Leading from the front: Experienced champions dominating Season 8

Across the first two rounds of AFLW, certain players across the competition are continuing to prove that no matter their age or time in the competition, they'll continue to dominate for their respective clubs.

From returning from ACL injuries to stepping up in the absence of departing players, experienced players across the league are continuing to make an impact in season eight.

When the first season of AFLW took place, most players that were drafted or selected as marquee signings had to take a substantial break from the game as they were told they were no longer able to play with the boys around the age of 12 or 13.

This happened to many of the league's stars, such as Darcy Vescio and Daisy Pearce, who didn't return to the game until years later to play in senior competitions like the VFLW. Then you've got the likes of Erin Phillips and Ash Brazill who played Aussie Rules growing up, before playing at the elite level in basketball (WNBA) and netball (Suncorp Super Netball) respectively.

Now that there's a fully fledged pathway from Auskick to the AFLW, there's no need for the players coming into the competition to have to give up playing the game that they love, with youth girls and senior women's competitions being played right across the country. Which is why the likes of the Prespakis sisters and Charlie Rowbottom, for example, have made big impacts almost straight away, as there was a stronger pathway when they were coming through the ranks.

As years go on, the standard of the game gets higher and the competition slowly becomes more elite when it comes to the training environments. You've seen the players like Bri Davey, Vescio and Ally Anderson to name a few continue to dominate and get better as seasons pass.

Vescio's first round performance against the Gold Coast Suns back in Round 1 was arguably the difference between the two sides on the day. With Vescio booting three goals to go with 17 disposals and two marks, they were a real focal point in the Carlton forward line which will no doubt continue as the season goes on.

Vescio's former teammate Davey had a comeback to remember in the season opener, with the Pies captain missing practically the last two AFLW seasons after sustaining an ACL injury in the first round of season six.

The former soccer goalkeeper made her long awaited return against the Demons and picked up right where she left off, playing almost everywhere -- finding herself in the middle, deep forward and down back on occasions when Magpies coach Steve Symonds needed his captain -- and dominating. Davey did her best work in the middle, bursting out of stoppages with her strength and speed, and finished the match with 36 disposals, 11 clearances, a goal and five tackles.

Reigning league best and fairest winner Anderson has also stepped up this season with the loss of Emily Bates in the Brisbane midfield, the Bates-Anderson combination once a focal point of the Lions' engine room dating back to the inaugural season in 2017.

The departure of Bates has meant more reliance on Anderson and a bigger load to shoulder, but she's only thrived. The 29-year-old had a best on ground performance in round two against Port Adelaide, gathering 36 disposals, 3 tackles, and 5 clearances.

While she's a ball magnet, what makes Anderson the player she is is her ferocity around the contest, which sets her a level above. Across the first two rounds Anderson has had a combined 11 tackles, eight of which were in the Lions' six-point loss against the Tigers in round one.

Now that Bates has departed Brisbane, Ash Riddell and Jasmine Garner are putting their hands up as the best one-two midfield punch in the game, their performances across the opening two rounds of season eight as good as anyone.

The pair currently top the league in disposals, each with a 32.5 average after two games. The pair were unstoppable against Carlton on the weekend, with both players picking up 36 touches and 10 tackles. They also had 13 clearances and 16 score involvements between them.

There were some minor concerns surrounding North Melbourne's midfield with the loss of premiership Bulldog Jenna Bruton to injury, but both Riddell and Garner have stepped up to new levels. Then you look at the addition of Kate Shierlaw up forward, and it's easy to see why the Kangaroos will be a difficult team to beat, regardless of the ruthlessness of their midfield duo.

Looking to the reigning premiers, newly appointed captain Kate Hore is also flourishing in her new role. In Round 1, Hore was the player that really stepped up in the second half against Collingwood and helped the Dees sway momentum in their favour, after the Pies held a surprising half time lead. Coach Mick Stinear injected his skipper into the midfield to start the third quarter, and from there the game turned.

In Round 2, Hore was a focal point up forward kicking five goals against the Giants, three of which coming in the first quarter. Along with her five goals, Hore had 23 disposals, eight marks, and six tackles. If the Demons skipper continues the way she's going, she's in for a career-best season and is no doubt in early All-Australian contention.

This list goes on, with new Hawk Greta Bodey settling quite nicely into life in the brown and gold, sealing the side's first win of the season with a clutch late goal against the Bulldogs. Former pup Bonnie Toogood is becoming a real presence up forward for the Bombers, and has played a massive role in the club's 2-0 start.

So while there's plenty of young talent to be excited about, and junior pathways ensuring positive development, it's going to be the likes of Hore, Anderson, Garner or Davey -- just to name a few, at least if the first two weeks are going to be any indication -- that will rise to the occasion when it comes to bringing home the all important premiership.