The top five: Players to watch in season eight

SEASON seven of the NAB AFLW competition saw a host of younger players come to the fore, benefiting from several years in an elite environment.

Who are the top five players to watch in 2023?

AFLW top five: Best players to watch

02:08 Jan 27. 2023. 6:00 AM

The top players to watch in season eight of the AFLW

5. Keeley Skepper (Carlton)
It's a tough task, being an undersized half-forward, and it's even more difficult when you're lining up for a side that won just two games in season seven (also drawing two). Skepper had a promising debut season regardless, showing enormous heart and grit alongside her neat foot skills and footy smarts. Skepper's role was made more difficult by the season-ending injuries to key targets Mia Austin and Phoebe McWilliams, and her crumbing smarts should come to the fore with the return of the duo. She received a NAB AFLW Rising Star nomination in round four.

Keeley Skepper in action in Carlton's round nine S7 match against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium. Picture: AFL Photos

4. Sofia Hurley (Sydney)
Her teammate Montana Ham captured all the headlines when she opted to nominate the NSW draft pool over her home state of Victoria, but Hurley built nicely into her debut season having made the same move north. A classy user of the footy, she averaged 11.2 disposals in her last five games, up from 8.4 in the first half of her season. Hurley looked more assured at the top level the longer she played, receiving a NAB AFLW Rising Star nomination for her round nine performance against Fremantle. One who will benefit from physically stronger and more experienced players around her, nevertheless Hurley is canny enough to make an impact next season.

Sofia Hurley fends off a tackle during Sydney's round two clash with Collingwood at Victoria Park on September 4, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

3. Amelie Borg (Port Adelaide)
While 20-year-old defensive duo Indy Tahau and Alex Ballard got plenty of kudos for their strong form (Ballard making her debut in round one) in Port Adelaide's first season, Borg slipped under the radar. Two years younger than her backline teammates, Borg came into the squad via the sixth pick in the South Australian draft pool (No.61 overall) as an Under-18 All-Australian following a particularly strong NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships. Patrolling the last line of defence, the North Adelaide product played all 10 games and showed a steady head and strong hands under enormous pressure. With Port Adelaide building nicely for the future, Borg will be better for her tough initiation.

Amelie Borg in action in Port Adelaide's round nine S7 match against St Kilda at RSEA Park. Picture: Getty Images

2. Courtney Rowley (West Coast)
Rowley flew somewhat under the radar this season given the form of her teammates Ella Roberts, Charlie Thomas and Bella Lewis, but she established herself as part of West Coast's best 21 in season seven. Playing all 10 games (up from five of 10 in her debut season earlier in 2022), the tenacious midfielder averaged 10.3 disposals, including a career-high 17 touches against top-four side Richmond. The 2023 season will be Rowley's third, but just her second year at the top level, showing there's plenty of up-side still to come for the linking player.

Courtney Rowley in action in West Coast's round one S7 match against Port Adelaide at Mineral Resources Park. Picture: AFL Photos

1. Georgia Garnett (GWS)
Season seven was the one in which Garnett announced herself to the competition, but the 21-year-old can go to new heights in 2023 once the Giants get their senior injured players back on the park. Having started her career as a defender, Garnett requested a move to attack for the second half of 2022 and absolutely thrived, leading the AFLW for marks as she dominated across half-forward. An athletic prospect who moves very well, standing at 176cm, Garnett has all the tools to bust a game open. With greater support around her next season, including former All-Australian Izzy Huntington (ACL), "GG" is the player to watch.

Georgia Garnett handballs during a practice match between the Giants and Bulldogs on August 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos