AFLW 100(?!) Most Valuable AFLW Players Pre-2020

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Teen Wolf

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Top 50 is nice and all (and I'm going to spend a lot more time focusing on that half of the list), but 100 paints a truer picture about each team's list imo.

The rankings here will be very much subjective gut-feel and hardly scientific, in fact I've deliberately avoided referring to all but a few stats in the player summaries I've written--you can look up numbers from plenty of other sources, and use them to tell whatever story you want.

Essentially, if I was starting up a team from scratch based on what I've seen at AFLW level, this is what my draft wishlist would look like. I should note plenty has happened (and will continue to) since the bulk of this was constructed. But I will keep things the same (such as including the preoccupied Ellie Brush, and excluding the revived Courtney Gum) as a reminder of how quickly they can change.

Here's the 100-51 group in one fell swoop:

Adelaide
53: Sarah Allan
68: Marijana Rajcic
73: Courtney Cramey
80: Chloe Scheer
95: Jess Foley

Brisbane
60: Sophie Conway
69: Breanna Koenen
99: Lauren Arnell

Carlton
51: Gabriella Pound
55: Nicola Stevens
75: Kerryn Harrington
78: Chloe Dalton
97: Alison Downie
100: Katie Loynes

C’wood
63: Sarah Dargan
86: Sarah D'Arcy
89: Steph Chiocci

Fremantle
58: Ashley Sharp
74: Evie Gooch

Geelong
70: Maddy McMahon
72: Meg McDonald
88: Melissa Hickey
90: Richelle Cranston
98: Phoebe McWilliams

Gold Coast
71: Sam Virgo
81: Jacqui Yorston

GWS Giants
67: Ellie Brush
87: Jacinda Barclay
94: Yvonne Bonner
96: Cora Staunton

Melbourne
52: Bianca Jakobsson
56: Libby Birch
62: Aliesha Newman
83: Eden Zanker
91: Lauren Pearce

Nth Melb.
57: Jasmine Grierson
66: Kaitlyn Ashmore
79: Ash Riddell
92: Kate Gillespie-Jones

Richmond
85: Christina Bernardi

St Kilda
61: Kate McCarthy
84: Courteney Munn

West Coast
65: Kellie Gibson
77: McKenzie Dowrick
93: Parris Laurie

W. Bulldogs
54: Hannah Scott
59: Brooke Lochland
64: Aisling Utri
76: Bonnie Toogood
82: Isabel Huntington

And now, 50-41. From this point on, the rankings will be accompanied with explanations, which may also clarify some of the earlier choices. Each summary will end with the use of football shorthand in the form of a Male Counterpart as another descriptive tool. This will perhaps offend some silly people for some silly reason, and my heart is truly broken over that prospect.

50: Ash Brazill (Coll) 30 years old and her continuity in the game isn’t as clear as the Diamonds at her doorstep. She can launch a big footy up the line, problem is it rarely crashlands to a teammate’s advantage after re-entering earth’s atmosphere. A fine aerial interceptor, which you’d expect from a first-and-foremost netball WD. But what about her surprisingly magnificent zig-zagging dash-and-carry game, she must’ve been a gridiron RB in a past life. Male Counterpart: Tyson Goldsack

49: Tegan Cunningham (Melb)
On another team, one that isn’t a serious contender, this rusty AT-AT walker would be dead weight. For Melbourne, her ability to take a pack mark in front of goal with a game on the line might be the difference between a flag and another not-quite-good-enough season. A promising baby giraffe like Eden Zanker bodes well for the Demons’ future; right now, though, they just need an efficient converter with a career’s worth of experience in out-bodying opponents to take advantage of their all-star centre-square unit. Male Counterpart: Jesse Hogan

48: Emma Swanson (WC) Competent midfielder with dubious durability, the quietest prolific accumulator going. Male Counterpart: Drew Banfield

47: Jamie Stanton (GC) Cuts it on the inside with the best, while her kick-to-handball ratio ought to be inverted for somebody who can hack it like the worst. Male Counterpart: Andrew Swallow

46: Kirsty Lamb (WB) Not a lot of elite athleticism to speak of, and so her being the Bulldogs’ best player in 2019 was symptomatic of bigger problems. Her great strength is rightly based in knowing her limitations and crafting solutions to circumvent them. 46th out of 420 has her just missing out on the top 10%, meaning you won’t find a smarter B-grader. Male Counterpart: Brian Royal

