Shining lights: Who are the brightest under-23 prospects at your club?

YOUNG players have been gradually emerging from unbroken pathways and hitting the AFLW hard in recent seasons. They are a resilient bunch, joining the competition during a particularly tumultuous time - thanks COVID - but are still changing the face of AFLW. 

So, who at your club was born in 2001 or later and is forming part of this changing of the guard?  

Player information is correct as at February 27. The 2023 AFLW priority signing period will open on March 1, with the trade period commencing on March 10. Draft details are yet to be confirmed ahead of AFLW season eight. 

Hit the ground running 

Teah Charlton was Adelaide's first draft selection ahead of the 2021 season, and within two short seasons had played in two Grand Finals, winning one premiership. Since debuting in round one of 2021, Charlton has played 35 of a possible 36 games - only missing due to COVID protocols early last year. 

Playing largely as a winger and across the half-forward line, she averages 11.4 disposals and 4.3 tackles across her career to date and looks to be a key cog of Adelaide's future. 

Charlton chimes in with Crows' first after speedy play

00:36 Oct 14. 2022. 8:57 PM

Teah Charlton puts Adelaide in front with this clever goal late in the first term

Long-term prospect 

Taken with pick 100 in the 2020 draft, Madison Newman joined the Crows as a developing prospect. After two seasons with Adelaide, she had played just six games, averaging just 8.2 disposals and 100.8 metres gained in the process. By her third season, Newman had become a somewhat regular fixture in the side, playing seven games, but was heartbreakingly omitted for what would be Adelaide's third premiership. 

In season seven, Newman finally broke through in earnest, playing all 13 games - doubling her career tally - and averaging 13.7 disposals and 248.4 metres gained, establishing herself across the Crows' half-back line. 

Madison Newman in action during the R7 clash between Adelaide ad Fremantle at Unley Oval on October 8, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Adelaide's first selection at the 2021 draft - the last before the state's talent was split in two thanks to the addition of Port Adelaide to the AFLW - Zoe Prowse is a player who quietly made an impact late in season seven. 

Prowse played just one game in season six, but in 2022's second season she became an important member of the Crows' backline, featuring in each of the club's last four games including all three finals. Less focused on winning the ball, Prowse played as a key defensive stopper, tasked with nullifying dangerous opposition forwards. Additionally, she was vital for Adelaide's defensive structure, allowing All-Australian Chelsea Biddell to play an intercepting, rebounding role, trusting that Prowse would be securing opponents on the last line. 

Zoe Prowse handballs during the preliminary final between Adelaide and Brisbane at Metricon Stadium on November 18, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

By virtue of holding her place in a strong Brisbane side that has made finals in every season since she joined the club, tough midfielder Belle Dawes has played more games than any other AFLW player born in 2001 or later, with a career tally of 43. 

Her relentless pressure inside the contest has added another dimension to the Lions' midfield, averaging 12.4 disposals, 3.5 tackles and 2.2 clearances across her career, and is a prominent member of Brisbane's vast young contingent. 

Isabel Dawes gets a handball away under pressure from Kate Hore in the S7 Grand Final between Brisbane and Melbourne at Brighton Homes Arena on November 27, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Drafted with pick eight - Brisbane's first - ahead of the 2021 season, it took a year before Zimmorlei Farquharson made her debut in round three of season six. In that first game she announced herself, winning 12 disposals, registering 325 metres gained and kicking a goal, and in turn earning consistent selection for the remainder of the season. Since then, Farquharson has been a reliable contributor at the Lions, but recapturing that debut form has eluded her. More recently, after a finger injury forced her out of the side, she was unable to break back into Brisbane's stacked forward line, ultimately missing November's Grand Final. 

The long-term development of Farquharson is about becoming a first-21 selection - not an easy task given the riches available to coach Craig Starcevich. 

Mighty Farquharson kicks crafty major

00:33 Sep 18. 2022. 5:36 PM

Zimmorlei Farquharson closes the scoring gap with this goal

Surprise packet 

Making the leap from crosstown club Gold Coast, Dee Heslop joined the Lions in season seven and thrived, forcing her way into a settled backline. 

