob up and kick multiple goals in a game, and should she find a little more consistency in her game, she has the potential to take out the Bombers’ leading goal-kicker award.
Sarah Verrier moved to defence this year and will be looking to take her game to a new level.(Getty Images: Will Russell)
Club: Fremantle Dockers
AFLW appearances: 22
After joining Fremantle ahead of the 2021 season, Sarah Verrier has been a reliable role player, yet to miss a game since making her debut in round one last year. Named in attack throughout her debut season, it was a move to defence to cover the loss of Philipa Seth that saw the 20-year-old break out.
Averaging 12.6 disposals, 3.3 marks and 5.1 intercepts last season, Verrier became a key part of Fremantle’s rebounding from the back half and territory control. Calm and collected under pressure, now that she is settled into that defensive role, Verrier looks likely to take her game to another level this season.
Rebecca Webster played a key role in her side’s first win of last season, and her determination will prove invaluable heading into season seven.(AFL Photos via Getty Images: Michael Willson)
Club: Geelong Cats
AFLW appearances: 29
Newly elevated to Geelong’s leadership group, Becky Webster took her game up a notch last season, spending more time at stoppages and winning the contested ball. This culminated in a career-best game against West Coast, as Webster pushed her side to its first win of the year.
Now with runner Sophie Van De Heuvel at Essendon, Webster’s determination to move the ball into attack is more valuable than ever. That power and willingness to break away from stoppages and gain territory is like gold for the Cats, and for that reason, Webster will no doubt be one of their most important players in season seven.
Daisy D’Arcy’s ability to move the ball up the wing and then move quickly back into defence sets her apart from other small defenders.(Getty Images: Will Russell)
Club: Gold Coast Suns
AFLW appearances: 19
The pressure Daisy D’Arcy offers Gold Coast at halfback has been invaluable over the last two years. Averaging 4 tackles and 3.4 intercepts across her career to date, it is her ability to push high up the field and then move quickly back into defence that sets her apart from other small defenders. In season six she found more ball, averaging nine disposals per game, and used it well to set her side up out of the back half.
D’Arcy, thanks to her rugby background, has the potential to move up onto the wing to complement the Suns’ strong on ball group, so may spend time in various roles throughout the season, but will no doubt play an important role in defence in season seven.
GWS is looking for support in attack, and they look to have found it in Georgia Garnett.(Getty Images: Mark Nolan)
Club: Greater Western Sydney Giants
AFLW appearances: 15
After a tough season that saw Garnett miss portions of the preseason and then two games due to COVID, the talented youngster is now slated to move into attack. The Giants’ forward line, already thin before Rebecca Privitelli’s move across town to Sydney, is desperate for support for Cora Staunton and think they have found that in Garnett.
Standing at 176cm tall, Garnett is a clever player who reads the play well and will help to dictate how GWS moves inside 50. A good ball user, she averages 68.3 per cent disposal efficiency across her career to date and is likely to become reliable in front of goal.
Aileen Gilroy’s runs from the back half and leadership with the new team will be more important than ever.(Getty Images: Darrian Traynor)
Club: Hawthorn Hawks
AFLW appearances: 28
In her three seasons to date, Irishwoman Aileen Gilroy has gone from strength to strength, honing her craft and game awareness. Now at a new club, part of Hawthorn’s first-ever AFLW list, her leadership and run from the back half will be more important than ever.
As she has settled into footy, Gilroy has steadily become more adept at turning her defensive acts into attacking drives, averaging 2.2 inside 50s from her 5.7 intercepts last season. While the defensive side of her game will have to come to the fore this coming season as part of a new and inexperienced team, any bounce that can be offered out of the back line will be vital to Hawthorn’s ability to score.
Rookie Eliza West made herself known in the midst of a star-studded mid-field last season.(Getty Images: Daniel Pockett)
Club: Melbourne Demons
AFLW appearances: 12
In a star-studded Melbourne midfield group, rookie Eliza West averaged the second-most clearances and played every game in the side’s push to its maiden grand final appearance. Working equally hard defensively, West registered 4.3 tackles each week to go along with her 12.8 disposals in the engine room.
Looking toward season seven, veteran Karen Paxman looks likely to spend more time outside the contest, allowing West more time on the ball to continue her reliable, relentless work through the middle. Important has been her ability to link up with outside runners to make the most of her clearance work, and in a Melbourne side that looks to move the ball quickly and neatly, a source like West is vital.
Bella Eddey (right – tackling Greta Bodey) has used the ball better than any player in the competition history, winning 100 or more disposals.(AFL Photos/Getty Images: Kelly Defina)
Club: North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos
AFLW appearances: 21
Since being drafted by North Melbourne ahead of the 2021 season, Bella Eddey has used the ball better than any player to win 100 or more disposals in the competition history. Playing out on the wing Eddey sets the side up well, hitting her target 83.7 per cent of the time from her 7.6 average disposals.
