AFLW Round Table: What's the ideal season start? Are 50m penalties too harsh a punishment?

ACL injuries continue to be 'devastating' to AFLW (2:02)

The ESPN Footy Podcast's Anna Harrington breaks down three of the league's biggest stars suffering life-altering ACL injuries. (2:02)

With the AFLW season in full swing, our experts tackle some of the burning questions ahead of Round 2.

How should the AFLW season start?

Marnie Vinall: Not at the beginning of January! I'm a bit unsure when it should start to be honest, but the height of summer, when everyone is coming off Christmas exhaustion and there's already a saturation of sport on, doesn't seem like the right time. Not for the players, the league or the fans. Whenever it does start though, I reckon it should be a Collingwood vs. Carlton opener at IKON Park. Let's keep that tradition going, hey.

Marissa Lordanic: In many women's sports, the narratives from their male counterparts are transplanted over and expected to take immediately. The one club two teams mentality views it as we hate them so you hate them too. But rivalries don't work like that. They need substance. And that's why the Dogs and the Dees should open the AFLW season. Whether it be at Whitten Oval or Casey Fields, it's a fixture with history not only in the AFLW but before the competition even existed. The league is young enough for traditions to still be malleable and it's not too late to cement the Melbourne-Western Bulldogs rivalry as the season opener.

Jesse Robinson: I'm a traditionalist so I think we should always kick off with the Hampson-Hardeman Cup and pit the original clubs (Melbourne and Western Bulldogs) against each other to kick the season off under lights. Take the old school fans back to the days when that was all we had to watch!

Should it be a 50m penalty in the women's competition?

MV: I'd be interested to see how trialling 25m or 30m penalties work. The 50m penalty just seems far too costly in the women's league right now. As few players are able to kick that distance (and with scoring being lower than the men's counterpart comp), 50m penalties can be game-defining and feel a touch unfair. Just ask Carlton after a lack of discipline saw them concede three goals on the weekend which all but cost them the match against Collingwood.

ML: When players were simply suspended because there was no fines system, its heavy-handedness was exposed as not being fit for the realities of AFLW. In much the same way, 50m penalties have been exposed time and time again as not being fit for the realities of AFLW. This is not to say the competition should do away with the punishment but rather reduce it to 30m. The reduction is not an admission of inferiority but rather recognition that rules need to work and make sense in their practical application.

JR: Of course it should! We're playing footy. There's been enough useless rule changes for the women's comp. Reducing the penalty was a stronger argument in season one, but every year it looks less and less necessary to change it, and before you know it we'd be debating putting it back up to 50 if we were to reduce it. Also, it's a punishment, so maybe don't give them away? Looking at you, Carlton.

Which guernsey was your favourite from Round 1?

MV: This is a hard one! I'm going to go with Geelong's long-sleeved Indigenous guernsey. What a pearler.

ML: Richmond's Indigenous guernsey on Friday night was spectacular and thankfully it is not the only time we will see it this season. The Tiges have decided that the jumper -- designed by Indigenous woman Chantelle Mitchell with elements from Michelle Kerrin's design last season -- will be their clash strip for the entire year. With clubs producing some cracking guernseys for both Indigenous Round and Pride Round it makes sense that they get more wear out of them and make them a permanent part of their get-up.

JR: It'll always be the Indigenous guernseys for me, so seeing the Tigers wear it proudly and stamping it as their regular away jersey for the season is very exciting. Special mention to the Cats, Giants and Magpies for also showing off their Indigenous designs.

Which Round 2 match are you most looking forward to?

MV: Well, a day ago, I would have said the Geelong-Bulldogs clash at GMHBA Stadium but COVID news has started to dribble out from the Kennel and it's looking like a possible reschedule. So, with that in mind, I'm going with Brisbane vs. Carlton on Saturday afternoon. Both sides will be looking for their first win and wanting to prove their competitiveness, so hopefully, we'll be treated to a tight contest with plenty of high pressure. And perhaps less 50m penalties conceded on Carlton's account.

ML: Richmond vs. Melbourne will serve as an even tougher test of this impressive Tigers side and gives fans an even better indication of where this Richmond side is really at. And while in an ideal world we wouldn't have to view this policy up close this close to the start of the season (or ever), with Geelong and the Bulldogs clash in doubt due to COVID cases and a huge injury list at the Kennel, how the league navigates its first potential rescheduling will be a space to watch.

JR: Kangaroos and Adelaide is an easy choice as they are two of my premiership favourites, but I'm most excited to watch the Eagles and the Suns. Two young teams that have had their share of struggles and both will be smelling a win here to get themselves on track for the season, plus another showing of Charlie Rowbottom and Bella Lewis is always worth tuning in for.