AFLW Off-Season Report Card

From My Blog Site – Bulldogs Centre

The AFLW off-season has come and it has gone. Players from numerous clubs have made the switch, mostly to expansion clubs North Melbourne and Geelong, whilst a few established players have also moved clubs and a number of others not offered new contracts for the 2019 season.


This morning on Bulldogs Centre, I have a look at how each club has gone about their off-season and grade them on a scale of A-E, with the AFLW Draft not until October, I thought it would be a good idea to get this done and out of the way now.



IN: Renee Forth (Traded from GWS)
OUT: Talia Radan (Traded to Melbourne), Sophie Armistead (Delisted), Georgia Bevan (Delisted), Abbey Holmes (Delisted), Rachael Killian (Delisted), Calista Boyd (Delisted), Becchara Palmer (Delisted), Brianna Walling (Delisted)


Grading: B-

Aside from losing coach Bec Goddard, replaced by Matthew Clarke, the Crows haven’t lost anyone of any importance. Talia Radan, who was part of the Crows’ premiership team in 2017 fell out of favour in the second half of the season and sought a trade to Melbourne for more opportunities, whilst delisting Georgia Bevan, Abbey Holmes and Rachael Killian, who all played in the premiership as well, sound like a head scratching decision, but they’re not players that make a huge impact on the game. Retaining Erin Phillips was vital as she was linked to a couple of Victorian clubs post-season.


They sprung a bit of a surprise when they acquired GWS marquee signing Renee Forth during the trade period. After missing the entire 2017 season with a knee injury, Forth returned to action this year to play all but two games for the Giants, and whilst statistically it’s a very underwhelming return, but once she gets a entire season in the VFLW under her belt, she’ll be back to her best next year. She’s a tough player who also possesses class to become a dangerous player and amongst a midfield group with Ebony Marinoff, Erin Phillips and others, the Crows will look threatening next year.


Brisbane Lions

IN: Lauren Arnell (Traded from Carlton)
OUT: Kaitlyn Ashmore (Signed by North Melbourne), Tahlia Randall (Signed By North Melbourne), Jamie Stanton (Signed by North Melbourne), Brittany Gibson (Signed by North Melbourne), Nicole Hildebrand (Traded to Collingwood), Renee Cowan (Delisted), Kalinda Howarth (Delisted), Molly Ritson (Delisted)


Grading: C

Despite losing a quartet of players to North Melbourne, the Lions have retained most of their team that have made the first two AFLW Grand Finals. Kaitlyn Ashmore’s connections with Melbourne University (Who are affiliated to North Melbourne) meant that it was going to be hard to retain her. Likewise Brittany Gibson, who is a Tasmanian native, and given North’s association to the ‘Apple Isle’, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. Tahlia Randall and Jamie Stanton were pivotal pieces in this team, and now both of them are gone as well.


Trading for Carlton’s Lauren Arnell after a difficult season should prove to be a smart acquisition as she possesses leadership and is a battler and can be used either as a midfielder or a forward, it’ll be interesting to see where she falls into the grand scheme of things in 2019. She still has something to offer at the top level and the Lions still have retained most of the talent that got them to the two Grand Finals.



IN: Amelia Barden (Traded from Collingwood)
OUT: Kate Gillespie-Jones (Signed by North Melbourne), Danielle Hardiman (Signed by North Melbourne), Lauren Arnell (Traded to Brisbane), Maddison Gay (Traded to Melbourne), Madeline Keryk (Delisted), Laura Attard (Delisted), Kate Shierlaw (Delisted), Sarah Last (Delisted), Tiahna Cochrane (Delisted), Katie-Jayne Grieve (Delisted)


Grading: C-

It’s been a pretty indifferent off-season for the Blues, who finished the 2018 season as the wooden spooners after a dismal year. It threatened to spiral out of control in the off-season when it was mentioned that Carlton captain Brianna Davey wanted out because of the poor results and the fact that there was no coach as well made things all the more worse. By bringing in Daniel Harford as coach, they managed to keep Davey as well as big players such as Tayla Harris and Darcy Vescio, as well as signing on Amelia Barden from Collingwood, who will be a big asset in a midfield devoid of power.


However, they will lose inaugural captain Lauren Arnell to Brisbane after a frustrating year which saw her miss three games. They will also miss the run and carry of Maddie Gay to Melbourne, whilst the departures of Kate Gillespie-Jones and Danielle Hardiman leave somewhat of a hole in defence. The delistings of Madeline Keryk and Kate Shierlaw are a bit head-scratching as they have both shown they can play at the highest level at times. However, the Blues came out of this off-season a lot better than I thought they would.



