The top 20 best moments of AFLW S7: 5-1

UNSURPRISINGLY, Melbourne's maiden AFLW premiership makes the cut as womens.afl's top 20 moments of season seven comes to a close.

It was a painful first season for Sydney, while a shock sacking shook the AFLW world as we count down moments 5-1. 

Top 20 moments of AFLW S7: 5-1

01:48 Dec 30. 2022. 6:00 AM

There were plenty of special moments in season seven of the AFLW, and we're counting down the 20 biggest stories

PART ONE 20-16 Biggest moments of season seven
PART TWO 15-11 Biggest moments of season seven
PART THREE 10-6 Biggest moments of season seven

5: Sydney's maiden win denied

The winless Sydney had a difficult first season, struggling to land a marquee player despite repeated attempts (and the subsequent domino effect that would have had on attracting talent).

The salt was rubbed into the wound in round eight, coming up against fellow expansion club Essendon, when a clear Molly Eastman third-quarter goal from a set shot was incorrectly adjudged to be a behind.

The AFL confirmed the goal umpire error on the Monday following the game.

If Eastman's goal had stood, the Swans would have jumped two points clear heading into three-quarter time, but ultimately lost the game by just four points. It was the second game the Swans lost by that margin for the season, also falling four behind Hawthorn by the final siren.

Swan's surprise after shot is ruled a behind

00:40 Oct 15. 2022. 4:10 PM

Sydney defender Molly Eastman's shot at goal is called a behind by the goal umpire against Essendon

4: Brisbane's feelgood season

Although falling short by four points in the NAB AFLW Grand Final, Brisbane had a season to remember. Finishing as minor premiers, the Lions lost just one game during the home and away season, breaking several scoring records along the way.

Spearhead Jesse Wardlaw took out the competition's leading goalkicker award with 22 - the most by any player in a single season - and kicked at least one goal in every game except the Grand Final.

Crafty Wardlaw dominates QClash

02:10 Sep 10. 2022. 7:40 PM

Jesse Wardlaw delivers a strong performance at the Gabba

Wardlaw wasn't the only Lion to take out an AFLW-wide award, with inaugural midfielder Ally Anderson winning the top honour at the W Awards, equalling teammate Emily Bates' record 21 votes from earlier this year.

Coach Craig Starcevich was also named Coach of the Year for the second time, becoming the first coach to win it more than once.

On the field, stalwart defender Kate Lutkins made a triumphant return to the field in round six, just 266 days after rupturing her ACL in round one of season six earlier this year. That return - and Brisbane's success - meant that Lutkins lined up for her 50th AFLW match in November's Grand Final, her eighth finals appearance.

The Lions' mighty season was capped off with a successful hosting of the NAB AFLW Grand Final, the first game to be played on a fast-tracked Brighton Homes Arena deck, the club's new home base in Springfield.

Ally Anderson poses with the AFLW best and fairest medal for season seven. Picture: AFL Photos

3: Georgie Prespakis' suspension shakes up the AFLW B&F

Geelong young gun Georgie Prespakis is well known for her tackling pressure, averaging seven tackles per game across her career to date, but it was a particularly aggressive one in round five that saw her miss two matches.

Prespakis was suspended for a tackle on St Kilda ruck Erin McKinnon and as a result, McKinnon missed the remainder of the season due to concussion. Prespakis and the Cats took the case to the Tribunal in the hopes of overturning the ban, but they were unsuccessful.

Despite missing two matches, Prespakis finished equal-second in the AFLCA count, only four votes behind winner Amy McDonald in Geelong's best and fairest, and six behind Ally Anderson in the AFLW edition.

Not the only player banned for a dangerous tackle that round, the AFL sent a memo to remind clubs that player safety and duty of care is of paramount important, and it is the shared responsibility of clubs, players, umpires, and the AFL.

Throughout season seven, a record 31 citations were made by the Match Review Officer for dangerous tackles, with five suspensions handed down to Prespakis, Tayla Harris, Daria Bannister, Sachi Syme and Maria Moloney.

Is Prespakis in trouble for this tackle?

00:40 Sep 22. 2022. 6:46 PM

Georgie Prespakis may find herself in trouble with the MRO after this heavy tackle midway through the third term

2: The sacking of Trent Cooper

Fremantle has been one of the powerhouses of the AFLW, making finals for the past four years, but season seven was a horror show for the team in purple.

Injuries struck down a number of key senior players, with Kara Antonio (hamstring) and Ebony Antonio (PCL and heart issue) missing the vast majority of the season, and Janelle Cuthbertson (concussion, knee and ankle, out for five games) and Gabby O'Sullivan (hamstring and shoulder, missed four) also sidelined.

Skipper Hayley Miller struggled to get any continuity in her pre-season due to a calf issue, while superstar Kiara Bowers missed a big chunk due to COVID and isolation time.

As a result, the young Dockers underbelly was exposed, with the squad naming six different top-up players as emergencies across the season, and the team slumped to a 3-6 (and one draw) finish.

Trent Cooper addresses his players during round 10, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Coach Trent Cooper had previously recorded win-loss tallies of 6-2 in 2019, 7-0 in 2020, 6-4 in 2021 and 8-4 earlier this year (including six straight while in a Melbourne hub), but was sacked at the conclusion of his contract this season, with plenty of senior players posting thank you messages on their personal social media accounts.

"This decision isn't about the performance of the past and not just about the season seven just gone, but about assessing what we need going into the future," CEO Simon Garlick told SEN.

"Our players, fans and members expect us to do everything we possibly can to position ourselves to contend in both of our programs and that's essentially the genesis of this decision.

"We think it's time for a reset and a refresh in relation to the senior coach and that will give us the best opportunity to succeed."

1: Melbourne wins its maiden premiership

After being the most successful home and away team in AFLW history, but without any silverware to show for it, Melbourne won its first premiership after one of the more impressive seasons we've seen since the competition began.

Just one point, or 0.3 per cent, separated the Demons from the minor premiership at the end of the home and away season, and adjustments were made along the way to keep their hopes alive.

Regular fixtures of season six Eliza McNamara and Gabby Colvin were inactive due to injury, allowing for the rise of Tahlia Gillard at full-back and Irishwoman Blaithin Mackin on the wing, while important, albeit unexpected, players like Maeve Chaplin became vital cogs in the Melbourne machine.

The side's mental strength and willingness to make changes within games made it incredibly difficult to stop, and ultimately resulted in AFLW champion Daisy Pearce holding up the cup at the end of November.

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