Our AFLW experts tackle some of the burning questions ahead of Round 6, including what has been the biggest surprise of the season, whether Adelaide's record-breaking win its good or bad for the league, and more.
What has been the biggest surprise so far this season?
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Sarah Burt: Fremantle's performance. They lost their first three games, drew one and finally won their first game in Round 5. In the last two seasons they finished fifth on the ladder and only lost two games in season six. In 2020 they finished at the top of Conference B and second in Conference A in 2019, so it's been surprising to see their scorecard. Although they are missing some of their strongest players in Ebony and Kara Antonio who are injured, and lost star forward Gemma Houghton to Port Adelaide, they still have the likes of Hayley Miller and Kiara Bowers but can't seem to find the strength they used to have in their forward line.
Marissa Lordanic: At the halfway point of season seven, it is hard to look past the Tigers' victory over Brisbane as the biggest surprise so far. It was the most unexpected result and the definition of an upset. Brisbane was undefeated up until that point with a percentage higher than 300; Richmond was 2-2 before the clash. Much like the Bulldogs' one-point win over the Crows last season, this game is currently the top contender for most surprising result of the season.
Jesse Robinson: In a season packed full of surprises, Richmond knocking off Brisbane in Round 5 was the thing that surprised me most. Coming into the season and based on their early-season form, I genuinely believed the Lions would go undefeated on their way to another Grand Final berth and their second flag. I still think they'll cruise home but the Adelaide game in Round 8 will be one to eagerly watch as it cold now have minor premiership ramifications.
Is Adelaide's record winning margin a good or bad sign for the league?
SB: Large margins are not exclusive to AFLW at all - just look at the men's Grand Final score over the weekend. I don't think there is cause for alarm for the league unless we begin to repeatedly see these results, which we aren't yet. I think the answer would be different if this was an expansion side which had entered the league this year, as it may raise some questions around the shorter pre-season, draft and trade periods or lack of notice for the new season dates but because both the Giants and Adelaide have played in the league before I think in this context it's just a big margin and doesn't need to be evaluated in depth just yet.
ML: The problem with a result like Adelaide's record win happening in a women's sporting league is that rather than being used to criticise and laud the Giants and Crows respectively, it is used as ammunition to dismiss and belittle women's sport as a whole. No one has questioned the validity and integrity of the entire men's competition after Geelong's 81-point win over the Swan's in the grand final. Sometimes thumpings happen and they're unpleasant. But in a round that also had three matches decided by less than a goal, a blowout like this is an outlier and not as reflective of the overall league as it's sometimes purported to be.
JR: It's easy to point at one lopsided result and sound the alarm, it also takes way too much credit away from Adelaide to call it a bad sign for the league. If you can show me a competition where there aren't blowouts, let alone in a competition still in its early years I'll be shocked, the AFLM Grand Final wasn't exactly a gripping affair. The AFL will always strive for an "any given Sunday" mentality where every game is decided by one point but that's simply unrealistic. For every Adelaide/GWS blowout there's the shock of an undefeated Brisbane team being taken down by Richmond, this is just a natural part of growing a league and is inevitable.
Expansion sides: where are they at and where are they going?
SB: Sydney: Bottom of the ladder, they've lost all their games. It's not looking great.
Essendon: Two wins, three losses but have shown some promise. It'll be a tough slog for them against Brisbane this week but after the Lions shock loss to Richmond they might be in with a chance.
Port Adelaide: They've started to fire up after two losses at the start of the season, with a win and a draw. If they can hold their own against the Crows it could be a promising second half of the season.'
Hawthorn: Have finally got a win on the board, but not by much, percentage wise they're still second to wooden spoon.
ML: Sydney: It was set to be a rough season for the Swans and those predictions have so far come to fruition. The game against Hawthorn was their best and if they continue looking at this season as a building one, while putting in more showings like they did against the Hawks, this season will by no means be a waste.
Essendon: They've so far lived up to expectations as the best of the expansion sides, picking up wins and suffering narrow losses. The next step for these Bombers is consistency.
Port Adelaide: Recruited a mix of youth and experience and a mixed bag of results sums up their season so far. Their young brigade have announced themselves to the league and the Power will want wins to come next.
Hawthorn: Finally picked up their first win of the season against the Swans and showed fans exactly what the Hawks could look like. Showing it against more established opposition as the season progresses will be a win for the team.
JR: Sydney: No wins to show yet but there are positive signs for the future. Montana Ham looks every bit the player we all hoped but the Swans leadership will already be looking beyond this season and hoping that the talent pathways in NSW can support them and GWS well. The first quarter against Hawthorn was great but the ensuing collapse is cause for concern.
Essendon: The pick of the expansion bunch and exceeding expectations, led by Prespakis, Toogood and Cain the Bombers are having an instant impact in their first season that the other expansion clubs would be incredibly envious of, and could even sneak into finals if some results fall their way.
Port Adelaide: There is some really exciting talent on the books here but they aren't quite turning it into results. Indy Tahau, Hannah Ewings, Jacqui Yorston and Abbey Dowrick are all providing some strong support to Erin Phillips and the injured Gemma Houghton to make Port look like a competitive outfit. Only one win on the board so far but a percentage of 114 tells me more wins are coming.
Hawthorn: The lack of superstar recruiting has reared it's head early. Kaitlyn Ashmore, Aileen Gilroy and Tilly Lucas-Rodd are guns but can't do it all themselves. There are green shoots (Jas Fleming in particular) and securing the comeback win against the Swans was important but it could be a rough back half of the season in brown and gold. I trust Bec Goddard to set them up well for the future though.