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ESPN's top 20 must-watch AFLW players for season seven: 20-11

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 annual Top 20 Must-Watch Players list.

This isn't just a countdown of the competition's biggest names, but a ranking of the players we simply can't wait to watch in action in season seven of the AFLW. 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 we will be watching with interest in the upcoming season.

This is the players ranked 20 to 11, with the top 10 to be revealed on Friday, August 19.


20. J'Noemi Anderson

Taken at pick 16 in this season's draft from the Sandringham Dragons, Anderson has a sporting pedigree which makes her worth watching. She has three siblings who have or currently still play in the AFL or AFLW. The sister of North Melbourne's Jed, Anderson is the first Indigenous AFLW player signed to St Kilda. The 17-year-old from Warumungu Country is known for her strong overhead grabs and tackling style.

19. Georgia Patrikios

Georgia Patrikios' absence from the first season of this year dominated the discussions around the Saints and with good reason. In 2021, she became an All-Australian and won her second St Kilda best and fairest. She led the club with an average of 23.9 disposals, 360.1 metres gained, 34 clearances, and 26 score involvements. With the relaxing of league vaccine rules, her return has dominated discussion in much the same way as her absence. How she fits back into AFLW after missing a season and whether or not her return will be enough to lift the Saints' fortunes have become the topics du jour and remain to be seen.

18. Ebony Marinoff

Since being Adelaide's first pick in the inaugural AFLW Draft, Marinoff has accumulated a list of accolades a mile long. She's won the 2017 NAB AFLW Rising Star, been a part of two premiership teams, been named Adelaide's best and fairest and made the All-Australian team three times. She is a hard working midfielder who excels at stoppages and is consistently a fan favourite to watch.

17. Hayley Miller

The Fremantle captain comes into this season off the back of a stellar season six. Her leadership in what was a trying season for both Western Australian clubs thanks to border closures was superb and the responsibility of the captaincy seemed to suit her well. Miller was All-Australian for the first time, and was Freo's joint top scorer with 10 goals, registered a club-high 39 marks, 73 tackles, and 45 score involvements. That goal scoring ability is set to become even more important in season seven with the Dockers now without their other three top scorers: Gemma Houghton (Port Adelaide) and Ebony Antonio (PCL injury) and Kara Antonio (Hamstring).

16. Montana Ham

Just like every number one draft pick before her and every number one draft pick that will come after her, there will be close attention paid to Montana Ham as she runs out in the red and white. Ham's numbers in both NAB League and national championships have made it easy to see why she was rated so highly. Ham also appears to be the ultimate versatile player. Her new coach, Scott Gowans has lauded her clean hands and work ethic. With plenty of height and an appetite for contested footy, she may just pop up anywhere from the half back line, the midfield, or inside forward 50.

15. Karen Paxman

If you have trouble finding her, look for the mullet. Known to fans and teammates alike as 'Paxy', the midfielder hasn't missed a game since the competition's inception in 2017 and has managed to make the All-Australian team five times out of her six seasons. Paxman -- an elite runner and ruthless midfielder -- was also a joint club best and fairest winner last year.

14. Ruby Schleicher

Schleicher hails from WA with a basketball background, and has been with the Magpies since the inaugural season in 2017. A dual All-Australian, the 24-year-old is one of the strongest defenders in the competition, averaging 18 disposals, five marks and five contested possessions a game last season. In the absence of star midfielders Bri Davey and Brit Bonnic to injury, it will be interesting to see how Schleicher steps up both on and off field in the leadership team. Is a permanent move to the middle beckoning? Watch this space.

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'It was pretty emotional': Davey on suffering second ACL injury

Best and fairest winner Bri Davey reveals the difficulty of rupturing her ACL during the filming of the AFLW's new documentary.

13. Emma Kearney

There is simply no more consistent player in the history of the AFLW than North captain Emma Kearney. Season six saw her become the only player to have made every single All-Australian team. Her ferocity and hardness in midfield is well known but she isn't a one trick pony. Kearney has been able to produce the same elite efforts she did in the midfield off half back when she was switched there for season six. This evolution makes her consistency all the more impressive.

12. Darcy Vescio

The 2016 marquee player signing and now Carlton mainstay is not only entertaining to watch with a footy in their hand but is a known jokester around the league. Watching Darcy will never disappoint, from their exaggerated goal celebrations to passionate huddle speeches, the key forward broke the record for most AFLW career goals last year before being overtaken by Lion Jess Wuetschner. The two-time All Australian, two-time league leading goalkicker and three-time Carlton leading goalkicker took home the 2021 club best and fairest award last year and is showing no sign of slowing down in season seven.

11. Kiara Bowers

A tackling machine whose importance to Fremantle cannot be understated, Kiara Bowers is always one to watch. Despite missing a month and a half of the home and away season due to suspension and injury, Bowers was still the Dockers' leading tackler with 92 and averaged 6.8 clearances per game. Fremantle are a better side with Bowers in it, as evidenced by their record without her during season six. Much like Miller, Bowers' role for the Dockers will be even more important than usual if the team in purple is to finally get their hands on a flag.