AFLW is back for its fourth season this week and the fast changing evolution of the competition is evident in 2020 with another four new teams (St.Kilda, Richmond, West Coast and Gold Coast) joining the league.
Just how will AFLW work in 2020?
The touchy subject of the conference system returns this season. Teams will be split into two conferences of seven.
The season length has gone from seven rounds to eight rounds plus three weeks of finals.
Teams will play each other once in their conference plus two cross-conference matches during the home and away season.
The top three sides in each conference will qualify for finals with the second and third placed teams playing in Elimination finals and the top sides automatically booking a spot in the Preliminary final.
Now that we’ve gotten how the season will work, it’s time to focus in on Round 1 with the hope of finding you a winner.
Our complete 2020 AFLW Round 1 tips can be found below.
Friday 7 February, 7:40pm, Ikon Park (Princes Park)
Richmond make their historic debut against Carlton at Ikon (Princes) Park this Friday night in where in the world of the AFLW, it’s a clash of co-tenans along with traditional rivals.
This is also a cross-conference clash.
Leading up to their inaugural season, Richmond went on an old-fashioned big name recruiting spree not seen by the club since the Tommy Haffey/Graeme Richmond days.
Landing the likes of Monique Conti, Katie Brenan and Sabrina Fredrick showed that the Tigers mean business when it comes to getting success for its women’s team as early as possible.
Along with this, many of the Richmond VFLW players have been included in the AFLW team which means a fair few of these girls have at least a couple of years of playing with each other, so they won’t have the first round jitters you might expect from a new team.
The Richmond VFLW team was known for its attacking style of play, and you should expect that from them in their inaugural AFLW season.
Carlton on the other hand, go into this game in their fourth season and coming off a loss in last years AFLW Grand Final to the Crows.
The Blues lost their captain Brianna Davey to Collingwood during the off-season but the likes of Talya Harris, Darcy Veciso and rising star Maddy Prespakis still makes Carlton a formidable force.
As with a few of these games this weekend, there is an element of the unknown.
While it is a Richmond home game, the Carlton girls will know Ikon Park pretty well but expect the crowd to be filled with the Tiger Army cheering the girls on.
Season openers have produced some low-scoring affairs in the AFLW, but with the attacking style of play both sides can produce – expect a highly entertaining contest and for it to go down to the wire.
Back Richmond To Cover The Line (-2.5) @ $1.90
Gold Coast Suns
Saturday 8 February, 1:10pm, Blacktown International Sportspark
Making their debut in the AFLW, the Gold Coast Suns make the trip to Blacktown to face fellow expansion club the GWS Giants in a Conference A matchup.
Can the Gold Coast Suns women show some much needed ticker for the club, which has been lacking since the men’s team made their debut in 2011?
The Suns took some players from fellow Queensland team, the Brisbane Lions, who seemed to have a fair bit of movement over the off-season, along with some players from Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and Melbourne.
The majority of the Gold Coast Suns squad comes from Queensland junior girls pathway programs that have produced a fair amount of good footballers already but they might struggle during the season.
GWS on the other hand, are a foundation club of the AFLW and are a one-state team, which makes player retention easier.
Despite losing Christina Bernadi and Phoebe Monahan to the Tigers, the GWS squad is relatively solid and experienced.
Many expected the Giants to do well last season, but it just didn’t seem to get going with only two wins for the year.
They finished 2019 thumping the Cats (who made the finals due to the conference system) and are the kind of team that can beat anyone on their day.
Expect the Giants to give the Suns a belting in their AFLW debut.
Back GWS To Cover The Line (-11.5) @ $1.90
Saturday 8 February, 3:10pm, Casey Fields
On paper, the cross-conference matchup between the Dees (B) and North (A) could be a potential match of the Round.
North should have been playing in the finals last season and Melbourne have been unlucky in their recent AFLW seasons.
The Dees have been highly rated throughout their previous three AFLW campaigns but have missed out on qualifying for Grand Finals due to percentage and missed out on qualifying for the Group A finals after being thumped by the Crows in the final home and away round.