45: Stevie-Lee Thompson (Adel) Consider Aliesha Newman or Sophie Abbatangelo for this year’s leading goal-kicker—players fitting the profile of under-the-radar crumbing forwards in high-performing teams. Therefore, why not consider Thompson too? She remains well down on the list of must-stop Crows because her sufficient skills and right-time-right-place discipline aren’t spectacular enough to worry about until it’s too late! Male Counterpart: Graham Johncock

44: Alyce Parker (GWS) She’s got what's required for hard-ball gets, fending off tacklers, booming handpasses and picking up an All-Australian nomination, but my guess is the Giants coaching staff think she needs more pre-season running sessions with Alicia Eva and less pats on the back from Kelli Underwood. Male Counterpart: Sam Mitchell

43: Emma King (NM) Lauren Pearce’s tidy foot skills and Breann Moody’s ground-level hustle are good for big girls, yet both fall short of true Extra Mobile Midfielder Ability. King, amazingly, doesn’t possess real E.M.M.A. either. Her recently unveiled key forward prowess, however, does provide North with a Functioning Legitimate Alternative Goalscoring avenue that can swing the outcome of games. Male Counterpart: Ben Brown

42: Tayla Harris (Carl) Probably a better boxer than footballer, definitely a better mark than kick despite what you may have heard. Harris is destined to take the defining Jesaulenkoesque speccy of the era over and over, as if to mockingly run rings around the is-she-worthy-of-the-hype hoopla. The price tag is she’ll also perennially be the clanging-the-post-from-5-metres-out type, and so be it—fellow long-bomber Malcolm Blight has done some mystifyingly stupid things from point blank range too. Male Counterpart: Matthew Richardson

41: Gemma Houghton (Frem) Not tall enough to play in the ruck, too athletically gifted to waste as a defensive forward, quite a bit more uncoordinated than you’d want from a reliable source of goals, lacks the instincts to have Genuine Extra Mobile Midfielder Ability… Well, the eye-catching against-the-tide performance Houghton delivered in the inaugural Round 7 Casey Fields Slaughter was recaptured throughout all of 2019, getting her nearer and nearer to proving any reasonable initial evaluation wrong. Male Counterpart: Michael Johnson

Currently putting some finishing touches on the next batch of 10.
 
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the Ziebull

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Great job and Not to preempt the list

Best north players imo
Garner
Kearney
Bruton
Duffin
Emma King
Randall
KGJ
Riddell
Ashmore
Gibson
Bresnehen
Grierson
 

Teen Wolf

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There are some players I couldn't help but lump together. To make the click worthwhile, instead of just the next 10, here's 40-21:

40: Nina Morrison (Geel) The one-game women's footballer to rule them all. She hasn’t drifted off the beaten path, it's just the path to the top is steeper and lined with more ravenous goblins than anticipated. Male Counterpart: Nathan Fyfe

39: Kara Donnellan (Frem) Hampered by as many ailments in '19 as Henry VIII had wives (or ailments, for that matter), the difference is she married into royalty if you ask me. Maybe her reign as captain isn't a birthright like I used to think, nevertheless the tendency to sh*t out the occasional pearler—despite an interrupted run of fitness—helps stake a considerable claim. Male Counterpart: Peter Bell

38: Kate Hore (Melb) A pretty perfect participant. Male Counterpart: Shaun Higgins

37: Jess Dal Pos (GWS) The possibilities are endless, the possessions scarce. Male Counterpart: Stephen Coniglio

36: Ruth Wallace (Adel) Such a knack for sharking hit-outs deserves a really big tank. Male Counterpart: Andrew McLeod

35-31: Sabreena Duffy (Frem), Rebecca Beeson (GWS), Sarah Rowe (Coll), Tyla Hanks (Melb) and Danielle Ponter (Adel) A clever and skilful bunch I'm eager to see transform into the next generation of consistently dominant on-ballers, except Ponter (that would be too many GOTYs gone begging). How deep can the talent pool go? I don't know, but this marketing dream quintet—each from a different walk of life, none of them more than a speck on the AFLW radar five years ago—epitomises the notion of a top-end richness already wildly exceeding any reasonable expectations. Male Counterparts: Hayden Ballantyne, Josh Kelly, Marty Clarke, Jason Akermanis and Eddie Betts

