AFLW's 100 Most Valuable Players - Second Edition

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Teen Wolf

Premiership Player
Jul 5, 2011
3,323
4,585
Melbourne
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Rancho Carne Toros
Cementing BigFooty.com as the number one online source for original, hard-hitting, thought-provoking, colour-coded AFLW content... I present the follow-up to last year's inaugural 100 Most Valuable Players list:

AFLW_MVP100_Edit2.PNG


If you want to refute my theory about a fanfare bias favouring the younger generation of AFLW players, start with the notable absence of Fremantle’s 20yo Sabreena Duffy (up from 35th place to 5th in my second annual MVP rankings) from the 2020 All-Australian team. Duffy spent the truncated season fluctuating between one-woman goal-shooting assaults to hyperactive chase-and-tackle scavenger hunts like no other player in the league. Was her muted acclaim, and a relatively dull roar about what her full potential might look like, simply a result of the wider-publicised “Vicco bias”? Well, that theory is in turn undermined by the lukewarm reception afforded to Collingwood’s 21yo Chloe Molloy (up from 8th to 1st), who transformed her team’s scoreboard potency with finesse and force but wasn’t even included in the All-Australian squad. Furthermore, both players polled mildly at their respective club Best & Fairest count.

No such problems arose for the Western Bulldogs’ 21yo Isabel Huntington (up from 82nd to 59th), whose suddenly overflowing trophy cabinet might suggest the No.1 draft pick has started to deliver on the promise from R2 2018. Alas, those memories of a Bambi-legged teenager excelling in the toughest position on the ground remain a flash-in-the-goalsquare. This year she sat loose behind the play, opted for dodgy decisions with ball-in-hand, and still didn’t make it through without sick days.

Weighing up those two extremes, maybe we’re not specifically dealing with a pro-youth perspective as much as a good old barracking-for-the-underdog tradition. If my criticism of Huntington’s season is indisputably accurate, it’s probably also party-poopingly harsh. You would have to be a little bit of a psychopath to not appreciate the crazy road she’s had to travel to get this far. And yes, it’s true that the Magpies’ Molloy came storming back after a year on the sidelines, but was there any doubt she would? Was there any surprise about Duffy and the Dockers breathing fire right out of the gate, having stewed in a prelim capitulation for ten months?

The warped lens of expectation explains how anybody could mistake Huntington’s bubble-wrapped redemption as a more commendable campaign than that of the always-bruised-and-never-beaten Ellie Blackburn (down from 4th to 6th). There’s also a purer football element involved, however. Blackburn can’t take a sh*t in the bathroom without the likes of Katie Loynes (steady at 100th) and Brittany Bonnici (new at 71st) standing by it. That kind of attention would reduce anybody’s output, though it can be combatted and even exploited with enough surrounding help (which the Bulldogs captain doesn’t have). On the other hand, cruise along the highway to Kardinia Park and you’ll find inside-mid Olivia Purcell (new at 40th) social distancing at a stoppage 25 metres from goal. Makes sense. Everybody knows Purcell missed out on rep teams as a junior because she kicked the ball with her shin—a feature of her game which hasn’t gotten better with age. As a result, present-day opposition teams give O.P. a mile, and she’s “good enough” to take an inch.

The inverse scenario of Monique Conti (steady at 3rd) and her something-from-nothing productivity is yet to result in any glory for Richmond, only because the Tigers’ squad depth missed the mark by a distance too cumbersome for the imperial system. As I’ve stated in earlier soliloquies: when it comes to on-ballers, three goods are better than one great. That’s why Conti—sometimes appearing in the gossip pages as Stack’s girl, and more importantly remaining in sync with Scont and Bont on the genius football IQ front (don’t care about the fact she’s in a different league)—will never be above the prime multi-purpose match-winners on my list.

Jasmine Garner (steady at 2nd) therefore remains ahead of Conti in the queue, but what about my (ex-)numero uno? Despite slightly downgrading Ebony Antonio (from 1st to 9th) here, and although a previous lofty ranking was part-compensation for her baffling stealth-bomber status, there was a moment during the 2020 season (late in the fourth quarter of Fremantle’s win against Collingwood) when a surprising revelation surfaced: somehow, I too was also shamefully guilty of not paying her enough respect. Of course it’s always been correct to say she’s one of only a few who can play every position on the ground at AA calibre. What took too long to realise is that she’s the only player who does. Every week. Often within the space of twenty minutes.