Reliable behind the ball, Heslop worked well alongside the likes of Shannon Campbell, Kate Lutkins, Bre Koenen and Nat Grider and assisted in launching scores from the back half. Heslop averaged a career-high 1.2 score involvements and 1.4 marks throughout season seven and featured in Brisbane's fourth Grand Final appearance.  

Dee Heslop handballs during Brisbane's clash against Hawthorn in round nine, S7, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Hit the ground running 

Crowned the competition's NAB AFLW Rising Star in season six upon her return from and ACL injury, Mimi Hill is both the present and future of Carlton. Hill backed up her Rising Star award with her first club best and fairest to finish 2022. 

The heartbeat of Carlton's midfield, averaging 23.2 disposals and four clearances in season seven, Hill has created a formidable partnership with Abbie McKay around which the club can build its long-term midfield group. 

Pocket perfection from Hill brings Blues their first

00:42 Oct 14. 2022. 6:53 PM

Mimi Hill kicks the opening goal of the match with a brilliant finish from a tight angle

Long-term prospect 

A promising start to Mia Austin's AFLW career was cruelled by a syndesmosis injury after just two games, but still just 18, she has the potential to be the focal point of Carlton's attack in the future. 

A strong contested mark and already reliable set shot, Austin stands at 178cm, and kicked two goals from her five disposals in the opening two rounds. As the Blues develop, improving their ability to send the ball forward, the teenager will have the opportunity to grow further into a dominant key forward. 

Mia Austin in action during Carlton's clash against Essendon in round two, S7. Picture: Getty Images

Surprise packet 

Taken with pick 17 ahead of season seven, winger/forward Keeley Skepper rose above what most expected of the teenager in her first season. After debuting in round two, where she enjoyed the narrowest of wins over Essendon - and kicking a goal in the process - Skepper was part of Carlton's frustrating back-to-back draws against Port Adelaide and Fremantle. 

Her energy around the contest, skill and awareness saw her recognised for a Rising Star nomination in round four, and looms as another bright spark for Carlton's future alongside a host of talented youngsters. 

Keeley Skepper in action during the S7 R4 clash between Carlton and Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on September 17, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

Drafted with pick 29 ahead of season six, small forward Eliza James is one of the most exciting young players Collingwood boasts. James kicked 15 goals across 2022 - five in season six, 10 in season seven - and proved her knack for stepping up in big moments. 

In round six last season against St Kilda, James slotted a stunning matchwinner, on her 19th birthday no less, and followed it up with a record-breaking four goals in the Pies' elimination final just weeks later. Added to this, James kicked five of Collingwood's six finals goals throughout November and has proven to be a real spark in an often stagnant Collingwood attack. 

Electric Eliza boots four on the big stage

01:58 Nov 6. 2022. 5:38 PM

Eliza James slots four majors in a dominant finals display

Long-term prospect 

Hampered by a shoulder injury that kept her sidelined throughout season six, Jo Lin started to show what she is made of late last year, indicating the kind of player she can be for Collingwood. 

Still battling inconsistency in her game, Lin has the potential to develop into a reliable link into the forward line, running on the wing and up to the half-forward line. There were glimpses of that transition throughout season seven, where she played every game after making her return in round five, and peaked against St Kilda with six score involvements, nine tackles and a goal. 

Joanna Lin celebrates a goal during the S7 R6 clash between Collingwood and St Kilda at RSEA Park on October 1, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Signed as an injury replacement player not long before season seven began, Queenslander Imogen Evans made her debut in the season-opener against Carlton and showed off her hard-nosed style of play. 

Evans laid seven tackles, won four clearances, and used her eight disposals at 75 per cent efficiency, topping off her debut with a goal in Collingwood's 18-point victory. While not able to maintain that intensity throughout the whole campaign, her impact was clear. 