Superstar midfielder and two time All-Australian Daisy Pearce returns from sitting out last season after giving birth to twin boys (potential mother-son draftees for the Dees?).
She will most certainly be a welcome return to the Melbourne line-up and reports suggest that Pearce is back to her best having dominated in the Dees practice match against Collingwood a couple of weeks ago.
Pearce will need to step up in the early part of the season with the likes of Lily Mithen and Tegan Cunningham missing through injury, leaving some gaps in their attack and a tough draw.
North Melbourne looks like one of the teams to beat and are second favorite in the betting to win the AFLW premiership this season at $5.
The Roos started their first season with four wins on the trot and looked unstoppable at stages only to go down to Adelaide and Freo in the later part of the season.
Had there been no conference system, or the Roos were in the B conference last year – they would have made finals, but thems the breaks.
North’s list remains solid but the delising of Mo Hope and defender Jess Duffin missing the season due to pregnancy shouldn’t have as much impact as you might think.
The Kangaroos are a very talented team and North Melbourne have not mucked around with their AFLW program.
Expect the Roos to make a statement in Round 1 with a solid win over the Dees.
Back North Melbourne To Cover the line (-2.5) @ $1.90
Saturday 8 February, 5:10pm, Hickey Park
The Lions play host to fellow Group A participants and the reigning premiers Adelaide at Hickey Park this Saturday in what should be a fascinating matchup, but I fear a blow-out is on the cards.
Brisbane who played in the first two AFLW Grand Finals talent stocks have been absolutely pillaged over the past couple of seasons.
The likes of Sabrina Fredrick, Sam Virgo, Kate McCarthy, Leah Kaslar (who was their captain) and Jacqui Yorston left the club and they are no longer a one-state team which means the talent pool might be a bit shallower with the inclusion of the Gold Coast Suns this season.
While pre-season practice matches isn’t the be all and end all indication of how a team will fare this season, the Lions were held goalless by GWS kicking a measly 0-3 (3) to the Giants 5-7 (37) only a couple of weeks ago.
Facing the premiers on Saturday is a daunting prospect, even if it is at home.
Adelaide lost only one match last season – Round 1 against the Bulldogs and then smashed the rest of the competition with eight straight wins and snaring their second AFLW flag.
The Crows are the team to beat, the premiership favorite and boast five All-Australians.
Erin Phillips who has already claimed two AFLW best and fairest awards in the four years of the competition will miss the start of the season due to her ruptured ACL will obviously miss this game but it shouldn’t have too much on an impact of the Crows chances.
Back Adelaide To Cover The Line (-10.5) @ $1.90
Sunday 9 February, 1:10pm, Victoria Park
It’s a baptism of fire for the new West Coast Eagles AFLW team as they travel to Melbourne to face Collingwood at Victoria Park.
That would have been the case back in the day, but is it in the AFLW?
While playing the Pies at Vic Park isn’t the fearful prospect it once was, it should be a fascinating match-up between a team that’s struggled for good form in their three seasons taking on a brand new expansion team in this Conference B matchup.
How West Coast will fare in the AFLW remains to be seen.
Recruiting wise, the talent pool in WA is stretched due to now having two teams and their list only has a handful of players with AFLW experience, mostly poached from Fremantle.
Dana Hooker, who the Eagles snatched from Freo is the only standout player having won a B&F for the Dockers in their 2017 season and two All-Australian selections.
Collingwood had a shocking AFLW season last year and almost went the season winless until they finally got over the line against Brisbane in the final round.
Their coach Wayne Skieman was punted after three very ordinary seasons.
Chole Molloy who dominated for them in 2018, suffered a foot injury last season which left a gaping hole in the Pies defense as the mostly young/inexperienced Magpies struggled.
The Pies also snared Bri Davey from Carlton which will give them a boost and a fair majority of their squad played in their VFLW premiership last season which will no doubt give the squad a massive confidence boost.
