The AFLW free agency period will open at the end of May and with clubs expected to retain approximately 20 of their lists of 27, you can expect there’ll be some very different looking teams next season. List sizes are also expected to increase from 27 to 30 which gives each side a chance to fill the holes that may have cost them in 2017. Here’s the type of player each team should be targeting next season.
Some of these trade targets are unrealistic, but use them as a guide to the type of player the club needs rather than an actual option.
The inaugural AFLW season showed that Adelaide has the best list in the competition, and not just because they won the Grand Final. They have a strong spine with Sarah Perkins and Erin Phillips as goal-kicking forward and Chelsea Randall and Courtney Cramey as dominant defenders. All four were All Australian too. They also have a midfield led by 19-year-old Rising Star Award winner Ebony Marinoff. Clearly, they have most areas covered, but to top themselves up, they could do with another strong, clearance-winning midfielder. The Crows were ranked seventh for clearances and so it’s definitely an area they could improve. This is even more glaring when you consider Phillips was the number one clearance player in the competition. Locking the ball inside 50 for large parts of quarters was a big strength of the Crows and getting first use in the midfield would make them an even tougher side to beat.
What they need: Clearance winning midfielder
Best possible target: Kara Donnellan (Fremantle)
Ideal targets: Jess Dal Pos (GWS) or Lauren Tesoriero (Collingwood)
Similarly, you’re doing something right when you go through the regular season without dropping a game, but the Lions are more a product of good coaching and a strong unit than individual brilliance. That fact may have been the difference in the Grand Final too with Adelaide’s star players shifting the game in their favour. Because of this, Brisbane need to target the best midfielder they can get their hands on. Emily Bates, Emma Zielke and Kaitlyn Ashmore were all quality players, All Australian, club captain and finishing top five in the Brownlow-equivalent respectively, but none had the ability to turn a match on its head. Tayla Harris and Sabrina Frederick-Traub are capable of it, but both are key position players. If they can address that, they already have the best backline in the competition to hold them in good shape.
What they need: A game changing midfielder
Best possible target: Ellie Blackburn (Bulldogs)
Ideal targets: Elise O’Dea (Melbourne) or Sarah Hosking (Carlton)
It’s very much a coincidence that the first three teams on this list all need midfield depth, but Carlton is in a similar position to the Lions. The Blues finished fourth, but could easily have been a Grand Final team, considering they lost to Adelaide by nine, Melbourne by six and drew with Brisbane. However, the reason Carlton weren’t a Grand Final side may have been their lack of midfield depth. They left too much to the likes of Lauren Arnell and Brianna Davey, who didn’t have much support around them. Carlton’s midfield group were all one-paced too. Arnell, Katie Loynes, Shae Audley and Maddy Keryk are all slower, inside midfielder types and the Blues were consistently dominated by opposition quality midfielders because of it. Sarah Hosking and Nat Exon need more help next season on the outside, which is the area Carlton need to target. The Blues only had three players average more than 10 disposals this season.
What they need: Ball winning midfielder
Best possible target: Emma Kearney (Bulldogs)
Ideal targets: Elise O’Dea (Melbourne) or Jess Dal Pos (GWS)
The Pies finished the year strong after a slow start, but the clear problem for the Pies is a lack of elite talent across the board. They used their marquee selections on Moana Hope, who didn’t deliver and was probably dealing with injuries, and Emma King, who was the best ruckman in the competition, but didn’t offer much around the ground. This meant they lacked class in their smaller players. Captain Steph Chiocci was tagged most weeks and the Pies lacked class around her. What they ideally need is someone with some x-factor who can help them between the arcs. Collingwood were ranked seventh for rebound 50s and really struggled to transition out of defence against the better teams. Addressing that area and getting more elite talent into their side should be their priority.
What they need: A-grade talent
Best possible target: Brianna Davey (Carlton)
Ideal targets: Kate McCarthy (Brisbane) or Hannah Scott (Bulldogs)
The Dockers were tipped as one of the favourites going into the AFLW season, but were incredibly disappointing. Captain Kara Donnellan was one of the standout players of the competition, but it fell away quickly beneath her. Not having marquee Kiara Bowers (ACL) hurt them and quite a few Western Australian players were signed as marquees to other clubs, but with such a large home field advantage and one of the best coaches in the country in Michelle Cowan, they should have delivered more. This Dockers side is screaming out for a goal-kicking forward. Donnellan, a midfielder, was their leading goal-kicker with four. Gemma Houghton showed signs late in the season, but there is no question they need to look outside of the state and reel in a key position forward from somewhere else to provide a contest and kick more goals than you can count on one hand, preferably.
What they need: Marking option up forward
Best possible target: Sabrina Frederick-Traub (Brisbane Lions)
Ideal targets: Alyssa Mifsud (Melbourne) or Bianca Jakobsson (Carlton)
GWS were cruelled going into the season. They didn’t have access to either of their marquee players, losing Renee Forth for the year to an ACL and Emma Swanson for a few weeks with a hamstring injury. Despite this, their midfield held up reasonably well thank to All Australian Jess Dal Pos and Nicola Barr. With Swanson and Forth firing next season, they should be fine in that area. Captain Amanda Farrugia and Renee Tomkins held up backline admirably too. Similarly to Collingwood, the Giants’ problem is up forward and it is a massive red flag. GWS only kicked 23 goals for the season. Remember, Darcy Vescio kicked 14 by herself. Whatever their list plans are, they need players who can hit the scoreboard and offer something up forward. Jacinda Barclay and Phoebe McWilliams fought valiantly, but are the type of players who need someone else to take the best defenders away from them.
What they need: Someone who can kick goals … anyone
Best possible target: Tayla Harris (Brisbane)
Ideal targets: Alyssa Mifsud (Melbourne) or Sarah D’Arcy (Collingwood)
The Demons fell a few inches short of the Grand Final and arguably have the most complete list in the competition, maybe just behind the Crows. Their midfield is star-studded with Daisy Pearce, Emma Kearney and Elise O’Dea making the All Australian side and young-guns Lily Mithen and Deanna Berry sitting behind them. Their backline, led by marquee Mel Hickey, also held up well, conceding fewer points than any side bar Brisbane. What the Dees could use is another marking target up forward. They have plenty of smaller forwards who can kick goals, but aside from Alyssa Mifsud they’re lacking in the tall forward department. Mifsud kicked nine goals, but you can put a few of those down to the quality service of the Melbourne midfield. They don’t necessarily need a key position forward, just someone who can provide a consistent marking option inside 50.
What they need: Mobile marking forward
Best possible target: Darcy Vescio (Carlton)
Ideal targets: Bianca Jakobsson (Carlton) or Jessica Cameron (Collingwood)
The Bulldogs were another team who were considered a favourite to win the inaugural season early on, but found ways to lose matches. They had more scoring shots than any team, but 31.42 for the season and their inaccuracy certainly frustrated coach Paul Groves who mentioned it regularly as an issue for the side. They lost marquee forward Katie Brennan to an ankle injury early in the season and that hurt their scoring ability significantly. Fellow marquee Ellie Blackburn summed the side up, kicking six goals 12 for the season. Had she reversed that tally, who knows what could’ve been. They have a forward line capable of rectifying that at their best though and it’s not something that can be addressed as much with new personnel. Instead, they need to get Blackburn and Emma Kearney some help through the middle. Both won All Australian honours and were two of the best in the competition, but it fell away quickly underneath them with no other midfielder averaging 10 disposals for the season.
What they need: Midfield and forward line depth
Best possible target: Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide)
Ideal targets: Dana Hooker (Fremantle) or Phoebe McWilliams (GWS)