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Siren’s 2020 AFLW All Australian Team: too many midfielders?

Picking an AFLW All Australian team is never an easy task. Finding a balanced team, with considerations toward those registering high stats, the big improvers of the year and players able to influence games the most can mean having a starting squad of 50 players before whittling it down. 

The biggest challenge of 2020 was deciding which midfielders made it into the side, and which barely missed out—one could have created a full 21 with purely mids and it would have been somewhat justified. 

So, with no further ado, here is Siren’s 2020 AFLW All Australian team.

Defenders

Libby Birch — Melbourne Demons

Birch moved to Melbourne for a challenge and to play alongside her mentor Daisy Pearce. She was key to Melbourne’s defence in 2020—the stingiest in the competition—particularly with Harriet Cordner playing much of the season up the field. Her average disposals improved on 2019—half of which were interceptions—and the structure she provided to Melbourne proved crucial.

Isabel Huntington — Western Bulldogs

Huntington’s move into defence to cover the aforementioned Birch was a surprising one, but it was a masterstroke by Nathan Burke. Her knack at reading the play and strong marking made Huntington a real asset for the Dogs who did struggle around the ground at times, and her willingness to stray forward as an option at times was important.

Daisy Pearce — Melbourne Demons

The star’s move to half back was exactly what her team needed, and assisted her return to footy by minimising her contested in and under work for the season. Pearce’s ability to assess options, hit targets and direct play was a significant aspect of Melbourne’s game all season.

Jade Pregelj — Gold Coast Suns

Pregelj wasn’t necessarily the star of the Suns, but she was crucial to their ability to slow high scoring teams and maintain the best percentage of any expansion team. Her work in one-on-one contests was hyper consistent, she led the competition for intercept possessions and her reaction time once the ball hit the ground was second to none. A proven leader at the Suns.

Kate Lutkins — Brisbane Lions (Vice Captain)

Lutkins has remained a constant for the Lions since the inception of AFLW, and she’s a real leader of their defensive unit. She’s courageous, clever and highly skilled. Second in the competition for intercept possessions, Lutkins was equal third for marks and even strayed forward to kick a goal. Kate Lutkins is a player that makes her teammates better.

Midfielders/Wingers

Ebony Antonio — Fremantle Dockers

Antonio warmed into the season, progressively gathering more touches each week (excluding round three). The ideal utility, she played right across the ground and really did fill any gaps that opened for the Dockers throughout the season, but was most important when playing on the wing. Her standout game against the Dogs in round six netted ten tackles, six marks, 19 touches and a goal—the prime example of her versatility.

Madison Prespakis — Carlton Blues

Prespakis took her game to another level this year, learning to not only deal with a tag, but to break through it. She spent more time in the middle of the ground than 2019 and really drove Carlton’s midfield all season at just 19 years of age.

Karen Paxman — Melbourne Demons

One of three players who is already a three-time All Australian, and looks to be the only one that will make it four out of four. Paxman statistically improved on her 2019 form across most parameters and became more disciplined, giving away less free kicks. Her clearance work is top rate—leading the competition with 39—and nearly half of her average disposals were contested.

Karen Paxman kicks a goal against the Western Bulldogs. AFLW All Australian. Image: Megan Brewer
Karen Paxman kicks a goal against the Western Bulldogs. Image: Megan Brewer
Kiara Bowers — Fremantle Dockers

Bowers laid 99 tackles for the season at an average of 14.14 a game—the highest in AFLW history. A stand out in a stand out (and undefeated) team, Bowers set the standard for Fremantle and really made her teammates better in doing so.

Kate Hore — Melbourne Demons

Heading into the season as one of the least accurate shots on goal across the competition—registering 1.7 in 2019—the pressure was on, and she rose to the occasion. Hore split her time between the forward line and wing with her speed assisting her work up the field. A key part of Melbourne’s round one win, it was her run and carry into the forward 50 that really turned heads, not to mention her outrageous running goal against Carlton in round six.

Forwards

Jasmine Garner — North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos (Captain)

In an ideal world Garner would be named in the midfield, but the 2020 season was overflowing with midfield talent so her hybrid game sees her pushed to half forward. Garner was the best player in the competition in 2020, and despite playing far more midfield time than she ever has in the past, she kicked the most goals of her career with eight, while nearly doubling her average disposals and tackles. That’s some season.

Kalinda Howarth — Gold Coast Suns

2020 was Howarth’s second year on an AFLW list, but first year actually taking to the field and she really made up for lost time. Kicking nine majors and going at 82% accuracy in front of goal, she was a real spark for the Suns, and was instrumental in their draw against Brisbane and win over West Coast. A dynamic player, she’s terribly difficult to stop with momentum and her skill level is in the top handful of the league.