30: Lily Mithen (Melb) The tricky part about this exercise isn't assessing what role a player performs, how unique and important that role is, and how well they perform it, but forecasting all those factors over a ten or fifteen year career in some cases. So for an ultra-coachable 21yo nifty little unfinished product, one who doesn't immediately strike fear into the hearts of opponents, I'm wary of Mithen getting distracted with trivial side projects like Operation: Get Some Mongrel Aboutcha. I don't think her imperturbable exterior is a façade, nor is it an impediment in need of correction. Male Counterpart: Angus Brayshaw

29 & 28: Darcy Vescio (Carl) and Sabrina Frederick (Rich): DV3's explosive agility and Sabs' big grabs make them the hardest forwards to stop… when firing on all cylinders, not when they're merely battling to stay out on the track. As a Hybrid-driving nerd, even I know most luxury sports cars are really high maintenance, and cutting costs on repairs won't pay off down the road. Male Counterparts: Andrew Walker and Nic Naitanui

27-25: Jenna Bruton (NM), Anne Hatchard (Adel) and Ally Anderson (Bris) The no-nonsense workhorses nobody envisions as their marquee midfielder in theory, yet no credible contested football team can do without in practice. Male Counterparts: Anthony Stevens, Matt Crouch and Lachie Neale

24-22: Ebony Marinoff (Adel), Elise O'Dea (Melb) and Alicia Eva (GWS) Top-notch ball magnets guilty of undervaluing their other strengths. They can use the footy in a way the previous three lack a natural finesse for, without apparently caring to all that often. Male Counterparts: Rory Sloane, Daniel Kerr and Tom Scully

21: Brianna Davey (Coll) If you're looking for a leader to drag wooden-spooners into premiership contention, look no further. Collingwood's hottest new recruit is Bri… She. Has. Everything: backwards handpassing, the turning circle of a cruise ship, top speeds of a drowsy tortoise, and the muscle definition of an underwhelming old-timey carnival strongman. Her knees look like biscuits and she's partial to one-nil scorelines, but an ugly winner is a winner nonetheless. Thinking about women's sport over the last few years, I'm struggling to come up with another name responsible for such an intense barometric effect on their team, unless that name carries the initials E.P. Male Counterpart: Dane Swan
 

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Teen Wolf

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Second-last instalment. Hopefully womens.afl's hard-hitting in-depth player analysis is holding over content-starved AFLW followers (did you know Nat Exon... doesn't like the taste of mayonnaise???!!!)

20: Kiara Bowers (Frem) Flick through AFLW for Dummies to find a list titled "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" made up of ten names (starting with Marinoff and ending with Kearney) from whom any draft hopeful can learn all that is learnable. In the thick of the textbook types is a sparkling go-getter known to friends as Turbo who's been rebuilt like the Bionic Woman and has gone on to master every gym routine and skills exercise you can think of. It was while observing Bowers perform one of these drills when I noticed her facial expression resembled that of a meadow-frolicking golden retriever—a glamorous breed on the surface, but a working dog to the core with no gauge for its own limits. Even with a bit of luck on the injury front, BowWow (as I call her) still has a problem: her pedal-to-the-metal/brawn-to-the-lawn approach isn't a case of playing with fire, more plausibly she is the flame burning brighter (and therefore shorter) than most. Male Counterpart: Michael Walters

19-17: Kate Lutkins (Bris), Jess Duffin (NM) and Chelsea Randall (Adel)
It's difficult playing in the easiest position on the ground without losing anyone's respect. Male Counterparts: Luke Hodge, Jack Ziebell and Gavin Wanganeen

16-14: Karen Paxman (Melb), Emma Kearney (NM) and Dana Hooker (WC) Sure numbers lie, yet rarely in the way you expect. Paxman, for example, has had one sub-15 disposal game across three seasons: R1 2018, eight touches (one for every minute she played). Or take Kearney's 14 possessions against tagger Brit Bonnici's 21—is that really a bigger blow to the ego than racking up a PB of 31 the previous week and still losing by six goals? Collectively, to date, these three are 65 from 65 possible appearances—including Hooker's 12-disposal prelim stinker-by-her-standards, demonstrating a well-above-average resilience rather than flat-out imperviousness to injury. Neither more nor less than meets the eye, the embodiment of What You See Is What You Get. And so, consequently, there's not much to say about them that hasn't already been said. Male Counterparts: Ben Cousins, Adam Simpson and Dean Kemp