Antonio’s all-round effectiveness went largely unnoticed by the usual Sandra Sullys once again. By no coincidence, her slow start to the season also escaped heavy criticism. That theme of selective scrutiny, which has been simmering since the competition’s inception, became a phenomenon in the 14-team era. Nobody—much less the Herald Sun’s chief footy slobberer and Damien Barrett-wannabe—cared enough to publish a hatchet job on Jamie Stanton (up from 47th to 45th) after she repeatedly butchered the ball in a winnable game against the Cats, nor when she managed one tackle in a 70-point loss to Freo. The perks of being “underrated”. Meanwhile the less egregious shortcomings of deservingly higher-profile Katie Brennan (down from 9th to 15th) attracted outright scorn from the haterz. I’m not about to penalise Brennan for copping an idiotic head knock that she could’ve avoided by arriving second to the footy. It’d be fairer to focus on Richmond’s subsequently dramatic turn from poor to dreadful without their captain (one goal across nine quarters), just as it should be noted how much worse Ebony Antonio’s year would’ve looked if it ended 3.75 games in—not only would her stats be wack, we’d have also missed out on a great player warming up in time to prove herself as the difference on three weekends out of four.

The difference. It’s not just a tired sports cliché. When the game is on the line, there’s a simple matrix of Who do you want to have the ball? vs. Who is likely to have the ball? for determining that key player on the ground. It’s why I should probably have Daisy Pearce (down from 11th to 17th) about five places higher or five places lower on my list, but a degree of uncertainty about what patch of grass she will patrol in 2021 has me sitting on the fence. If her post-twins rebirth is to continue across half-back, mopping up with supreme efficiency and absolving wonky ball-user Libby Birch (steady at 56th) of target-hitting duties, Melbourne will continue to find themselves in the precarious situation of defending more often than necessary. Appearing to be in sublime physical nick while effortlessly moonwalking around would-be gang tacklers, there was no indication Mama Dais might not make a mark as a permanent midfielder, and all the signs suggest that’s what the Demons need if they wanna be startin’ strong next year after just getting over the line in a quarter-final thriller.

Same could be said of Greater Western Sydney and their ongoing wastage of Jess Dal Pos (down from 37th to 54th), except I’m resigned to her boring backline assignment which only stings worse when she’s allowed to teasingly wander up the other end on occasion and create something juicy for oversized small forward Cora Staunton (steady at 96th) to feast on. For different reasons, similarly significant downgrades have also been dealt out to the Giants’ Alicia Eva (22nd to 49th), Melbourne’s Carlton’s Elise O’Dea (23rd to 50th) and Fremantle’s Kara Antonio (39th to 51st)—three 28-year-olds who looked to age a decade in the space of one month, yet still retain the ability to lift others around them.

Unfortunately, no such consolation can be provided in the case of Adelaide’s 22yo Ebony Marinoff (down from 24th to 47th). Surreptitiously the most selfish player in the league, Marinoff shows no consideration for the poor sods who are tasked with turning her mongrel punts of coal into elegant Musson diamond jewellery. Once in a blue moon, such as the 2017 grand final or last season's round three encounter with Geelong, this rising star shows her best is astronomically better than the galaxy of garbage in which she’s seemingly content to burn out. For handball-happy teammate Anne Hatchard (steady at 26th), you at least sense an everlasting desire to improve to the class of Brisbane’s Emily Bates (down from 7th to 8th) who—along with Jess Wuetschner (down from 10th to 14th)—gave a humbling lesson in quality vs quantity to spark the year’s biggest upset. Having ridden a dark horse over an impressively long distance in just 18 months, the only way for Hatchard to progress any further is by foot. Reliable kicking skills, her most under-utilised asset, could do with an introduction to that faultless right-time-right-place modus operandi.

