Who are the players you just love watching? You know, not necessarily favourites from the team you support, but the players from across the league who stop you in your tracks and make you tune in anytime, anywhere?
Welcome to ESPN's first edition of the Top 20 Must-Watch AFLW Players list.
This isn't a countdown of the competition's finest players, but a ranking of the players we simply can't wait to watch in action in 2022. It's a mix of the game's superstars, big names who have switched clubs, young guns who look ready to explode, top draftees or basically anyone who will have us jumping out of our seats in excitement in 2022.
We revealed the players ranked 20-11 last week. This is the top 10.
10. Karen Paxman
An original Demon whose hair is good but whose skills are even better, Karen Paxman is the kind of player you wish played for your side. She is a picture of consistency in every sense. Paxman is a constant ball magnet who regularly ranks among the top ball getters. She's also a perennial All-Australian, having made the squad every year, and has yet to miss a game at Melbourne; both she and the club have played 39 AFLW matches. Her leadership will be super important to the Dees this season.
9. Emma Kearney
An all-rounder in the midfield, Emma Kearney is set to lead the Kangaroos once again as they look to build on 2021. With the ability to run all day, plenty of smarts, and a clean user of the football by hand and by foot, Kearney's presence and value in the North midfield cannot be understated. Her consistent place in the All-Australian squad is unsurprising but she will be hoping for some team success on top of her individual plaudits this season.
8. Kiara Bowers
Last season was a long time coming for Kiara Bowers. Adjudged the joint best and the fairest in the league last season was well overdue recognition for Fremantle's premier midfielder. Who knows how many more accolades Bowers could have accumulated if not for her back-to-back ACL injuries. A tackling machine who loves a big occasion, Bowers will once again be integral to this Freo side and their quest for a premiership.
7. Chloe Molloy
Chloe Molloy is the epitome of having the range. With the ability to play across the park and exceptional kicking no matter her position, she is invaluable. Last season saw her settle into a forward role with 16 goals in 11 matches, making her the club's leading goalscorer. Molloy's contributions on the scoreboard will be important to Collingwood's fight for the flag as will her combination with the likes of offseason recruits Sabrina Fredrick and Imogen Barnett.
6. Bri Davey
Bri Davey was dominant last season. Highlighting her list of plaudits were AFLW and Collingwood best and fairests, All-Australian captaincy, and the recognition of her peers as the AFL Players' Association's MVP. A ball winner who racked up disposals, tackles, and clearances last season, the Pies' tilt at a flag won't fall solely on the shoulders of Davey but a good season from the co-captain puts them in a strong position.
5. Darcy Vescio
2016 marquee player signing and now Carlton fan-favourite and co-vice captain, Darcy Vescio very rarely disappoints. Proving their natural footballing ability, the key forward broke the record for most AFLW career goals last season, reaching 40 in Round 8. Their athleticism and ball skills have also contributed to them being a two-time All Australian, two-time league leading goalkicker and three-time Carlton leading goalkicker, while last season they took home the 2021 club best and fairest award.
4. Tayla Harris
Arguably the most well-known face of the AFLW, Tayla Harris is heading back to Melbourne after her latest stint at Carlton. And when she's on the field, you can expect to hear 'what a grab!' from the commentary booth. Her forward pressure, overheard marking ability, inflight prowess and renowned kicking strength makes the two-time All Australian an invaluable asset in the forward line. If she can get the ball in her hands, there's a good chance it'll end up between the two centre goal posts. Now it's time again to see what she can do for the Dees.
3. Ellie Blackburn
Three-time All-Australian and premiership player, Western Bulldogs' skipper Ellie Blackburn is increasingly becoming one of the biggest names in the comp. She had an astonishing last season, averaging 19.6 disposals, 3.2 clearances and 5.3 tackles per game. She's also familiar with putting points on the board, contributing five goals in the first four games of season 2021. If history is anything to go by, 2022 is set to be another big year for beloved Bulldog.
2. Maddy Prespakis
Mady Prespakis is an all-star player of the game. She's a contentious midfielder with proven chops in the forward line and has the kind of composure, poise and game sense that coaches dream of and opponents fear. She's also got accolades in spades to prove it: AFLPA 2019 AFLW Best First year Player, 2019 NAB AFLW Rising Star and All-Australian, 2019 and 2020 Carlton best and fairest and 2020 AFLW best and fairest. And on the stats front, her disposal count in 2020 didn't drop below 17, which is indicative of her reliability and consistency. Able to mark, contest the ball, tackle and score goals, it's fair to say she's a genuine weapon on the field, both on the ground and in the air.
1. Courtney Hodder
Can you feel that? It's getting Hodder in here. Lions forward Courtney Hodder delivers some of the most exciting moments in the league. The former rugby union star's turbo pace and nifty footwork gifts the game the kind of goals that make you go 'how?'. Whether it's a banana, a tap or a long-range kick, her boot can get fans on their feet, turn games around and steal the show. Given how lethal she is in the forward 50, she'd also definitely be making the opposition's list each week of one to try and stop.