This neat ball use is key to the Kangaroos’ game style — an uncontested kick-mark game — and without the experienced Kaitlyn Ashmore offering that to North Melbourne next season given her move to Hawthorn, more responsibility now falls on Eddey to be that connector.
Hard to beat in a one-on-one, Angela Foley has joined Port Adelaide.(Getty Images: Glenn Hunt)
Club: Port Adelaide
AFLW appearances: 40
Season seven will not only see the experienced Ange Foley make her return from an ACL injury incurred in Adelaide’s losing 2021 grand final appearance, but she will do so in new colours after joining expansion side Port Adelaide. An underrated small defender, Foley is exceptionally hard to beat in the one-on-one, and is the kind of player around whom a back line can be built.
Above all, Foley’s leadership is vital in solidifying the culture at Port Adelaide. Recently appointed vice-captain, after holding the same title at the Crows, she will help bring together their young backline to work as a unit rather than the sum of its parts.
Rebecca Miller stepped up and showed her skills after key defender Harriet Cordner was injured.(Getty Images: Daniel Pockett)
Club: Richmond Tigers
AFLW appearances: 25
A season-ending injury to key defender Harriet Cordner should have spelled disaster for Richmond earlier in the year, but Rebecca Miller shouldered the load, ultimately minimising the impact of Cordner’s absence. Standing at 185cm, Miller competes well in the air but follows up her work at ground level to starve her opponent of any respite.
Newly added to the club’s leadership group, Miller averaged a career-high 12.2 disposals, 4.7 rebounds and 5.5 intercepts last season, often while tasked with the opposition’s most damaging key forward. Now, armed with the confidence of knowing what she is capable of, Miller will continue to hold up Richmond’s defensive unit in season seven.
Nicola Xenos led the goal kicking for the Saints last season but her pressure inside 50 also made a mark, and it will be vital in capitalising on goal.(Getty Images: Brett Hemmings)
Club: St Kilda Saints
AFLW appearances: 15
In a tough season for St Kilda, Nicola Xenos’s performance up forward was a shining light. Xenos led the club for goal kicking with six, but it was her work rate and pressure inside 50 that really made a mark.
Playing largely through the middle in her debut season of 2020, Xenos missed the entirety of the following year as she battled injury, so her move into attack upon her return was essentially a fresh start for the 21-year-old. Now as the Saints rebuild their attack with the recruitment of Nicola Stevens and J’Noemi Anderson, and tall targets Kate Shierlaw and Caitlin Greiser, Xenos’s work at ground level will be vital in capitalising on their forward entries.
Brenna Tarrant is now in her home state and ready to capitalise on more consistent game time.(Getty Images: Kelly Defina)
Club: Sydney Swans
AFLW appearances: 15
Former Melbourne Demon Brenna Tarrant has returned to her home state to play for the side she grew up supporting. Over her three years at Melbourne, swing player Tarrant had to fight for each of her 15 games in one of the most talented lists in the competition. Now at Sydney, she has the opportunity to take what she has learned and develop that over more consistent opportunity.
Set to play as a key defender, Tarrant’s kicking has greatly improved since entering the AFLW, as has her confidence. Her height and strength will allow coach Scott Gowans to assign her tough direct opponents, while she also has the skills to move into attack and hit the scoreboard if needed.
Aimee Schmidt reached her potential in season six, kicking seven goals and playing all ten home and away games.(Getty Images: Paul Kane)
Club: West Coast Eagles
AFLW appearances: 33
In her five seasons at GWS, forward Aimee Schmidt struggled to really hit her stride as she battled multiple injuries and an often starved forward line. Her move to West Coast for season six, however, saw Schmidt finally start to reach her potential, kicking a career-best seven goals and playing all 10 home-and-away games.
Schmidt’s movement in attack added a key point of different for the Eagles, with her evasive running and lateral movement keeping defenders on their toes. Now with more support inside 50 thanks to the recruitment of Kate Bartlett and Krstel Petrevski, and the hopes of a more attacking game style, Schmidt has the opportunity to post yet another career-best season.
Gabby Newton is now fit and ready to return after injuries.(Getty Images: Kelly Defina)
Club: Western Bulldogs
AFLW appearances: 15
As 2019 number one draft pick Gabby Newton was building, then dual shoulder injuries and subsequent surgeries saw her watching her Bulldogs teammates from the inactive list in season six. Now fit and ready to return, the 176cm midfielder looks ready to continue her growth.
Newton’s work ethic and two-way running to provide defensive pressure is important for the Dogs, with star duo Kirsty Lamb and Ellie Blackburn setting that standard. Possibly even more important, however, is her ability to present in attack if necessary which is likely given the loss of both Bonnie Toogood and Isabel Huntington over the off season.