AFL

AFLW: The 2018 Best of the Best

Erin Phillips of the Crows kicks during the round four AFLW match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Adelaide Crows at Blacktown International Sportspark on February 25, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.

AFLW season two is done and dusted. In the most even and exciting AFLW campaign yet, the season was still in the balance going into the final game of the season.

The competition climaxed with the Western Bulldogs overrunning the Brisbane Lions in a thrilling grand final. The Bulldogs’ silverware didn’t stop there though, as Emma Kearney added to the cabinet after taking out the AFLW Best and Fairest last Monday night at the W Awards.

So with the season run and won, and a second to take a breath, now is a good opportunity to take a look at some of the elite players of the competition in all different facets of the game.

These are the best of the best:

Kicking

  1. Deanna Berry

Admittedly, it’s a big call to suggest that Berry is the best kick in Australia given she only recorded 21 kicks in six games. 21 is not a lot of kicks from which to assess a player’s kicking ability, but you don’t have to be one of the better players in the competition to be the best kick. Berry has the most natural and effectively kicking action in the AFLW, she hits the ball cleaner than anyone else and with just a little more confidence in the rest of her game, she will realise the serious talent she possesses by foot.

  1. Hannah Scott

The All-Australian defender is the designated kicker for the premiership-winning Bulldogs out of the back half. Scott took nearly every kick in for the season and rarely, if ever let her target down. Scott’s disposal by foot is not only reliably accurate, it is also devastatingly penetrating. Scott’s boot can cover more distance than most if not all of the AFLW which, combined with her piercing accuracy, makes for the second best kick there is.

  1. Jess Wuetschner

Wuetschner’s dead eye disposal went a long way to securing her All-Australian honours as a small forward. On grand final day she stood out from the pack with her kicking while others struggled in the wet, slippery conditions. 30 score involvements for the year is no coincidence — her ball use is influential.

  1. Jess Duffin

Wayne Siekman rates his reliable small defender as the best kick in the game, and he has a strong case to argue. Takes the kick-outs for the Pies and they look for her to distribute by foot if she’s near. Hits the easy one, hits the hard one, just does not make mistakes.

  1. Meg Hutchins

Like Berry, Hutchins’ kicking ability wasn’t frequently evident — she only had 22 kicks at an average of 4.4. But the 36-year-old strikes the Sherrin as clean as a whistle. She kicks it low, long, accurate and gets it there as quick as anyone.

Unlucky: Ellie Blackburn, Daisy Pearce, Tayla Harris, Jasmine Garner

Contested marking

  1. Tayla Harris

No one can take a pack mark like Tayla. Harris is a realistic chance of clunking a big contested mark at every pack she crashes. Impossible to out mark her one-on-one, and very difficult to spoil. Clearly the best contested mark in the game.

  1. Erin Phillips

The best one-on-one player in the AFLW, partly because of her work at ground level, but largely because of her supreme ability above her head. No one can match her for strength, which makes bodying her out of a marking contest out of the question. Even when defenders do get close enough, genuine ‘body spoils’ aren’t enough to stop her clunking it. Would be very interesting to see Erin Phillips at Tayla Harris’s height, playing permanent forward.

  1. Sabrina Fredrick-Traub

No player took more contested marks than Sabrina in 2018. 18 was five more than the next best. Frederick-Traub gets double and triple teamed more than any other player because if she’s given a free run at the footy there’s no way she’s not clunking it. Her contested marking has become the focal point around which Brisbane’s offence largely revolves.

  1. Chelsea Randall

The Crows co-captain is clearly one of the most influential players in the game. Randall takes contested marks not only because of her hands, but because of her footy IQ. Leaves her opponents at the right time and goes third up to either spoil or mark.

  1. Tegan Cunningham

Such a difficult matchup because of her height, but such a damaging player because of her contested marking, not just her height. Only new to footy but her hands above her head are a genuine strength and cause headaches for seven other coaches.

Unlucky: Kate Lutkins, Phoebe McWilliams, Mon Conti

X-Factor

  1. Richelle Cranston

If ever a player had X-factor written all over them, it’s Cranston. She’s explosive, she’s agile, she knows where the sticks are, she’s a nightmare of a matchup, and she creates things where others wouldn’t. One of the most exciting players to watch in the comp.

  1. Ruth Wallace

Such a clever little small forward, when Wallace is around the ball, the Crows are a chance. Averaged a goal a game and made countless opponents look silly with her smarts around the ball and freakish skill.

  1. Cora Staunton

What a story Cora Staunton is. The 36-year-old former Gaelic footballer took the competition by storm with her trademark snaps and breakaway pace. It beggars belief how such a late starter to the game could so naturally dance her way in and out of packs, burn off opponents and snap remarkable goals. One of the stories of AFLW season two.

  1. Kate McCarthy

You’d go a long way to find a quicker woman playing our great game. Didn’t have her best season in 2018, but not for a minute does that mean we forget what she can do. Tucks it under her arm and bolts as soon as she gets the pill in any kind of space. What a weapon she can be. She ran almost the whole field to kick the goal of the year last year.

