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AFLW – THE PATH TO A PREMIERSHIP by George on the Outer



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There have been many musing on Demonland and in the media in general about the background, circumstances and even omens which led to the MFC mens side winning its first Premiership in 57 years.

There is no doubt that the ever-present factors of luck and injury have to align at the right times, but all the other building blocks have to be present firstly, before even a tilt at the Flag can be made. And it may take some years to put these pieces together.  

Success through recruiting and trading is something which has to be achieved over a number of years, because a club simply cannot propel itself up the ladder on the back of a single draft-trade period. Talent and experience has been proven necessary to be present, since it is the best team with the best combination of players that will win the ultimate prize.

Enough of the background to the success formula, so where does the AFLW Melbourne side sit in its quest for a Premiership?  

Already the commentators are recognising the fundamental talent that has been accumulated at Melbourne, combined with the current pool of experience built up over those many years.

In this Melbourne Age article, Sara Burt nominates Melbourne as her pick for the Premiership:

AFLW season preview: Footy is back, in early January

The arguments and examples she uses are an almost perfect blueprint copy of what the Mens side had in place prior to season 2021.  

Ben Brown was recruited to fill the hole at full forward for the AFL Men and Tayla Harris returns to the side in the same role in the AFLW.  When Daisy Pearce had to be moved forward last season to bolster the scoring opportunities, it just left a gap further down the field.  Tayla will provide both a marking target and a solid goal scoring talent in front of goals.  Then enter Liv Purcell from Geelong who despite an ACL injury in 2021, had won that clubs B&F playing in the middle in the prior year. We may not see her for a couple of games due to that injury, but she will slot straight into the middle.

The recruiting staff had also identified the changing nature of the Women’s game some seasons ago.  The players are now much more powerful and more skilled and have greater fitness levels than when the competition first started.  Karen Paxman needed help around her, and so we find Tyla Hanks, Eliza McNamara, Eliza West and Purcell now surrounding her.

In the ruck the men had the best in the competition, and so has the Women’s side with Lauren Pearce.  The side sorely missed her presence when injured in the early games of last season, and had to call on Cunningham and Eden Zanker to fill in.  Not a great situation, and was almost a parallel of when the mens side had to use TMac and Weidemann to do similar in the past.  But it was just “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  

So Lauren and the team needed backup, and this year we have recruited Tahlia Gillard at 189cm and Georgia Campbell at 183cm as just that.  Gillard was the tallest recruit in the draft, while it is worth noting that Pearce ( the best ruck) stands at 183cm.

Anyone see the comparison with the mens side drafting of Luke Jackson? The other plus is that Zanker, with her extraordinary athletic abilities, is now released to do damage throughout the whole ground this coming season.  

The experience level of the team is also unquestioned today. Lauren Pearce, Karen Paxman, Kate Hore and Tyla Hanks all made the All Australian squad last year. The men could only manage 3 in 2020, and naturally for both the Mens and Womens sides, there were glaring omissions, but you must have a core group of those experienced talented players to “hold the fort” when the going gets tough during the season.  

Luck and injury? Who knows about those  … Certainly the fitness levels of the Mens side was the standard in 2021, courtesy of Darren Burgess.  It is not too much of a stretch to suggest his legacy would also extend to the Women’s side, in terms of what is needed to get success.  

When we look back with that perfect 20/20 hindsight it is obvious what the Mens side had put together at season opener. The signs are that similarly the Womens side has done the same and with this group, this is the Premiership chance that has to be taken, before the talent and competition is further diluted with incoming sides in 2023. 

First Demons game:

2022 NAB AFLW COMPETITION

Round 1 • Western Bulldogs v Melbourne

Saturday 8 January 2022 • 7:00 PM (GMT+11)

Victoria University, Whitten Oval

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Yes George, lots to be excited about.  Tayla will hopefully deliver a la BBB.  Eliza West who has been regularly praised by @Dees_In_October, won the Debbie Lee award (VFL’s Rising Star) and starred in US college basketball.  Meggs is looking forward to seeing her play. Go girls!

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19 hours ago, Meggs said:

Yes George, lots to be excited about.  Tayla will hopefully deliver a la BBB.  Eliza West who has been regularly praised by @Dees_In_October, won the Debbie Lee award (VFL’s Rising Star) and starred in US college basketball.  Meggs is looking forward to seeing her play. Go girls!

The thing about West is she's basically a freebie as a rookie. As we all know, if you can get good quality players that way, it can really help with depth, and if the player can become a regular in the team, more the better (see: Goldrick and hopefully Magee). I do wonder if perhaps she played footy prior to focusing on basketball. Either way, I like what I've seen on a 2-game sample. Any player that comes from the US college system brings a certain standard for training etc. as well.

Like George, I can see a bit of synergy across the club. Just hope they can put the promise into action when it counts, which is always the hard part. I'm excited to see what plays out with Harris and I'm hoping for a big season from Zanker too, loved her progress in the midfield last season. Even in her breakthrough games, she didn't quite put it all together at the same time - when that happens, watch out!

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