I don’t think the flood of red numbers next to premiership winners in this updated MVP list is a petty reaction to some now-invisible regulars of the Crows forum saying mean things about my First Edition rankings. Being proven right is usually plenty satisfying. Ultimately, though, I’d rather be wrong and see some good footy than to correctly forecast a champion athlete shuffling through the motions upon a recklessly rushed return from knee surgery. It’s painful to watch the clock ticking faster on Erin Phillips (down from 12th to 16th), and there isn’t enough reason to think she can lead a team to two or three flags in the future. The miracle would be to get one more and, having avoided disaster in a year that was asking for it, let’s not think she can’t do the impossible before her own bronze statue is inevitably unveiled.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news: Tayla Harris (up from 42nd to 41st) had an excellent 2020. Competing fiercely in the air (as usual) and providing strong ground-level hustle (contrary to certain defamatory claims that generated a suspicious level of media excitement), Harris became the first AFLW player to kick one goal (or more) in every game of a season. This new-found consistency is particularly crucial for the adorable meathead because I don’t expect her to ever display the same guile and craft of silky sex panthers Darcy Vescio (down from 29th to 31st) and Sabrina Frederick (down from 28th to 32nd) who have spent 60% of their careers being brilliant all the time.

Sabrina, the Big Cat Queen who once brought down seven contested grabs against the reigning premiers and put on a four-snag blitz in a pseudo-prelim, has lost all trace of mojo. On current trajectory, her junk seasons will soon outnumber her great ones by three-to-two, at which point I’ll be obliged to throw a 1 in front of that no.32 ranking. She’s been hampered by a diminishing fitness level, sure (may or may not be injury-related), but that doesn’t explain an onset of wildly haphazard goal-kicking. Even her best marks nowadays are juggle-saves that would previously be clean takes. For the time being, the risk of keeping her at A-grade status is worth the possible reward, though I have no inkling as to when or whether she’ll emerge from this slump. The most intense talents are typically the most erratic, after all.

Who would seriously claim to know the ceiling of players like Fremantle’s Gemma Houghton (up from 41st to 13th) or Gold Coast’s Kalinda Howarth (new at 11th)—electric showstoppers with a hundred tricks up their sleeve and every1’s a winner on the right day. Who really knows how far the combination of refined skill and instinctive courage will be pushed by North Melbourne’s Ash Riddell (up from 79th to 12th). Or Carlton’s Lucy McEvoy (new at 10th), who weirdly looks a bit like Bernard Tomic but thrives in the heat of battle like Lleyton Hewitt. All I know for sure is they used to be underdogs and now they’re favourites, and I’ll try not to be too disappointed if they can’t go on to meet my unreasonable expectations.


Club-by-club breakdowns

ADELAIDE (9 players)
16 (12) Erin Phillips
25 (17) Chelsea Randall
26 (26) Anne Hatchard
36 (31) Danielle Ponter
47 (24) Ebony Marinoff
55 (53) Sarah Allan
81 (80) Chloe Scheer
89 (45) Stevie-Lee Thompson
98 (68) Marijana Rajcic

BRISBANE (8)
8 (7) Emily Bates
14 (10) Jess Wuetschner
23 (19) Kate Lutkins
48 (25) Ally Anderson
61 (--) Jesse Wardlaw
66 (60) Sophie Conway
75 (69) Breanna Koenen
99 (99) Lauren Arnell

CARLTON (11)
4 (5) Madison Prespakis
10 (--) Lucy McEvoy
31 (29) Darcy Vescio
41 (42) Tayla Harris
50 (23) Elise O’Dea
65 (--) Georgia Gee
69 (--) Grace Egan
73 (51) Gabriella Pound
78 (55) Nicola Stevens
82 (--) Breann Moody
100 (100) Katie Loynes

COLLINGWOOD (7)
1 (8) Chloe Molloy
7 (6) Jaimee Lambert
22 (21) Brianna Davey
37 (33) Sarah Rowe
67 (62) Aliesha Newman
71 (--) Brittany Bonnici
94 (89) Steph Chiocci

FREMANTLE (11)
5 (35) Sabreena Duffy
9 (1) Ebony Antonio
13 (41) Gemma Houghton
21 (20) Kiara Bowers
42 (--) Roxanne Roux
51 (39) Kara Antonio
58 (74) Evie Gooch
64 (58) Ashley Sharp
72 (--) Hayley Miller
77 (--) Katie-Jayne Grieve
90 (--) Gabby O’Sullivan