13: Nat Exon (StK) Eh? Yes, Exon's market price was driven up when St Kilda missed landing Paxman and a few other big fishes. Yet to cement herself as a week-in-week-out carry-the-team-on-her-back asset, the Saints will maximise Nat's value by temporarily diverting the attention of opposition teams away from prized pick Patrikios. Like most at Princes Park circa 2017, Exon enjoyed such a promising early patch until the Blue faded out as distinctly as the club's defunct clash strip (which she wore for two of her five matches with Carlton before the Tayla trade). This was followed by a sharp turning-of-the-corner again on to Grand Final Avenue as a Lion in 2018, then weaving through 2019 stoppages like a Vespa in traffic. Looking down the road, I think this mean motor-scooter's got enough gas to catch up to the All-Australian bus. Male Counterpart: Austinn Jones

12: Erin Phillips (Adel) A 2020 campaign dependent on a speedy recovery as well as managing those minor soreness issues that all add up—the thing she's struggled with for three years. I know, Randall is Adelaide's rock in terms of leadership, their paper covering over defensive cracks and, more recently, their scissors cutting up teams from half-back with her improved disposal discipline. Two good legs or none, though, Erin's proven ability to be the difference is downright dynamite. Male Counterpart: Tony Modra

11: Daisy Pearce (Melb) Presumably gaining inspiration from the way some of her peers have flourished after giving birth, at the same time not expecting instant miracles equal to the creation of life itself. The opening stage of AFLW has seen players flipping sides like Anakin, while some hot new stars have replaced the old Jennifer Anistons. Regardless of missed opportunities, it's not too late for the remainder of Melbourne's original crop, and Pearce's chance to add to her overstuffed trophy cabinet is by no means gone. Such ruminations are induced by Daisy's portable mantra of thorough and intelligent football preparation she's fine-tuned over a dozen years, paired with my own naivety regarding the faintest details involved in her particular challenge. Male Counterpart: Chris Judd
 

the Ziebull

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conti, brennan, prespakis, mckinnon, garner, Wuetschner and blackburn to come im assuming

Tahlia randall stiff not to make top 100, not many better full backs then her unless shes making the top 10 which would be overs
 

Teen Wolf

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conti, brennan, prespakis, mckinnon, garner, Wuetschner and blackburn to come im assuming

Tahlia randall stiff not to make top 100, not many better full backs then her unless shes making the top 10 which would be overs
Erin McKinnon? Nahhh the massive lumbering rucks aren't my cup of tea, I'd sooner draft Louise Stephenson. It would also be way out of wack to have McKinnon so high when Lauren Pearce is at 91 (who is described as an extra midfielder at ground level in this article--an assessment I disagreed with earlier in the thread). Jess Foley (described by Lauren Pearce as her toughest opponent in the same article) is the type I want to see more of, shame she isn't 10-15 years younger.

North has a surplus of tall defender options so I prioritised them by my perception of their kicking ability, since it's the biggest differentiating factor imo.

But I shouldn't give away any more!
 

Teen Wolf

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10: Jess Wuetschner (Bris) Poised to wander around unfamiliar territory in 2020, the league’s pre-eminent sharpshooter was generously served by the Lions’ dominant midfield a couple years ago when her chunky physique needed it most. She’s since slimmed down and worked on setting up the play from half-back with kicking you can put the house on, just when a post-exodus Brisbane needs it most. Male Counterpart: Bernie Quinlan

9: Katie Brennan (Rich) Having missed three matches through injury over the last two seasons, in my book Brennan still managed top-draw performances every second week over that time (and that’s without including R1 2019, when she kicked more goals than the eventual premiers). Tidy down low, a polished user of the ball and an average contested marker may not sound like an all-conquering key forward, despite it working alright for Lance Franklin, but it doesn’t matter now that she’ll have all the midfield minutes she wants. I’ve seen enough to suggest her Punt Road standard will be 15 disposals and a goal—an AFLW output pushing the 27YO into #1 MVP contention, if only KB could MiB memories of her old ankles away. Male Counterpart: James Hird