IN: Nicole Hildebrand (Traded from Brisbane)
OUT: Jess Duffin (Signed by North Melbourne), Moana Hope (Signed by North Melbourne), Jasmine Garner (Signed by North Melbourne), Emma King (Signed by North Melbourne), Amelia Barden (Traded to Carlton), Christina Bernardi (Traded to GWS), Caitlyn Edwards (Delisted), Meg Hutchins (Delisted), Tara Morgan (Delisted), Lauren Tesoriero (Delisted), Bree White (Retired)


Grading: E

It was such a disastrous off-season for the Pies, who have lost at least six of their best 21 players to other clubs. They will head into the AFLW draft with no forward line, with Mo Hope and Jasmine Garner both defecting to North Melbourne. They will be without one of the best rucks in the league in Emma King, also defecting to North, and they have lost quality talent such as Jess Duffin, Christina Bernardi and Amelia Barden.


Trading for Nicole Hildebrand is a plus as she has been a reliable defender across the past two years, but the number of losses that this club has endured this off-season is far superior. They also lost out to Brianna Davey, who chose to remain at Carlton rather than come to Collingwood on a big-money deal. Their best chance to salvage this wreck is at the AFLW draft, where they will have five picks inside the top 20 (Picks 5, 11, 13, 18 and 19), but overall it hasn’t been a harmonious off-season for the black and whites.



IN: Nil
OUT: Belinda Smith (Signed by Western Bulldogs), Stacey Barr (Delisted), Kirby Bentley (Delisted), Lara Filocamo (Delisted), Tiah Haynes (Delisted), Amy Lavell (Delisted), Emily McGuire (Delisted), Jodie White (Delisted), Jade De Melo (Delisted), Beatrice Devlyn (Delisted), Lisa Webb (Delisted)


Grading: D

There wasn’t much player movement from the Dockers this off-season, but there were plenty of sub-plots surrounding the club. The Dockers announced a few days ago that they signed Trent Cooper as the successor to Michelle Cowan for next year. Cooper has been an assistant coach for Swan Districts in the WAFL and coached their under-18s to a premiership in 2014. Only recently has he been invested in the women’s game, coaching the WA under-18s since 2017. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can turn this ship around after two seasons devoid of success.


Whilst they didn’t sign or trade for anyone, they managed to retain all of their required stars. Dana Hooker, who won Fremantle’s 2017 best and fairest and was an All-Australian this year, was so close to leaving for the Western Bulldogs, but a deal couldn’t be struck there and Hooker stayed on, which is a huge tick for the Dockers. Although I can’t help but wonder why Lara Filocamo – who finished third in the AFLW best and fairest in 2017 – and Emily McGuire, who won an AFLW Rising Star nomination this year, were delisted.



IN: Maddie Boyd (GWS), Phoebe McWilliams (GWS), Mel Hickey (Melbourne), Richelle Cranston (Melbourne), Erin Hoare (Melbourne), Anna Teague (Melbourne), Aasta O’Connor (Western Bulldogs), Kate Darby, Cassie Blakeway, Renee Garing, Jordan Ivey, Rebecca Goring, Danielle Orr


Grading: B+

Unlike North Melbourne, Geelong have taken a much more different approach to signing talent, but nonetheless, they’ve managed to snare some good talent in the form of ex-Demon marquee Mel Hickey, Phoebe McWilliams and premiership Bulldog Aasta O’Connor. Geelong have opted to go for more players from their VFLW side, as well as having an eye towards the draft, where they will get picks one, two and seven in the first round alone. Kate Darby has played in the AFLW in their first season, playing two games for Carlton before she got delisted, but now she gets a second chance and will be one of their six VFLW signings to watch for next year.


GWS Giants

IN: Christina Bernardi (Traded from Collingwood)
OUT: Phoebe McWilliams (Signed by Geelong), Maddie Boyd (Signed by Geelong), Renee Forth (Traded to Adelaide), Melissa Freckleton (Delisted), Bec Privitelli (Delisted), Alex Saundra (Delisted), Pippa Smyth (Delisted), Renee Tomkins (Delisted), Haneen Zreika (Delisted)


Grading: D+

They greatly improved on their 2017 season by finishing fourth this year. But their off-season has been largely disappointing thus far. They traded away one of their marquees Renee Forth to Adelaide and they lost their best goal-kicker in Phoebe McWilliams to Geelong, leaving a hole up forward. Forth had only just come back from a knee injury that forced her to miss all of 2017, and at her best, is a great player to watch. They also lost Maddie Boyd to Geelong, but that won’t be as big of a loss as McWilliams, who kicked 14 goals in 14 games.


However, acquiring Christina Bernardi from Collingwood is a huge get after the season she just had. Bernardi kicked nine goals in seven games this year and averaged over 11 disposals and four marks per game to be not only one of the game’s biggest improvers, but she was also named an All-Australian in the forward line. She may possibly be the one that fills the void left by McWilliams.



