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Get set for the biggest and most exciting AFLW season yet

If you thought there would be no footy next weekend because of the AFL’s pre-finals bye, then think again.

That’s because the seventh season of AFL Women’s gets underway this weekend, with all 18 clubs to be involved for the very first time, and so this promises to be the biggest and most exciting season yet.

The AFL’s pre-finals bye gives the women’s season clean air in which to launch proceedings, before the following four rounds (Rounds 2-5) take place alongside the men’s AFL finals series, creating the potential for double-headers and the like.

Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and the Sydney Swans complete the line-up of teams, with the former two to clash in what promises to be a Saturday night classic at Marvel Stadium – but we’ll have more on that shortly.

It kicks off on a Thursday night for the first time, with traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood squaring off at the venue where it all began – Princes Park.

Their showdown will come just four days after their men’s sides contested an MCG classic, with Jamie Elliott booting the match winner with less than two minutes remaining to seal a top-four berth for the Pies and sentence the Blues to yet another September holiday.

The Blues will be reeling after losing Madison Prespakis and Georgia Gee to Essendon, whom they will face in a marquee clash in Round 2, while the Pies have also felt the pinch of expansion, losing four players to the newest clubs.

Further, captain Brianna Davey and Brit Bonnici are unlikely to take part in the upcoming season due to serious knee injuries suffered in the previous season; the former’s occurring in the first round.

We do not have to wait long for the grand final rematch, when Melbourne, led by their ageless leader Daisy Pearce, make the short trip west to Adelaide to face reigning premiers the Crows, who will unveil their third premiership flag pre-match at Norwood Oval.

Pearce has signed on for another season in one final attempt to lead her beloved Dees to the premiership flag, her club having been one of the pioneers of the women’s competition when they contested an exhibition match against the Western Bulldogs in 2013.

Daisy Pearce in action.

Daisy Pearce in action. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The Crows will have the biggest targets on their backs as the other 17 clubs look to stop them from claiming a record-extending fourth flag, and a second this calendar year.

The depth of Matthew Clarke’s side will face its most serious test with the departures of premiership trio Erin Phillips, Justine Mules and Angela Foley to cross-town rivals Port Adelaide.

Still, they have the likes of Ebony Marinoff, leading goalkicker Ashleigh Woodland and captain Chelsea Randall to lean on as they look to continue their dominance in the league and stave off the competition expected from the newcomers from Alberton.

The four newest clubs will all be in action on a bumper Saturday which starts in Hobart, where premiership contenders North Melbourne plays host to the Gold Coast Suns.

Unlike the other eight matches in the round, entry to this match will be free, given the expectation of a low crowd.

Having launched a raid on cross-town rivals the Adelaide Crows’ premiership list during the off-season, Port Adelaide, led by Erin Phillips, Justine Mules and Angela Foley, begin their AFLW journey with a clash against reigning wooden spooners the West Coast Eagles in Perth.

Just as her father did all those years ago, Phillips will captain the Power in what’s likely to be her only season at Alberton before she draws the curtain on her illustrious sporting career.

A major cleanout of the playing list at the Eagles saw many players either delisted, announce their retirements, move to the inactive list or move to other clubs, as is the case for Maddy Collier who has moved to the Sydney Swans after previously playing for the GWS Giants.

The Swans’ inaugural clash against St Kilda at North Sydney Oval is highly anticipated, with many eager to know how the home side will fare under the coaching of former North Melbourne mentor Scott Gowans.

Western Bulldogs premiership forward Brooke Lochland, Sarah Dargan, Alana Woodward, Maddy Collier, Aliesha Newman, Rebecca Privitelli and Breanna Tarrant are some of the established names to watch out for.

Woodward could potentially make her Swans debut against the club which delisted her just three months ago, after playing only two games for the Saints in season six earlier this year.

There are also high expectations for top draft pick Montana Ham, who will wear guernsey No.18 for the Swans.