8: Chloe Molloy (Coll) Yet to harness the smarts typical of top tier talents, Chloe’s got all the clues and now just has to piece them together. It would be too easy to begrudge any tactician who dare drum out the raw crash-and-bash/handball-to-self/barrel-to-nobody stylings which are more entertaining than effective, unless you think ploughing a field with a Rolls Royce is an appropriate use of resources. If what Coach Symonds says doesn’t provide Molloy with the necessary wisdom (such as: how to do more with less), the answers she seeks may come from within her own desire to stay on the park longer. Further Reading: Kiara Bowers; Male Counterpart: Jordan DeGoey

7: Emily Bates (Bris) Demoted to the second-cleanest pair of hands in the league now that the prodigy prototype is back on the scene, Bates doesn’t want to merely supersede Daisy Pearce—she wants to destroy her, and the feeling is mutual (but they follow each other on insta, so it’s nothing personal). The successor can learn a thing or two more from the incumbent, starting with taking her appointment as captain of the QAFLW TOTY to heart, rather than settling for the designation of respected but silent clubwoman. Physical abilities aside, the biggest difference between her and Lily Mithen (who adores, wants to be, and would rather play with than against Daisy) is that Bates has enough aggression to fuel a Hitchcock slasher film, which we won’t see fully unleashed in a constructive manner until the ultimate endorsement by coaches and peers occurs (whenever, if ever, that may be). Male Counterpart: Simon Black

6: Jaimee Lambert (Coll) Piling on a bunch of goals in this year’s VFLW while going half-rat-power belatedly earned her the buzz (“could have a breakout 2020” tweeted one reporter) that ought to have surfaced sometime during the last three AFLW seasons: rounds 5 and 6 of ’17, for instance, when the then-Bulldog managed back-to-back blinders with a bung hip. Male Counterpart: Steele Sidebottom

5: Madison Prespakis (Carl) Premature it may have been of Seven’s Jason Bennett to anoint “the little champion” as such during last year’s prelim, the sentiment was understandable purely based on her unbroken spirit in Round 1’s loss to North. And on that note, shout out to Olivia Purcell from whom I was glad to see similar qualities while the Crows were in the middle of dismantling her Cats’ season. If a good first-year player is only going to have one key attribute in common with a great first-year player, let it be something innate like guts or heart. The other important features not shared equally between the two teenagers, like hitting targets, can be refined. Male Counterpart: Greg Williams

4: Ellie Blackburn (WB) Where would AFLW be without she of thunderous thighs, and vice versa. Blackburn epitomises the beauty of sport, where athletes can vividly express their unique character in a way no other avenue allows, while justifying the ascension of women’s football as a revolution—not in a deviously political way, as so many haterz seem to assume. There were no Ellie Blackburns (note the plural) when I was a kid, which isn’t too far in years or kilometres from when and where the Bulldogs’ captain grew up. The simple pleasure of kicking the footy as a casual social setting is something my sisters and mother never even knew. Tragedy! Nowadays in my 9-to-5 I regularly see groups of girls (with proper technique as if they learned by watching Ellie, no less) taking it for granted in the same way I did as a schoolboy. Triumph. Male Counterpart: Nathan Buckley

3: Monique Conti (Rich) With adorable ambitions to be both the best footballer and basketballer she can be, her true potential won’t be fulfilled in either. Except, everybody already knows how this turns out a few years from now when reality bites and one is given the flick. Even if MonCon was a locked-in WNBL starter, you wouldn’t begin to glimpse the depth of her creativity through isolated one-on-ones and static set plays. In the crossfire of AFLW’s famed chaotic battlefield, where she improvises like Coltrane on the sax and evades opponents like Fred Astaire tap-dances around props, she flaunts the same special grey matter that made Pendlebury and Bontempelli my personal favourites of the decade just gone. For those reasons, Conti’s 2019 season—in which she spent over half of it dusting off cobwebs—was a waste. Male Counterpart: Dustin Martin