With a new coach, stable squad and some new recruits expect Collingwood to get the win over the Eagles at Vic Park. Nothing has changed.
Back Collingwood To Cover The line (-10.5 Points) @ $1.90
Sunday 9 February, 3:10pm, RSEA Park (Moorabbin)
The suburban ground nostalgia continues in AFLW Round 1 as the Saints play their historical first match against the Bulldogs at Moorabbin in this B conference match-up.
Many experts regard St.Kilda’s AFLW set up to be rather stable and organized with many of the group playing as the Southern Saints in the VFL and plenty on their list with AFLW experience.
The Saints were also able to lure Kate McCarthy over from Brisbane who made All-Australian in the inaugural season of 2017 but struggled to get any other big signings down to Linton Street.
Another factor is St.Kilda’s coach – Peta Seale.
Seale is highly rated for her coaching in both VFLW along with assistant coaching in the AFL and VFL and is well known and respected within the Women’s Football fraternity.
The coach will play a big part in the Saints season, as will new Western Bulldogs womens coach who just happens to be St.Kilda legend Nathan Burke.
The Bulldogs had taken a hit over the off-season losing Katie Brenan and Monique Conti to Richmond along with their 2018 premiership coach Paul Groves.
However, the Western Bulldogs were able to gain the number 1 pick in the national draft – Gabby Newton and you can’t underestimate forward Brooke Lochland who can be remembered for booting seven goals against Carlton back in 2018. Ruled out for most of last year, Lochalnd can hope full a full AFLW campaign ahead of her and will be vital for the Doggies in their 2020 AFLW campaign.
For what it’s worth, St.Kilda has all the makings of a team that can beat anyone on their day and they’ll give their adoring crowd at Moorabbin something to cheer about this weekend. Just like old times.
Back St.Kilda To Win @ $2.50
Sunday 9 February, 5:10pm, Fremantle Oval
Round 1 of the AFLW finishes up with the Cats (A) travelling West to take on Freo (B) in a cross-conference match.
Freo had a sensational home and away season in 2019, playing in the tough Conference A, with a 6-1 record only to go down to Carlton in a preliminary final upset.
With the addition of West Coast to the competition there was a bit of chopping and changing to the list with some significant movements heading to their cross-town rivals.
The Dockers are still a formidable team but it will be interesting to see if they can replicate their home and away form and go one better this season.
Geelong also made the finals last season, but it was by default due to the conference system.
The Cats were able to make the finals despite having the worst percentage in the AFLW but were able to snag second spot in the B conference only to be humiliated by Adelaide in the prelim.
On the eve of the season, Geelong has taken the blow of draftee Mia Skinner missing due to a stress fracture and Gemma Wright ruling herself out due to mental health reasons.
Along with that, All-Australian and Cats Women’s best and fairest Meg McDonald has been ruled out until at least the midpoint of their AFLW campaign.
Based on recent form, off-season movements and injury – Freo should be able to win this comfortably and the line of -5.5 seems about right.
Back Fremantle To Cover The Line (-5.5 Points) @ $1.90
The third season of the AFLW gets underway this weekend and with two new teams (Geelong and North Melbourne), a conference system and finals things are sure going to get interesting.
Much interest will be on how the new additions to the competition will go with Geelong making their AFLW debut against Collingwood at GMHBA Stadium (Kardinia Park) on Saturday and North Melbourne hosting Carlton on Sunday afternoon in Hobart.
We have analysed all five games set to take place this weekend and our complete AFLW Round 1 tips can be found below.
Saturday 2 February, 6:40pm, GMHBA Stadium
Geelong 24– Collingwood 23
The season opener sees a historic occasion at the venue formally known as Simmonds/Skilled/Baytec/Shell Stadium or simply Kardinia Park as Geelong makes its much anticipated AFLW debut against Collingwood this Saturday night.
Collingwood enters its third AFLW season coming off what was a disappointing 2018 campaign with only three wins but managed to win their last two games of last season.