  1. Alicia Newman

In a similar mould to McCarthy, Newman boasts pure speed. Her Goal of the Year effort is indicative of the way she plays. Fast, exciting, damaging, she doesn’t rack up huge numbers, but makes an impact on the contest when she does.

Unlucky: Darcy Vescio, Phoebe McWilliams

Key position players

  1. Kate Lutkins

If Kate Lutkins were a better kick, she’d be the best player in the game. Had the third most disposals (142) in the game from Centre Half-Back. To put that in a bit of context, she’s the only key position player in the top 11 for total disposals, and one of only two in the top 24. No one dominated games this year like Lutkins did. Her 26 disposals against the Demons was one of the most dominant AFLW games we’ve ever seen and she was the Lions’ best player on grand final day with another 21. She averaged 10.5 (#1) intercept possessions, more than half of her average total possessions, and 328 metres gained (#2) per game. Absolutely ridiculous numbers.

  1. Chelsea Randall

Arguably the Crows most important player, such is her dominance in the air and on the ground in the back half. She’s not only the best shutdown defender in the comp, she’s also monumentally influential offensively. Bec Goddard would argue she’s in the top couple of players in the AFLW.

  1. Sabrina Frederick-Traub

A force to be reckoned with for the Lions. Sabrina takes a lot of stopping, sometimes forcing as many as +2 to roll back and outnumber her. She’s an elite contested mark, a very reliable kick and can create goals of out nothing exceptionally well for a key positon player.

  1. Tayla Harris

The best contested mark in the game gives you automatic entry to this top five. Not only a one trick pony though, Harris boasts one of best disposals by foot in the game and is quite quick for her size. Only going to get better.

  1. Phoebe McWilliams

Unusual to say for a key position player, but there’s just a bit of x-factor about McWilliams. She takes marks, hits up at the kicker well, kicks goals and crashes packs — all things a good key forward should do. But she’s got just a bit of electricity when the ball hits the deck to go with it. Dangerous combination makes for one of the best key position players in the game.

Unlucky: Katie Brennan (misses out largely due to lack of game time)

Best Players

  1. Erin Phillips

She may have missed a couple of games, she may have played less midfield time, she may have been playing on one leg … but Erin Phillips is still the Queen of AFLW. She only had one good quad for the games she did play and she still broke games open like no one else can. Kicked 4.2 in her first game back* from injury (*she was still injured though) in a statement game that just reminded us all of her power. No player can match her one-on-one.

  1. Emma Kearney

Presenting your AFLW season two Best and Fairest — Emma Kearney. It’s easy to see why. #1 in competition for disposals, metres gained, clearances, and AFL Fantasy points, #3 for contested possessions, #5 for score involvements, #7 for marks and #9 for tackles. There’s not much more she could have done. She bullies opponents inside the contest and burns them on the fly out of it. She uses it well and makes good decisions. Given her all-round, consistent game, it’s no surprise she took out the league’s top gong.

  1. Courtney Gum

Another incredible story to come out of AFLW season two. Overlooked by the Crows in the inaugural AFLW Draft in 2016, Gum finally found her way to GWS for the 2018 season and took the competition by storm. The inside beast was #2 in the comp for contested possessions and #5 for clearances as she bulldozed her way through midfield after midfield.

  1. Daisy Pearce

The most decorated player in the game is right in the argument for the league’s best player. Like a London cabbie, she’s very good in traffic — few can dominate and control stoppages like Daisy can. She’s a ball magnet despite copping a tag most weeks, she does not make poor decisions and she’s as clean as they come at ground level. Damaging inside and outside the contest. Close to the complete game.

  1. Karen Paxman

Naturally gifted, no one hunts the pill like Paxman does, showing no regard for her own safety or anyone else between her and the Sherrin and wins it almost every time invariably. Paxman has the capacity to tear a game to shreds in a very short period of time. She’s a footballer’s footballer.

  1. Ellie Blackburn

They don’t come any more consistent than Blackburn. Finds the ball at will and never wastes it. Repeat: never wastes it. Thrives the contest and has a burst of pace on the outside. Genuine superstar of the game.

  1. Kate Lutkins

In terms of impact on a game and value to a team — Lutkins is on par with Erin Phillips. She reads the game better than any other player, she intercepts more than any other player, she’s reliable in the air, she consistently gets leather poisoning — she’s the prototype defender, but her kicking is poor. If she added that string to her bow, there would be no more complete player in the game.

  1. Chelsea Randall

The Adelaide co-captain is as highly regarded as most in the competition. Just does not put a foot wrong on the footy field. She shuts down the game’s best forwards, intercepts, uses it well and leads from the front.

  1. Sabrina Frederick-Traub

The third time this star’s name has popped up – no wonder why. As scary as they come for a one on one contest. Outstanding all-round game for the league’s best key forward.

  1. Dana Hooker

Ran amok in Fremantle’s midfield all year. At times the tall, athletic midfielder looked unstoppably dominant. The Freo girls look for her when she’s around, and she can win her own hard ball as well.

Unlucky: Elise O’Dea, Alicia Eva, Tayla Harris, Ally Anderson, Chloe Molloy, Emily Bates, Darcy Vescio

Like what you’ve read? You can follow the author on Twitter at @harrisonreid12.

Emma Kearney

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