Imogen Evans kicks the ball during the S7 R9 clash between Collingwood and North Melbourne at Victoria Park on October 22, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

A top-five draft selection, Amber Clarke might not have broken through for a Rising Star nomination throughout her debut season, but her disciplined, hardworking style of play was just what Essendon needed. 

Clarke played all 10 games, averaging 9.5 disposals and 214.1 metres gained, and was a reliable outside option for the Bombers' strong, experienced midfield group. Added to this, she also started to hit the scoreboard as her confidence grew. 

Amber Clarke in action during Essendon's clash against Brisbane in round six, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Ruck Stephanie Wales is a long-term prospect purely based on her raw ability - coming to AFLW with limited experience - and the heights she has the potential to reach within the elite system. 

As Essendon's No.1 ruck, Wales played all 10 games, averaging 13.3 hitouts and 9.2 disposals, ultimately earning a Rising Star nomination in round eight. As she adds more layers to her game, Wales will move into the top echelon of AFLW rucks. 

Stephanie Wales (R) battles with Lauren Pearce in the ruck during the S7 R9 match between Essendon and Melbourne at Casey Fields on October 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

The surprise top-10 draft pick, Paige Scott was a revelation for Essendon. Her power was never questioned throughout her junior days, but the concern was whether she would be able to bring that at AFLW level. But bring it she did, kicking a club-high seven goals across the season and offering a presence both up forward and through the middle. 

Scott averaged 2.5 score involvements and 2.1 marks to go with her 9.8 disposals per game, and although she did at times struggle to impact games against better sides, she will only grow into a more damaging player as the years go on. 

Scott salutes after super strike

00:36 Sep 4. 2022. 11:34 AM

Paige Scott slams home this wonderful kick to land the first major for the Bombers

Hit the ground running 

Mim Strom was drafted ahead of the 2020 season with the aim of developing as Fremantle's second ruck, but a knee injury to Aine Tighe left the club bereft of any other option but to throw Strom in the deep end. Positively for both Fremantle and Strom, she swam rather than sank and has maintained her pace ever since. 

Yet to miss a game, the ruck offers an impressive combination of tap work and ground level impact, with her neat, quick handballs to teammates vital to the club's ability to clear the ball.  

Mim Strom celebrates a goal during Fremantle's clash against Adelaide in round seven, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Fans got a sneak peek at what Amy Franklin can one day be throughout season seven. As one of the few silver linings to Fremantle's injury-hit season, Franklin played all 10 games and developed drastically. Her athleticism, allowing her to push higher up the ground and link into attack - akin to what Gemma Houghton previously offered the Dockers - is something the side desperately needed. 

Franklin kicked four goals in four straight rounds, and averaged two score involvements across the season, with the main missing piece in her game the ability to be consistent. Although a hard position to play in a struggling team, once Franklin adds that consistency piece, she will become nearly impossible to beat. 

Unreal Franklin finish gives Dockers their first

00:36 Sep 22. 2022. 3:47 PM

Amy Franklin puts her side on the scoreboard with this exceptional snapping finish late in the opening term

Surprise packet 

Sarah Verrier is a quiet achiever who played an important role down back throughout season six, and then split her time between defence and the wing the following season. 

Key to Verrier's game is not simply winning the ball and reading the play, but her ability to neatly execute her disposal once a decision is made. In season seven she used her average of 11.6 disposals at 71.6 per cent efficiency, helping to establish control in games. 

Sarah Verrier in action during round one, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

It comes as a surprise to no-one that 2021 No.2 draft pick Georgie Prespakis had an immediate impact on not only Geelong, but the competition as a whole. In her 19 games to date, Prespakis averages 17.3 disposals, seven tackles and 4.5 clearances, transforming Geelong's midfield group. 

In just her second season - and first year - of AFLW, Prespakis earned All-Australian selection and finished second in Geelong's Best and Fairest count. 

Prespakis rises to the occasion with clutch late goal

00:54 Aug 28. 2022. 5:54 PM

Geogie Preskapis proves to be the difference after kicking the go-ahead goal in the dying stages of the match

Long-term prospect 

Often going under the radar given the impressive young contingent at Geelong is Zali Friswell. A flighty outside midfielder, Friswell played seven games in season six before becoming a permanent fixture in season seven.