The Magpies have some interesting recruits over the off-season and much interest will be on how former Australian and Collingwood Netballer Sharni Layton will fare as a footballer.
She’s likely to play in the ruck, along with her former Netball teammate Ash Brazill, and it will be fascinating to see how the two will fit into the Magpies AFLW lineup.
The Pies have also recruited a touch of the Irish with Sarah Rowe from Gaelic Football, who was amongst their best in the clubs practice match against reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat.
However, being new to the game she wasn’t aware of the hit the post rule and tried to go on and score a goal when the ball bounced off the post much to the amusement of coach Wayne Siekman.
The Magpies went down to the Dogs by seven points.
Going into their very first AFLW game, Geelong has a major ruled out in a prized recruit Richelle Cranston, who developed a cult-like following when playing for Melbourne the past two seasons.
Cranston was given a two-match suspension for a tackle against Carlton’s Sarah Hosking in the Cats practice match against the Blues.
There is also an injury cloud regarding Cats captain Mel Hickey who also crossed over from Melbourne in the off-season.
Geelong has had an AFLW team in the works for a number of years playing in the VFL Women’s comp (including being runner-up in last years VFLW Grand Final) with six of them already in the Cats women’s squad recruited a good mix of TAC Cup players including three from what is known as the Geelong Falcons footy factory.
Four of Geelong’s recruits have received under 18 All-Australian honours over the past two years.
While there is the element of the unknown with a new team and changes everywhere across all AFLW lists one should never back against Geelong at the Cattery and with that alone, expect them to start their first AFLW campaign with a victory.
Back Geelong to win @ $2.10
Saturday 2 February, 8:10pm, Norwood Oval
Adelaide 17– Western Bulldogs 18
The reigning AFLW Premiers – the Western Bulldogs travel to Norwood Oval to face the inaugural AFLW premiers the Adelaide Crows in what should be a fascinating contest.
Over the off-season, the Bulldogs have had some major turnover in their list including losing star player Emma Kearney to North Melbourne but stars such as co-captains Katie Brennan and Ellie Blackburn remain.
The Bulldogs star forward Izzy Huntington is still under an injury cloud and may not be able to return to the Bulldogs lineup until round five with the club being super cautious after she buckled her knee at training back in December.
There is also more injury issues at the Whitten Oval with 2018 AFLW leading goalkicker Brooke Lockland unlikely to be back in the squad until at least Round six after suffering a fractured right fibula in the Dogs recent practice match against Collingwood in Ballarat.
With the competition being only seven rounds, having players ruled out for two or three weeks can have a major impact on a teams season.
The injuries don’t discriminate with the Crows ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe requiring a knee reconstruction after tearing her ACL against Fremantle in a practice game in Darwin.
It’s a new era for the Crows under their new coach Matthew Clarke after highly respected coach Bec Goddard left due to work commitments.
A fit and firing Erin Phillips and co-captain Chelsea Randall is what Adelaide will need this season along with some solid performances from cult figure Sarah “Tex” Perkins.
Adelaide is the only team the Western Bulldogs have not beaten in the AFLW and their clash in Round 3 of last season was one of the games of the year with Erin Phillips four-goal haul ensuring a memorable Seven point win to the Crows.
Expect this game to be close, and is a toss of a coin but it’s always worth backing the reigning premiers in their first match of the season.
Back Western Bulldogs to win @ $2.05
Sunday 3 February, 1:05pm, North Hobart Oval
North Melbourne 52– Carlton 16
North Melbourne makes its historic AFLW debut hosting Carlton at the spiritual home of Tassie Footy – North Hobart Oval.
The Kangaroos are serious about their AFLW prospects signing the likes of last years AFLW League best and fairest Emma Kearney from the Western Bulldogs and the high profile Mo Hope from Collingwood, where a change of environment could allow the experienced forward to make an immediate impact amongst the women of Arden Street.
Many regard North Melbourne’s AFLW list as one of the strongest in the short history of the competition and the Roos are equal favourites with reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs to win the premiership in our market.
