The AFLW season is mere days away and the excitement heading into another footy season is beginning to mount.
This is the fourth season of the Australian Women’s Football League [AFLW], and if the competition needed a slogan, it might be called the ‘Season of the Unknown’ – not even the most ardent fan can predict what will happen.
Joining last year’s ten teams are St Kilda, West Coast, Gold Coast and West Coast Eagles.
With the four new teams entering, the talent pool has been stretched even further, which could create a large gap between the quality of the teams in the competition. There are about 100 new AFLW players more than compared to last season.
This large influx of players includes international additions from Ireland. Last year, the Irish representation in the AFLW came from Ailish Conisdine, Cora Staunton, Sarah Rowe, Yvonne Bonner and Aisling McCarthy.
Ailish Conisdine helped the Adelaide Crows to championship glory, Staunton and Bonner flew the flag for Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants, Tipperary All-Ireland winner Aisling McCarthy starred for the Western Bulldogs and Mayo’s Sarah Rowe impressed at Collingwood.
All five players have re-signed for their Australian clubs while several other prominent ladies footballers secured deals for the 2020 season. The total number of Irish players in this years AFLW has tripled with the number increasing to 18 – 11 counties will be represented across 11 clubs.
With the opening round of fixtures taking place this weekend, 15 of the Irish players down under have been selected for round one, with 10 of those in the starting line-up.
The opening game of the season will see Richmond and Carlton square off at Ikon Park on 7 February under the Friday Night Lights. Fermanagh captain Joanne Doonan, who captained her side to the 2019 All-Ireland Junior football final, will tog out for the Carlton Blues this season and starts at half-forward.
Mayo legend Cora Staunton will make her full return to the AFLW after a horrendous career-threatening leg break last May. Staunton suffered the injury while playing in the AFL Sydney Premier Division. The 38-year old will once again line out for the GWS Giants, where she has featured heavily notching 11 goals in 14 games. Her teammate and Donegal superstar Yvonne Bonner begins her second season in the AFLW on the interchange bench for GWS, as they take on newcomers Gold Coast.
Dublin’s history making All-Ireland winner and All-Star Sinéad Goldrick is set for her AFLW debut with Melbourne. She will come up against a familiar face in what is a Melbourne derby, as they take on North Melbourne where 2017 All-Star Mayo midfielder Aileen Gilroy has been selected on the interchange bench.
Ailish Considine, a 2019 AFLW winner in her debut season, begins the season on the interchange bench for the reigning 2019 champions, Adelaide Crows. The Crows take on Brisbane who start 21-year old Tipperary dual-star, Orla O’Dwyer, on the interchange bench.
Another Tipp star, and All-Ireland winner Aisling McCarthy, starts her second season with the Western Bulldogs against St Kilda who are fresh to the league. This year McCarthy is joined by Donegal star Katy Herron who came through the CrossCoders programme. St Kilda features Co. Down’s Clara Fitzpatrick who was signed by the Saints last year, after originally making the move down under in 2016.
Mayo superstar Sarah Rowe is back for her second season at Collingwood and lines up on the interchange bench in the season opener. The Mayo star is joined on the interchange bench by Breffni forward Aishling Sheridan. Collingwood face West Coast Eagles who themselves are newcomers to the league. It will be a case of familiar faces in this game as Mayo sisters Niamh and Grace Kelly, who signed for the West Coast Eagles ahead of their inaugural season, start.
Last but not least, Fremantle take on Geelong. The 2018 LGFA Junior Player of the Year and Louth captain Kate Flood will line out for Fremantle.
The 2020 season will run for eight home-and-away games, with three weeks of finals. The Grand Final will be held on Saturday, 18 April.