2: Jasmine Garner (NM) At some point the trajectory has to flatten out or even falter, but she’s still got a whole plain of physical peak to explore first. Garner will get there because of the most evident thing about her: she loves hard work. The reason she holds the key to North Melbourne’s premiership window: innate feel for the game, and a steely resistance to the pressures of it. A cerebral grittiness both the truck driver and the physicist can appreciate! Male Counterpart: Wayne Carey

1: Ebony Antonio (Frem) If I can’t name a #1 everybody agrees on, how about a #1 nobody has even thought of. Phillips, despite her age, would’ve been here if she hadn’t done her knee. But given the opportunity has arisen, I’m not above misusing this list to grind an axe. 8 months on, Freo’s 3 meagre AA selections continues to fluster, given their regular season W-L was as good as Adelaide’s (5 AAs + coach) and better than North’s (4) and Carlton’s (3). Putting aside payback for who got what trophies, I was raised on a steady diet of old-fashioned football fundamentals (e.g.: the only position more important than CHF is CHB) which Antonio ticks off more comprehensively than anybody else. I’m not so set in my ways that I can’t recognise the value of midfielders, quite the opposite: the problem is one good onballer is useless, you need 3 at a minimum to compete, which can be comfortably acquired with a bit of savvy drafting and development. True capable key forwards who can compete ferociously in the air and on the ground, and can powerfully bomb it 50m with one touch then skilfully weight a 20m chip with the next, and can seamlessly swing into defence and the centre square when required? League-wide there are 3 at a maximum. Male Counterpart: Matthew Pavlich

To cut a long story short, here's how it all looks when arranged in a fashion that best summarises where each list might be at:

AFLW100MVP2020big2.png


And I say "might" because, as we can see, there are no new draftees listed. Some of them are sure to make an impact as soon as their first year (like Prespakis did, hence her position at #5), but I'd rather let them endure the early stage rigours of the top level before making a call.
 

RobZombie

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Great read TW. In the true Bigfooty "but but player from my club" tradition, I'd like to make the case for Brit Gibson.

Unsubtle but big, powerful, uncompromising and a booming kick. Hits to hurt, hates to lose, bleeds for the jumper. Swap her for Jas Grierson (only fair to take one of our own out if I'm putting one in) and I'm happy.
 

Cdog71

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Great read TW. In the true Bigfooty "but but player from my club" tradition, I'd like to make the case for Brit Gibson.

Unsubtle but big, powerful, uncompromising and a booming kick. Hits to hurt, hates to lose, bleeds for the jumper. Swap her for Jas Grierson (only fair to take one of our own out if I'm putting one in) and I'm happy.

She’s a ripper
 

Cdog71

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Thats a great effort to put up a top 100 well done and cheers.

One girl who didn’t make the top 100 but I’m keen to watch this year is
Gabby Seymour playing for Richmond.
Comes from a volleyball background and playing small as a ruck.
I think she might get targeted physically by some of the bigger bodies but she was in the bests three out’ve her first four vflw games and won a spot on the list.
Really confident attacking the ball in the air and coordinated directioning the ball in the air.
 

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Caputo

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Hey think big

424 Rosie Deegan
423 Maisie Nankivell
422 Hannah Button
421 Jess Duffin

420 Aine Tighe
419 Anna McMahon
418 Shae Sloane
417 Katherine Smith
416 Ruth Wallace
415 Bianca Jakobsson
414 Chelsea Randall
 

the Ziebull

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With the season now done reckon Riddell is now top 15/20
Ashmore top 30/40

I reckon Gavalas in her first year has shown she is already top 100, Randall should be top 100 also

From overall perspective Brennan and Fredrick should slide
 

Teen Wolf

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Might switch out Tahlia Randall for Gillespie-Jones but nothing more at this stage, given that I always favour the defenders with damaging counter-attack games. Gilroy would be the North player I'd be most eager to push into a Pre-2021 version of this list.

Put it on the line with Brennan and said 15 disposals and a goal per game, she ended up getting 12.3 disposals and a behind per game (plus one goal in total), so she'll have to slide a little bit although my expectations haven't changed. No deductions for missing games due to Jordan Ivey divebombing her like an idiot--especially since Richmond sunk to their worst 9 quarter stretch once she went off with concussion.

Probably won't touch Sabrina for another year or two, deserving dual AA with a lot of time left (she's 23) to get her body right and back in form.
 

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