IN: Maddie Gay (Traded from Carlton), Talia Radan (Traded from Adelaide)
OUT: Richelle Cranston (Signed by Geelong), Mel Hickey (Signed by Geelong), Erin Hoare (Signed by Geelong), Anna Teague (Signed by Geelong), Jasmine Grierson (Traded to North Melbourne), Emma Humphries (Traded to North Melbourne), Lauren Duryea (Delisted), Alyssa Mifsud (Delisted), Maddie Shevlin (Delisted)


Grading: C

I thought the Demons rebounded well after losing four players to newcomers Geelong. However, it’ll be a tough ask to find a replacement for Mel Hickey, who sought a move there to re-open the Hickey name – remember that her grandfather was the cousin of Geelong legend Reg Hickey so perhaps Melbourne knew from the get-go that they were going to lose her. Acquiring Adelaide premiership defender Talia Radan was a wise move, but only time will tell if it actually pays off. Losing the dangerous Richelle Cranston and the tallest woman in the competition in Erin Hoare also hurts to a degree.


They acquired Maddison Gay from Carlton in a deal that went down to the last minute. She will provide some midfield depth and has shown in her seven games this year that she can provide something to the team. They also lost reliable players Jasmine Grierson and Emma Humphries to trades to North Melbourne, whilst the delisting Alyssa Mifsud, who was such a presence up forward in 2017, is one that I find completely bizarre.


North Melbourne

IN: Kaitlyn Ashmore (Brisbane), Jamie Stanton (Brisbane), Brittany Gibson (Brisbane), Tahlia Randall (Brisbane), Kate Gillespie-Jones (Carlton), Danielle Hardiman (Carlton), Moana Hope (Collingwood), Jasmine Garner (Collingwood), Jess Duffin (Collingwood), Emma King (Collingwood), Jasmine Grierson (Melbourne), Emma Humphries (Melbourne), Emma Kearney (Western Bulldogs), Jenna Bruton (Western Bulldogs), Daria Bannister (Western Bulldogs), Elisha King, Georgia Nanscawen, Ash Riddell, Maddison Smith, Sophie Abbatangelo


Grading: A+

I had mentioned it in an earlier article and I will mention it again here. North Melbourne have recruited stupendously for 2019 and would have to be amongst the favourites – on paper anyway – to go all the way next year. They’ve recruited solid names on every line – AFLW best and fairest winner Emma Kearney headlines the midfield brigade, whilst household names such as Moana Hope, Emma King, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Jasmine Garner and Jess Duffin will all be very important players next year and headline what is a star-studded list. Expect players such as Jenna Bruton, Jamie Stanton and Danielle Hardiman to also thrive in a new environment.


In addition to all the signings, they traded for Melbourne pair Jasmine Grierson and Emma Humphries during the trade period and should be solid additions to this squad, as will the quintet of open-age signings. Ash Riddell and Sophie Abbatangelo are good enough players to be in the league, whilst they like the looks of Elisha King, Georgia Nanscawen and Maddie Smith – that’ll be interesting when they come into the league next year. Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich claims their recruiting was ‘Against the spirit of the game’. It must mean you’re doing something right. You don’t have to like how they’ve gone about it, but they’ve assembled a quality list.


Western Bulldogs

IN: Belinda Smith (Signed from Fremantle)
OUT: Emma Kearney (Signed to North Melbourne), Daria Bannister (Signed to North Melbourne), Jenna Bruton (Signed to North Melbourne), Aasta O’Connor (Signed to Geelong), Laura Bailey (Delisted), Jess Anderson (Delisted), Kim Ebb (Delisted), Rachel Ashley (Delisted)


Grading: C

Losing league best and fairest Emma Kearney was always going to happen because of North’s association to Melbourne Uni, which has been Kearney’s club for years now. Nonetheless, itis a massive blow for their midfield structures in 2019, but the positive is that they’ve retained 22 players that got them to the premiership this year, with Aasta O’Connor’s experience heading to Geelong, and Jenna Bruton joining Kearney and Tassie girl Daria Bannister at North Melbourne next season. However, gaining just a third round pick as compensation for losing not just a league best and fairest, but two other premiership pieces is a disgrace and the Bulldogs’ camp should have every right to be angry at such a ludicrous decision.


Despite losing quality talent, they’ve done a remarkable job holding onto talent such as Ellie Blackburn, Lauren Spark, Brooke Lochland and Bailey Hunt as they also have had an association with Melbourne Uni in the past, so it was imperative to get most of their premiership stars locked down. They were also very close to acquiring 2017 Fremantle best and fairest winner and All-Australian Dana Hooker, but nothing the Doggies offered came close to appealing the Dockers. They did sign Hooker’s former team mate in Belinda Smith, who was delisted at the end of 2018. She will provide drive and intercepts off half back and can possibly show potential as a midfielder.


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About Alex Docherty

Alex is a diehard footy nut. He loves his Western Bulldogs and loves writing about them every week as much he loves running out and playing footy himself.

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