GEELONG captain Meg McDonald and Gold Coast playmaker Kalinda Howarth headline a list of players whose first chance at AFLW didn't quite go to plan, but after working hard at local and state leagues earned another opportunity.
With the most recent round of expansion, which has required four new sides to build lists of 30 players, several players have followed in their footsteps. Many have toiled away in state leagues to improve their craft and catch the eye of recruiters, and now that they are back, they are taking hold of the opportunity and not letting go.
So, who are the players standing out the most with their second opportunity?
Jodie Hicks (Greater Western Sydney)
Taken with the Giants' first pick in the 2017 draft, Hicks juggled both her footy and cricket careers across five AFLW seasons, never really able to reach her full potential in her 20 games. At the end of season five Hicks stepped away from the Giants to reassess what she wanted, and a few months spent coaching and playing in Sydney's local leagues later, she is back in the AFLW. This time around, however, she is in a new position as a lock-down defender and really starting to hit her straps. Averaging 12.8 disposals and 3.5 intercepts, Hicks has been a welcome addition to the Giants' backline, even earning her first AFLCA coaches' votes in round four.
Kate Bartlett (West Coast, Western Bulldogs)
Bartlett spent two seasons in the AFLW across 2019 and 2020, starting out at the Western Bulldogs then moving back to her home state to join West Coast via expansion. In that time, she played just one game and was ultimately delisted by the Eagles at the end of the season. Not willing to give up on the dream, Bartlett went back to the WAFLW and kicked 77 goals across the 2021 and 2022 seasons to earn another call up via West Coast's priority selection allowances. This AFLW season she has played every game to date and kicked three goals, the only real blemish on her game being her accuracy in front of goal.
Jade de Melo (Port Adelaide, Fremantle)
Drafted to Fremantle with pick no.10 ahead of the 2018 AFLW season, Jade de Melo played two games before being delisted that same year. From there she spent some time in the Northern Territory playing for the Thunder in their VFLW series, and then relocated to South Australia to join North Adelaide in the SANFLW competition. A strong season for North Adelaide, where she kicked 16 goals and won a premiership, caught the eye of Port Adelaide's recruitment team as they were establishing the club's inagurual list. So far this AFLW season de Melo has played five of a possible six games, kicked five goals and averaged 8.4 disposals.
Katelyn Cox (Richmond, North Melbourne)
Added to North Melbourne's AFLW side as an injury replacement player for Elisha King in 2021, Katelyn Cox was delisted at the end of the season without making her debut. Back in the VFLW for 2021 and 2022, Cox joined Hawthorn and played two seasons as a rebounding defender with some genuine speed and was a key part of the side's push to a semi-final earlier this year. Off the back of that, she was drafted to Richmond with pick no.60 in the most recent draft and has since become a key cog of the Tigers' backline, playing every game as a small defender.
Joanne Doonan (Essendon, Carlton)
All the way from Ireland, Joanne Doonan was added to Carlton's 2020 list as a cross-code rookie thanks to her Gaelic background with County Fermanagh. Only playing two games that season, Doonan left the Blues and returned to Ireland when the pandemic hit. Since returning to Australia she has plied her trade at Essendon's VFLW program and proved herself as a key part of their 2022 premiership, earning elevation to their inaugural AFLW side and has played every game this season as a hybrid midfielder/forward.
Players rejoining the competition in season seven
Isabella Ayre (Essendon, formerly Brisbane and Carlton)
Kate Bartlett (West Coast, formerly West Coast and Western Bulldogs)
Katelyn Cox (Richmond, formerly North Melbourne)
Tegan Cunningham (Hawthorn, formerly Melbourne)
Jade de Melo (Port Adelaide, formerly Fremantle)
Joanne Doonan (Essendon, formerly Carlton)
Jodie Hicks (GWS, formerly GWS)
Emma Humphries (West Coast, formerly North Melbourne and Melbourne)
Samantha Johnson (Melbourne, formerly St Kilda)
Ainslie Kemp (Hawthorn, formerly Melbourne)
Tamara Luke (Hawthorn, formerly St Kilda)
Danielle Marshall (Essendon, formerly Western Bulldogs)
Georgia Nanscawen (Essendon, formerly North Melbourne)
Krystal Scott (Gold Coast, formerly Brisbane)
Jordan Zanchetta (Essendon, formerly Brisbane)