Channel 7 presenter and former Adelaide AFLW player Abbey Holmes has revealed her predictions for the upcoming season, who to look out for and her thoughts on some of the new rules in place.
The 2023 AFLW season kicks off on Friday night with reigning premiers Melbourne Demons and Collingwood doing battle at Ikon Park.
“I think each and every year, the calibre of the competition gets bigger, better, faster, stronger,” Holmes told 7NEWS.com.au.
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“The athletes just come out after a huge pre-season, just itching at the bit and rearing to go… So I have no doubt in my mind that season eight will be the best one yet in terms of what the athletes produce and the product itself.
“But I think for me, personally, obviously, this will be the second season that we’ve had all 18 clubs represented. So I’m really excited to see how those expansion clubs like the Port Adelaide, Sydney, Essendon and Hawthorn go.”
Channel 7 AFL commentator Abbey Holmes. Credit: Dylan Burns/Getty Images
After one season of all 18 clubs in the AFLW competition, this is the first where every side has been given equal time to conduct a comprehensive pre-season.
The four most recent expansion sides had very minimal notice that they would be fielding a side for their first season, with the AFL announcing that there would be a second AFLW season in 2022, beginning just four months after April’s grand final.
This left the new entrants in a desperate scramble to assemble a list and train players, as well as attempt to conduct a pre-season.
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“Now they’ve had another pre-season under their belt, and another draft, so they’ve each kind of brought in some top-end talent into their list. So I’m really excited to see how far the expansion teams can push in season eight, for sure,” Holmes said.
As well as the addition of more teams, there was player movement galore, with 10 per cent of players finding new homes, including some of the biggest names.
“I did see an article actually, I think it was with Chloe Molloy, and she said that obviously she loved Collingwood, and she was so comfortable there and happy to stay, but it was that decision was ultimately bigger than just her,” Holmes said.
“She as a player and as a representative of the AFLW, she feels she has the responsibility to help grow the game in other states and territories, so she’s gone up to New South Wales, which traditionally hasn’t been an AFL state.
“Even Emily Bates, you know, leaving Brisbane, which was her home, she’s tasted a lot of success with the Lions, a league MVP, she’s won three or four club best and fairest as well as the premiership … so to come to Hawthorn and start a fresh and really, into that midfield and the playing group as a whole and just bring that experience and that grunt she’s known for, the competition needed it.
“I’m so proud of the women for chasing opportunities at different clubs. It’s good to see.”
On who fans should keep their eyes on, Holmes has a few tips ahead of the season’s first bounce.
“I’m very intrigued to see Caitlin Greiser, she has crossed over from the Saints to Richmond and just when Courtney Wakefield stepped away and retired as well. I’m excited to see what she can bring to that Richmond forward line,” she said.
“Jas Fleming, in my opinion, will be the rising star this year, I was a train-on player with Hawthorn last year and just helped them out with some numbers, so I spent a bit of time alongside her in that Hawthorn midfield … And I’ll tell you what, I was chasing her a fair bit.
“I think Mon Conti will be the MVP this year, we just we forget how young she is because she has achieved so much, but she’s still a relatively young player in the scheme of things and will be running around in the AFLW for many, many years to come, I just can’t wait to see her take her game to another level in season eight.”
The one question on everybody’s lips is who will win the flag, something which Holmes says “is going to be incredibly tight.”
Defending AFLW premiers Melbourne look like the team to beat again in 2023. Credit: AAP
“I think Melbourne will be up there. I have no doubt that they’re probably going to be there on grand final day yet again because they’ve effectively kept their grand final side together from last year,” Holmes said.
“Adelaide is an interesting one because Ash Woodland has gone over to Port Adelaide, there’s been a little bit of movement there, they’ve still got five players who have been a part of the inaugural premiership in 2017.
“Brisbane, who played in the grand final last season, have had a mass exodus of some of their top-end talents, so I’m interested to see what they’ve been able to do and to really stay as competitive as we’ve seen them basically since the inception of the competition.”
Outside the brand-new talent, Holmes is looking forward to seeing some of the old faithfuls give this season a nudge.
“Katie Brennan, if she can get her body right, we know how good of a player she is, but she’s had a pretty unfortunate run with injury over the last seven seasons,” Holmes said.
“She can play forward, she can run through the midfield, she could basically do it all, so I hope she would be one to be prepped and to have probably the best season yet.”
On the AFL’s tweaks to rules in the off-season, Holmes says she applauds the decisions made.
“I think it’s great to try to make it a better product and try to increase scoring – more, engaging for the fans, both who are, you know, in the crowd and watching, of course,” she said.
“One that they’re bringing in 10m from the boundary to throw in, I think that’s excellent because it just gets the ball into a really damaging and dangerous position. And hopefully that’ll just open it up and ball movement will be pretty slick from stoppage, and we’ll see more goals from that aspect of the game.
“These little tweaks are for the betterment, of the product. I’m pumped to see what these changes will do for the game itself.
“Heading into season eight I think we’re in a pretty bloody good position if I’m honest, and these little tweaks that we continue to see over the years are trying to open it up, trying to make it more exciting.”
This season will consist of a 10-week home and away season and four weeks of finals.
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