After sitting out last season, Georgia Patrikios is set to make her long-awaited comeback for the Saints, with the AFL’s COVID rules mandating players be vaccinated against the virus having been completely relaxed.


(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Coach Nick Dal Santo will be hoping that Patrikios quickly rediscovers the form that saw her claim the club’s best and fairest award twice, in 2020 and 2021, after the Saints crashed to second-last place on the ladder in the earlier season with just two wins in her absence.

But the match to watch on Saturday night is the one between the new clubs Essendon and Hawthorn, with both looking to draw an early line in the sand against each other in a respectful manner.

Such was the demand for early tickets that the match between the two rivals, originally scheduled for ETU Stadium in Port Melbourne, has been moved to Marvel Stadium in order to allow more fans to attend.

It is hoped that as the demand for tickets and the popularity of AFL Women’s increases down the track, more matches will be moved from their originally scheduled venues to larger grounds in order to cater for more supporters.

There are high expectations for both the Bombers and Hawks, with the former going through the recently completed VFLW season undefeated while the latter has premiership coach Bec Goddard and former Brisbane Lion Kaitlyn Ashmore among their ranks.

Former best and fairest winner Maddy Prespakis and ex-Lion Jessica Wuetschner are among the Bombers’ marquee signings, with both hoping to replicate the form from their old clubs at Windy Hill.

With the match to be televised on Channel Seven in Melbourne, network executives will also be hoping for bumper television ratings as the Bombers and Hawks showcase their best on the national stage.

On Sunday, the GWS Giants head south to face the Western Bulldogs, just a fortnight after facing them in a scratch match which they won by a solitary point, at Ikon Park in a match that promises plenty of intrigue.

The four expansion clubs aside, the Giants are the only club to have changed coaches since the end of last season, with Cameron Bernasconi taking over from veteran mentor Alan McConnell, who stepped aside in the wake of another poor season for the side.

They landed ex-Bulldog Isabel Huntington during the off-season but the former No.1 draft pick is unlikely to play due to injury, while Emily Goodsir will sit out another season having recently become a mother.

Huntington aside, the daughters of the west have also lost premiership players Bonnie Toogood and Brooke Lochland to Essendon and the Sydney Swans respectively, while Ashleigh Guest and Hannah Scott both retired.

Up at the Gabba, last season’s beaten preliminary finalists the Brisbane Lions and Fremantle square off, with the depth of both sides to be tested after losing several star players to new clubs during the off-season.

Ebony Antonio of Fremantle celebrates a goal.

Ebony Antonio of Fremantle celebrates a goal. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Maria Moloney and Jess Wuetschner (Brisbane Lions) and Gemma Haughton and Stephanie Cain (Fremantle) were among those to leave their original clubs, joining expansion sides Port Adelaide and Essendon respectively.

For the Dockers, whose premiership dreams were cruelly dashed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, this is just about their last chance to pounce while their window is still open, or face several subsequent years in the wilderness.

As for the Lions, they’ll be hoping to remain up there among the flag contenders and bring the cup back to the Gabba after having their premiership defence ended by the Dees at the MCG nearly five months ago.

The final match of round one sees the Geelong Cats face Richmond at Kardinia Park, with both sides looking to improve on their lowly finishes in season six.

Sarah Dargan and Christina Bernardi were among the Tigers’ losses, with the former moving to the Sydney Swans.

Get set for what promises to be a huge seventh season of AFL Women’s season, with so many questions to be asked as the Adelaide Crows look to defend their crown, including, among others:

* Which of the AFL Women’s four newest clubs will perform the best?

* How will the Crows fare in their premiership defence, especially with the threat of Port Adelaide, led by Erin Phillips, lurking?

* Which of the Victorian clubs will fare the best, and can Daisy Pearce and her Dees break through for the flag?

* Will the premiership windows of the Brisbane Lions and Fremantle close after having their playing lists gutted by expansion again?

* In each of the intrastate derbies that’s to come later this year, who will rule the roost in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia?

All that and plenty more will hopefully be answered throughout the course of season seven, which starts on Thursday night.

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