Tayla Harris — Carlton Blues

The only player to kick a goal in every game, Harris’ way of dominating the contest, putting her body on the line and winning the ball is mighty impressive. Throughout the season Harris equalled her highest goal tally with eight, while also averaging her personal best disposals and marks. The only knock on her game really was her conversion at goal.

Caitlin Greiser — St Kilda Saints

The leading goalkicker of the 2020 home and away season, Greiser truly became a cult figure of the competition in her first season. Goaling in every game except round one, the Saint kicked 10 majors including a highlight of the season: her booming 50m goal to snatch the Saints’ first win.

Sabreena Duffy — Fremantle Dockers

A game changer for Fremantle, Duffy has an uncanny ability to find the goals even in the trickiest circumstances and has the confidence to take those chances. She kicked 12 goals for the season and like Kalinda Howarth, when she was on, she was almost impossible to stop.

Related – Feature Interview: Mim Strom & Trent Cooper

Ruck

Sharni Layton — Collingwood Magpies

Not only was Layton’s improvement into 2020 exponential, the way she impacted right across the ground was hugely important for Collingwood. She had 120 hit outs—second most in the competition—kicked three goals, registered the most disposals and tackles of any no.1 ruck in the competition and consistently took influential marks across the ground.

Interchange Bench

Jaimee Lambert — Collingwood Magpies

Started the season with a bang, and her only down game still resulted in 16 touches and six tackles in Collingwood’s win over Brisbane. Averaging more than 22 touches a game, the only way Lambert could have possibly improved was hitting the scoreboard more consistently like we’ve seen she can in the past, having kicked just the three goals in 2020.

Phoebe Monahan — Richmond Tigers

Monahan stood very strong under duress all season as the leader of Richmond’s defence. Her bounce out of the back half eased the pressure momentarily for the Tigers, and in doing so registered the second-most meters gained in the league and the most rebound 50s.

Ash Riddell — North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos

Riddell had the season she was revving up for in 2019 before getting injured. A key part of North Melbourne’s dominant midfield, her hard running, tough in and under work and ball winning ability compliments her teammates perfectly, and her consistency week to week was magnificent.

Alyce Parker — Greater Western Sydney Giants

Parker has always been a prolific ball winner, but this year found a way to go to that next level when it came to her clearance work and ball use. Her growth throughout 2020 was imposing, and the way she bounced back after being shut out of the Giant’s round four game against Brisbane was particularly impressive from such a young player.

Dana Hooker — West Coast Eagles

One of the most reliable performers since the competition’s inception, Hooker battled strongly as a leader of her expansion club, and was kicked in the head more than once while doing it. She scored the first goal in the Eagles’ history and registered almost 20 touches and seven tackles a game.

Related – Feature Interview: Michelle Cowan


Stiff to miss

Gemma Houghton — Fremantle Dockers

Led the competition for score involvements but struggled to convert, kicking 4.10 for the season.

Anne Hatchard & Ebony Marinoff — Adelaide Crows

Improved again on their impressive 2019 seasons, but in the most competitive position on the ground they were squeezed out.

Brianna Davey — Collingwood Magpies

Took a little while to get going and was hampered by injury early, but played great footy in the back half of the season.

Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw — Brisbane Lions

Was an important forward target for the Lions early, but faded toward the back half of the season as part of a young team.

Kerryn Harrington — Carlton Blues

Tough and used the ball really well all season. Probably the most unlucky to miss out.

Emma Swanson — West Coast Eagles

Had the tough job of captaining an expansion side with lots of travel in the tougher conference. Led by example with her hardness at the ball and gut running.


Coach

Peta Searle — St Kilda Saints

Her list build and then team strategy throughout the season was one of the most impressive we’ve witnessed in AFLW. Searle targeted players desperate for another chance at senior level and reliable role players in the VFLW, who were complimented by smart draft selections. As a team they focused on the basics, strangling opposition and limiting even the highest scoring teams. The consistency they showed right through the season, not fading late as expansion teams are wont to do, was an indicator of their strong culture and close bond as a team.


Agree? Disagree? Comment below with your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Siren’s 2020 AFLW All Australian Team: too many midfielders?

  1. Great team – can’t really disagree with any of the selections. Quite incredible that Jas Garner gets pushed to the forward line, midfield talent in 2020 was amazing and only going to get better with the likes of Egan and Patrikios getting more expereince.

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