Along with being premiership favourites, North are equal favourites to win Conference A, to make the finals and Grand Final in our AFLW futures markets, while Emma Kearney is favourite to win the AFLW best and fairest.
Carlton come into their third season of AFLW off winning last year’s wooden spoon (The Blues the first club to win the wooden spoon in the AFL/AFLW in the same season) and have had a change of coach in former Hawk and Blue Daniel Harford and some new playing stocks to give the Blues some rejuvenation.
The Blues recently played Geelong in a practice match at Princes Park going down to the Cats by two points.
Carlton was consistent throughout the match and showed a lot of fight and a standout performance from captain Bri Davey coming back from a season-ending knee injury was a highlight when she kicked four goals for the Bluebaggers.
Despite North being favourites, there’s an element of the unknown and Carlton will be willing to please.
Expect them to put up a fight against the highly fancied Kangaroos.
Back Carlton to beat the Line (+9) @ $1.88
Sunday 3 February, 3:05pm, Casey Fields
Melbourne 55– Fremantle 59
After two oh-so-close misses to make the AFLW Grand Final, Melbourne will no doubt relish the fact there is a conference system and finals at play but it goes without saying they’ll need to win games of football first.
It’s going to be a testing campaign ahead for the Dees with star Daisy Pearce missing out this season due to her pregnancy, Richelle Cranston and Mel Hickey headed to Kardinia Park and highly sought draft pick Taya Hanks facing a likely delayed start due to bone bruising in her knee.
For the Dockers, it’s been two disappointing and injury-ravaged campaigns in their initial AFLW tilt and there will be a number of new faces in the purple and white this season.
It’s reported that The Dockers could even be debuting up to nine new players for the game against Melbourne.
With Fremantle expected to play kids and Melbourne to have a more balanced and experienced line up along with playing at home expect the Dees open their third AFLW campaign with a win.
Back Melbourne against the line (-7.5) @ $1.88
Sunday 3 February, 4:05pm, Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex
Brisbane 29 - GWS 27
The Brisbane Lions who have the dubious honour of being back-to-back AFLW runners-up host the GWS Giants this Sunday in Burpengary, halfway between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
Many have written off the Lions in the first two seasons of AFLW but through gritty teamwork and an excellent gameplan, they have managed to find themselves on the big day but falling short.
Brisbane and GWS did meet in a practice match two weeks ago where the Giants thumped the Lions by 47 points with three-goal hauls from Irish recruit Cora Staunton and Aimee Schmidt.
While it may only have been a practice match, the Giants scored 11.9 (75) to Brisbane’s 4.4 (28) and with AFLW football tending to be low-scoring, it’s worth paying attention to a team with 20 scoring shots in this level of the game and in the Queensland humidity.
Over the off-season, Brisbane copped it badly from North Melbourne’s recruiting rampage. Vital players such as midfielder Kaitlyn Ashmore headed to Arden Street.
Brisbane was able to gain Lauren Arnell from Carlton, which will add some experience to the side.
Coming off thrashing the Lions in the pre-season and being one of the major improvers of last season expect the Giants to start the season off with a big win on the road.
Back GWS Giants to win @ $2.35
The inaugural edition of the AFLW could hardly have been a bigger success and the 2018 edition of the competition gets underway this weekend.
Carlton will host Collingwood in the opening game of the season on Friday Night in front of what is sure to be a massive crowd, but the highlight of the weekend could be on Saturday night when Adelaide take on the Brisbane Lions in a Grand Final rematch.
We have analysed all four games set to take place this weekend and our complete AFLW Round 1 tips can be found below.
Friday 2 February, 7:45pm, Ikon Park
Carlton 22 – Collingwood 14
The traditional rivals kick off the season and like last year, it’s expected that IKON Park will be a lockout.
After a disappointing season for the Magpies in 2017, where they lost the first three games the Magpies showed improvement by winning their last three of the inaugural AFLW season.
For the Blues, some close losses in the middle of last season cost them a chance of a grand final birth and the likes of goalkicker Darcy Vescio and defender former Matilda’s goalkeeper Brianna Davey were some of the standout players.
Carlton has also bolstered its ranks by acquiring Tayla Harris from Brisbane and Collingwood best and fairest winner Nicola Stevens defecting to the club.
Along with Stevens, the Pies also lost runner-up in their best and fairest Alicia Eva at the end of last season.
Players such as Captain Steph Chiocci and Mo Hope will need to lead the way for the Magpies for the year ahead.
The defections, especially by the likes of Stevens should add a bit more tension to what is a famous football rivalry.
On paper, Carlton’s 2018 AFLW list looks impressive and they should be too good for the Magpies on Friday night
BACK CARLTON TO BEAT THE LINE (-8.5)
Saturday 3 February, 5:05pm, Casey Fields
Melbourne 45 – GWS Giants 39
Much like their men’s team, Melbourne was denied a final by percentage on the ladder at the end of the 2017 AFLW season.
The Demons lost their first game to the Lions last season, which ultimately cost them a chance at a Grand Final.
They’ll come out in the second season of the AFLW firing and hungry to make amends.
Many experts have already pencilled in the Dees as premiership favourites this season so they’ll be wanting to make a good impression in round one.
Expect the likes of Daisy Pearce, Mel Hickey and young gun Lily Mithen to be in the Dees best.
As for the Giants, a disappointing season last year saw them take home the wooden spoon but they can expect much more improvement this year with the likes of Alicia Eva coming over from Collingwood to bolster some more experienced hands at the club.
However, come Saturday expect the Dees to get the job done and start the season off with a big win over the Giants.
BACK MELBOURNE TO BEAT THE LINE (-13.5)
Saturday 3 February, 7:15pm, Norwood Oval
Adelaide 19 – Brisbane 31
The much-anticipated rematch of last year’s AFLW Grand Final takes place at Norwood Oval this Saturday night in what should be a cracking game.
Adelaide will unfurl their 2017 AFLW premiership flag and the Lions will be hell-bent on revenge.
It will be interesting to see how Crows co-captain and AFLW MVP winner Erin Phillips this season.
Phillips, previously a WNBA player has retired from Basketball and is now focused on footy, can she get any better? The Crows are already pencilled in as premiership favourites but the Lions, who only lost the Grand Final by a kick will want a big upset in the first round.
Many wrote Brisbane off at the start of last season, and despite being unbeaten during the 2017 season and making the Grand Final many are writing the Lions off again.
Over the offseason, The Lions lost the highly fancied Tayla Harris to Carlton so the likes of captain Emma Zielke, small forward Kate McCarthy and ruck Sabrina Fredrick-Traub will step up their game to ensure the Lions can go one better in 2018.
However, on Saturday night the momentum should go the way of the Crows in a close one over the Lions.
BACK ADELAIDE AGAINST THE LINE (-9.5)
Sunday 4 February, 4:35pm, Whitten Oval
Western Bulldogs 49 – Fremantle 23
Two of the more disappointing teams of the first season of the AFLW meet on Sunday to try and make amends for themselves.
At the start of the 2017 season, both the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle were fancied as premiership favourites but didn’t deliver.
The Doggies and the Dockers won three games between them so a win in Round one of a new season is much needed to regain confidence.
For the Bulldogs, it will be interesting to see how their captain Katie Brennan performs.
Her season for the Dogs last year was interrupted by injury but she did go on in 2017 to win the VFLW’s best and fairest along with leading goalkicker playing for her state team the Darebin Falcons.
For the Dockers, their 2017 season also saw injury get in the way of their inaugural campaign.
With WA being known for being full of female talent, if the mostly WA born Freo list can gel as a team and avoid serious injury they are in for vast improvement this season.
Expect the Bulldogs to get the job done at home on Sunday afternoon.
BACK WESTERN BULLDOGS TO BEAT THE LINE (-9.5)