Who are the AFLW 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?
Collingwood's Imogen Evans and GWS' Isadora McLeay have listed the players you need to keep an eye on in Season 8.
This isn't just a countdown of the competition's biggest names, but a ranking of the must-watch players in Season 8 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.
10. Tayla Harris (Melbourne)
Harris is undeniably a household name, leading the all-time goals scored (58) in the AFLW. Not to mention her boxing talent creates another point of difference and interest in her game. As always, who couldn't be excited to see Harris' athleticism and physicality in the reigning premiers' forward line, and maybe a cheeky specky or two? Harris had a total of 41 marks, 121 disposals, and 11 goals during last year's season 7, and should again have a big role to play for the Demons.
9. Isabel Huntington (GWS)
After rupturing her ACL for a third time at the start of Season 6, it has been nearly two years since we have seen Izzy Huntington back in action. And yep, we're excited! A superstar the AFLW has missed, the versatile forward -- who was an All-Australian as a halfback in 2020 -- will fit perfectly in the Giants forward line, particularly following the retirement of goal kicker Cora Staunton. Huntington was traded from the Dogs, who formerly selected her with pick No. 1 in the national draft, after Season 7 mid knee rehab, and her exploits at her former club makes her an obvious must-watch for the orange and charcoal. The 24-year-old is an athletic tall who is outstanding overhead, has a booming kick, and provides plenty of X-factor, while there's no doubt she will perfectly compliment rising star Georgia Garnett in the forward 50.
8. Chloe Molloy (Sydney)
Molloy is a player with both talent and flare who famously made the big move from Collingwood up to Sydney in the offseason. Molloy has also been voted into captaincy for Season 8, which increases her responsibility off-field. But with that responsibility, we think she can thrive. The Swans are a very young group coming off a winless maiden season in the competition, which raises even more interest in how Molloy will lead the side, and hopefully improve the team's performance.
7. Monique Conti (Richmond)
Monique Conti is a very classy and highly skillful footballer. In Season 7 she worked her way into becoming one of the best pure midfielders in the game, averaging 21.7 disposals and finishing second overall in both the AFLW best and fairest and AFL coaches' association player of the year award. Rightly, she also featured in last season's All-Australian team. Conti is a great ball user, while she is evasive in traffic and hard to stop once she gathers the footy from a stoppage. Conti's ability to also hunt her opponent, as well as the ball, is second to none. Last season, the 23-year-old grew even more as a player offensively by kicking nine goals, and if she can continue to grow and impact the scoreboard, she'll become an even bigger threat. A star of the competition, best and fairest-calibre player, and a headache for the opposition!
6. Gabby Newton (Western Bulldogs)
After a double shoulder reconstruction ruled her out in Season 6 followed her promising first season, Newton took Season 7 by storm. Converting from a midfielder to a forward, Newton had to help fill a void in the Western Bulldogs' forward line after the losses of Huntington (GWS) and Bonnie Toogood (Essendon), and she stepped up. Newly appointed into the leadership group, 2023 looks to shape up to be an even bigger season for the former No. 1 draft pick. Growing in confidence and with leadership experience, it will be fun to see the 21-year-old relish a new challenge. Her versatility, aerial skills, football smarts, and forward craft makes her such a key presence in every line for the Dogs.
5. Jesse Wardlaw (St Kilda)
At the age of 23, Jesse Wardlaw has already achieved so much, and is coming off a very successful Season 7 which saw her win the leading goal kicker award (19 goals from nine games). She was also selected in the AFLPA 22 under 22 and All-Australian team. A premiership Lion from 2021, Wardlaw remains one of the most exciting players in the competition, and will be surrounded by new teammates after making one of the biggest offseason moves when signing with St Kilda. Wardlaw has been a highlight reel from her debut, an electrifying star that plays with a lot of flair and has a lot of talent. She's A great focal point to have in a forward line with her speed, strong marking ability and accurate kick - it's everything you want. There's no doubt Wardlaw will have an immediate impact and be one of the big reasons why the Saints improve this year.
4. Jasmine Fleming (Hawthorn)
Fleming is a dazzling up and comer that impressed right from the get-go in 2022. The 18-year-old has also been included in this year's leadership group for the Hawks - a nice feather in the cap for a rising star of the competition. This year, we're keen to see what she'll bring to her dynamic game after she looked one of the most composed, experienced players on the field each week despite her age (highlighting the strength of the youth coming through the talent pathways). Fleming received a rising star nomination in Round 5 last year and finished third in the club's best and fairest award after averaging 14.4 disposals, 4.3 tackles, 3.2 clearances, 8.7 contested possessions, and 224.1 metres gained per game.
3. Georgie Prespakis (Geelong)
Georgie Prespakis is a 20-year-old star and one that continues to impress every time she steps onto the field. Prespakis, the younger sister of Essendon's Madison, is an intelligent midfielder who slotted in amongst the best in the competition with ease as soon as she debuted two seasons ago. We're sure it's just a matter of time until she is threatening the league's incumbent best players to take home the W Award. Last year, Prespakis finished her season with 196 disposals, and averaged 7.2 tackles and nearly 332 metres gained on her way to her first All-Australian selection. Keep an eye on her this season, as Geelong are looking strong ahead of Season 8 and there's no doubt she'll have another big role to play.
2. Emily Bates (Hawthorn)
The former Brisbane Lion and AFLW best and fairest winner is a damaging force through the middle of the ground and is set to be a key presence in the Hawks' engine room by bringing big clearance numbers and a natural ball-winning ability. Coming off what some would say was a 'quieter' Season 7 compared to Season 6 where she did a clean sweep of the main AFLW awards, Bates was still able to average 18.2 touches, 6.5 tackles, and over 10 clearances. It will be exciting to see how Bates adjusts to a less-experienced midfield group compared to the premiership midfield she was a part of at Brisbane. She's a smart footballer, a great two-way player, a good ball-user and will be very difficult for the opposition to shut down. Not to mention her work ethic, consistency and resilience throughout games further eye-catching traits for fans to enjoy.
1. Brianna Davey (Collingwood)
We'd be lying if we said the whole AFLW competition wasn't excited to see Davey cross that white line in Season 8. Winning the AFLW best and fairest award in 2021 (along with Fremantle's Kiara Bowers), Bri left her mark on the competition though her stellar contest craft and physical presence. But she's been robbed of essentially two full seasons after rupturing her ACL in the first game of Season 6. Davey is undeniably one of the best players in the competition, a force to be reckoned with that opposition players and coaches will have no choice but to address, and has the rare ability to take complete control of a game. Captaining the Pies once again, Davey is our number one must-watch player for Season 8.