GEELONG (4)
40 (--) Olivia Purcell
80 (40) Nina Morrison
92 (--) Julia Crockett-Grills
97 (70) Maddy McMahon

GOLD COAST (6)
11 (--) Kalinda Howarth
45 (47) Jamie Stanton
68 (81) Jacqui Yorston
84 (--) Lauren Bella
91 (--) Kate Surman
95 (--) Jade Pregelj

GWS GIANTS (7)
27 (44) Alyce Parker
35 (34) Rebecca Beeson
49 (22) Alicia Eva
54 (37) Jess Dal Pos
63 (--) Rebecca Privitelli
79 (--) Elle Bennetts
96 (96) Cora Staunton

MELBOURNE (8)
17 (11) Daisy Pearce
20 (16) Karen Paxman
29 (30) Lily Mithen
33 (32) Tyla Hanks
39 (38) Kate Hore
56 (56) Libby Birch
60 (83) Eden Zanker
85 (91) Lauren Pearce

NORTH MELBOURNE (10)
2 (2) Jasmine Garner
12 (79) Ash Riddell
19 (15) Emma Kearney
24 (18) Jess Duffin
28 (27) Jenna Bruton
43 (43) Emma King
53 (--) Ellie Gavalas
57 (57) Jasmine Grierson
76 (--) Aileen Gilroy
87 (66) Kaitlyn Ashmore

RICHMOND (5)
3 (3) Monique Conti
15 (9) Katie Brennan
32 (28) Sabrina Frederick
74 (--) Phoebe Monahan
93 (86) Sarah D’Arcy

ST KILDA (5)
30 (--) Georgia Patrikios
38 (13) Nat Exon
44 (--) Caitlin Greiser
70 (--) Olivia Vesely
86 (61) Kate McCarthy

WEST COAST (4)
18 (14) Dana Hooker
34 (--) Imahra Cameron
46 (48) Emma Swanson
83 (93) Parris Laurie

WESTERN BULLDOGS (5)
6 (4) Ellie Blackburn
52 (46) Kirsty Lamb
59 (82) Isabel Huntington
62 (76) Bonnie Toogood
88 (59) Brooke Lochland


Exclusions
25 players in last year’s top 100 have been left out of the new edition.

Eleven of those are due to retirement or some other availability issue:
-- (35) Ruth Wallace (Adel) – retired
-- (50) Ash Brazill (Coll) – ACL at 31 yo, also possible netball commitments
-- (52) Bianca Jakobsson (StK) – missed 2020 with work commitments, would’ve kept her at 52 if a similar gambit with Ruth Wallace paid off
-- (64) Aisling Utri (WB) – hockey
-- (67) Ellie Brush (GWS) – soccer
-- (73) Courtney Cramey (Adel) – retired
-- (78) Chloe Dalton (Carl) – had upgraded her to no.54 until rugby commitment news
-- (84) Courteney Munn (StK) – retired
-- (87) Jacinda Barclay (GWS) – work commitments?
-- (88) Melissa Hickey (Geel) – retired
-- (95) Jess Foley (Adel) – retired

The other 14 are due to performance in 2020 or just me changing my mind about what a player will offer in the future. Think I voiced my opinions on most, if not all, of them in gameday threads during the season so I'm reluctant to pick on them in specific detail again. Unless anybody wants to debate a particular decision, in which case I will oblige.
-- (49) Tegan Cunningham (Melb)
-- (54) Hannah Scott (WB)
-- (63) Sarah Dargan (Rich)
-- (65) Kellie Gibson (WC)
-- (71) Sam Virgo (GC)
-- (72) Meg McDonald (Geel)
-- (75) Kerryn Harrington (Carl)
-- (77) McKenzie Dowrick (WC)
-- (85) Christina Bernardi (Rich)
-- (90) Richelle Cranston (Geel)
-- (92) Kate Gillespie-Jones (NM)
-- (94) Yvonne Bonner (GWS)
-- (97) Alison Downie (Carl)
-- (98) Phoebe McWilliams (Geel)


Honourable Mentions
These are players who have dazzled me in such unsatisfying intermittent spurts and, although I suspect they've already shown enough to be ranked in the top 100, I'm not sure exactly where yet.

