Two new teams, two new conference and two weeks of finals.
It’s AFLW like you’ve never seen it before.
And with all the firsts come a host of unknowns.
Will Geelong and North Melbourne sink or swim? Will the new rules make the game a better spectacle? And will the Magpies finally start the season with a win?
Here are five burning questions ahead of Round One.
Can the Pies spoil the Cats’ welcoming party?
The 2019 AFLW season kicks off with new team Geelong hosting Collingwood. While the Cats mightn’t have assembled the most talented list, this team has ample experience and played lots of games on GMHBA Stadium with the VFLW team. And when you consider Collingwood has started slowly in its previous two campaigns, the Pies might be up against it to record a Round 1 victory.
Will North live up to the hype in their first ever game?
The Kangaroos’ list management team has done an excellent job assembling a list from scratch that is a huge chance to contend for the AFLW premiership in Year 1. Led by Emma Kearney, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Jess Duffin, Jasmine Garner and Emma King, the Roos’ list is jam-packed with AFLW experience and talent. Expect them to make a statement this weekend against Carlton, who should still improve in 2019 after claiming the 2018 wooden spoon.
What can we expect from Erin Phillips?
Firstly, it’s great to have her back — and, hopefully, fit and firing. After winning every possible award in the inaugural 2017 AFLW season, including the league best and fairest and grand final best on ground medal, Phillips managed just five games in 2018 as she was hampered by a quad injury. But it’s a different story this season, with Phillips recently saying she’s feeling stronger than ever. Don’t rule her out for a second best and fairest medal.
Could Round 1 be a reality check for the Lions?
Yes, for several reasons. Following two heartbreaking grand final losses, Fox Footy commentator Kate Sheahan suggested it would be difficult for the Lions to contend this season after losing multiple big-name players, including Kaitlyn Ashmore to North Melbourne. And in Round 1, they come up against a strong Giants outfit that hasn’t had too much list turnover from last year and should be in finals contention this year.
Will the new rules will make AFLW a better spectacle?
Of the nine rule changes that we’ll see in the AFL this year, eight of them will also be taken into AFLW, except the runner/water carrier restrictions due to the weather and ability to instruct players new to the game more directly. That means we’ll see a 5-6-5 set-up at centre bounces, quicker kick-in allowances and tighter adjudications on defenders at 50m penalties this weekend. And, remember, there are two unique AFLW rules: Last touch out-of-bounds between the arcs and boundary throw-ins 10m from the boundary line. During recent practice games, a lot more of the game was played through the corridor. Hopefully we see that, not only this weekend but all season.
Published by Ben Waterworth, 1st February 2019 on foxsports.com