Jordyn Allen (Coll)
Aisling McCarthy (WC)
Kirsten McLeod (WB)
Justine Mules (Adel)
Gabby Newton (WB)
Orla O'Dwyer (Bris)
Jasmin Stewart (Frem)
Nicola Xenos (StK)

One might expect the jury to have reached a verdict on Kirsten McLeod by now. But it's possible that the conspicuous goal sneak, who somehow stands on both sides of a chasm separating greatness and inoffensiveness while differentiating herself from your underachieving Deanna Berry and Eloise Jones types, is just the most unrateable player ever (see her Behind of the Century contender, which perfectly summarises her AFLW career to date). I'm confident, however, that it's just a matter of time until answers are forthcoming about the other seven players.
 

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Caputo

Team Captain
Dec 5, 2011
394
146
AFL Club
Adelaide
Kate Brennan seems too high on this list as the Superannuation adverts go " Past performance is not a guarantee" Her performance was pre AFLW and and first two seasons at best.
 

Teen Wolf

Premiership Player
Jul 5, 2011
3,323
4,585
Melbourne
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Rancho Carne Toros
Katie Brennan seems too high on this list as the Superannuation adverts go " Past performance is not a guarantee" Her performance was pre AFLW and and first two seasons at best.
I'm only making guesses, not guarantees, don't worry about that.

Brennan's third season was her best so far. One of her quietest games that year was when she kicked more goals than the opposition (who would go on to easily win the flag).

What is your criteria for this
1. Statistical; 2. Look/Gut feel ; 3. Influence; 4. Opinion
Even if I did cite match stats more often (think I only did so once in the OP, while talking about Brennan as it so happens), it would still require my opinion to pick and choose which numbers are/n't important.

My criteria is basically gutfeel about who I would draft if I was starting up a new team tomorrow. That is in turn determined by a player's age, fitness, position, leadership, and how much influence they have had on the outcome of AFLW matches to date. Regarding the latter, already spoke about the "matrix" informing that:

Who is likely to have the ball (purely statistical)
vs.
Who do you want to have the ball (trust my own eye rather than the most well-known stats that do a poor job of measuring disposal efficiency)

No G-Train from St Kilda?
She is ranked at no. 44, in that "match-winning key forward with a big question mark" tier.

Gooch is named. But still underrated somehow.
I could be accused of underrating defenders in general. If I was to rate Gooch higher, I can't think of a reason why the several other defenders in the 50s wouldn't deserve similar treatment.
 

Scratchy05

Team Captain
Sep 16, 2020
432
295
AFL Club
Collingwood
How do you rate this. Is it on potential or how good they are now. Because Molloy one, while good is interesting regardless as well as Anne Hatchard being ranked 26. Think she is top 10 or top 5
 

Teen Wolf

Premiership Player
Jul 5, 2011
3,323
4,585
Melbourne
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Rancho Carne Toros
How do you rate this. Is it on potential or how good they are now. Because Molloy one, while good is interesting regardless as well as Anne Hatchard being ranked 26. Think she is top 10 or top 5
It's my perception of their potential, based on what they've shown in the league so far.

Think I've made my thoughts on Hatchard pretty clear. Happy to hear a new argument as to why she should be viewed as more valuable than, say, Emily Bates.
 

Scratchy05

Team Captain
Sep 16, 2020
432
295
AFL Club
Collingwood
It's my perception of their potential, based on what they've shown in the league so far.

Think I've made my thoughts on Hatchard pretty clear. Happy to hear a new argument as to why she should be viewed as more valuable than, say, Emily Bates.
Fair enough. Surprised Phillips is ranked so highly coming off a major injury and above the age of 30.
 

Teen Wolf

Premiership Player
Jul 5, 2011
3,323
4,585
Melbourne
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Rancho Carne Toros
Fair enough. Surprised Phillips is ranked so highly coming off a major injury and above the age of 30.
Above the age of 35, even.

If she has one more big season, the Crows will win another flag and it'll justify the ranking. I'm not really expecting that to happen, but it feels somewhat sacrilege to rule out the possibility.
 

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