Across season seven she averaged 11.2 disposals, 1.5 inside 50s and 2.6 intercepts, while playing a complementary role to the Cats' tough onball contingent. 

Zali Friswell in action during the S7 R10 match between Geelong and Sydney at GMHBA Stadium on October 29, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Amy McDonald's growth in recent seasons is one of the more surprising fast developments across AFLW. McDonald's ability to win the contested ball emerged in 2021, where she went from averaging 8.5 contested possessions in her debut season of 2020 to 12.3 the following year. This number has continued to increase since, culminating in a career-best 15.1 average contested possessions in season seven. 

What made McDonald All-Australian last year, however, was how she combined that contested game with attacking transition, evidenced in her 3.7 average score involvements and 265.3 metres gained per game. 

Amy McDonald in action for Geelong against North Melbourne in round four, S7. Picture: Getty Images

Hit the ground running 

Another high draft pick who shocked no-one by making an immediate impact. Charlie Rowbottom's choice to nominate Queensland and ultimately land at Gold Coast ushered in a significant shift at the club, which was also welcoming new coach Cam Joyce. 

Forming a strong midfield alongside Alison Drennan and Claudia Whitfort, Rowbottom's ability to win the ball and break free of congestion is vital to the Suns' improvement in ball control and movement. 

Charlie Rowbottom attempts to evade Cora Staunton during the S7 R10 clash between Gold Coast and GWS at Henson Park on October 30, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Across her first two seasons Wallis Randell was forever in and out of the team, unable to solidify her place in the back half. In season seven, however, Randell played every game in the Suns' best campaign to date. 

Not a big ball winner - averaging 7.6 disposals - but she is improving in her positioning, one-on-one ability, and attack at the contest. Randell often appeared for an impressive passage or brief touch last season, providing a glimpse of the player she may one day be. 

Nicola Xenos and Wallis Randell contest the ball during St Kilda's clash against Gold Coast in round four, S7. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Coming from a rugby background, Daisy D'Arcy's relentless nature has become an important part of Gold Coast's defence. Her ability to shut down or severely impede her direct opponent, while also working hard to rebound out of defence is in the mould of the prototype small defender. 

Recognised for her efforts with a Rising Star nomination in round two last season, D'Arcy has the potential to spend time on the wing if necessary thanks to her ability to run and carry. 

Daisy D'Arcy in action during the clash between Gold Coast and West Coast in round two, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

As New South Wales became a two-team state for the first time, Greater Western Sydney went looking elsewhere for players to draft, largely focusing on the Tasmanian talent pool. Madison Brazendale was one of those Tasmanians the Giants identified and brought on board, in a move that proved successful for both parties. 

Brazendale played all 10 games for the season, offering some impressive dash out of half back and leaning right into the club's new running game style. In season seven the 20-year-old averaged 9.8 disposals, 2.9 intercepts and 1.3 score involvements as a significant contributor to the Giants. 

Madison Brazendale in action during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Richmond in round nine, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Plucked out of Sydney's Academy a season before the Swans joined the AFLW, Jess Doyle is a mid-sized forward who knows how to hit the scoreboard. 

Although lacking some consistency - some of which can be put down to the Giants' unstable attacking game - Doyle is reliable when she has the ball inside 50. She kicked five goals straight in six games during her debut season, but this fell away to three goals (and two behinds) in eight games across season seven. Increasing her impact will come not only from her personal improvement, but as GWS develops as a whole. 

Jess Doyle celebrates one of her goals against Geelong in round 10, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Falling into the surprise packet category thanks to an impressive positional change in season seven, Georgia Garnett's performance as a forward was a game changer for the Giants. 

Taken with pick No.90 ahead of the 2020 season, Garnett was drafted as a defender, and was serviceable in the role thanks to her skill and marking ability. The move forward, however, provided GWS with a broader marking presence ahead of the ball. Garnett averaged 6.4 marks throughout season seven - the most in the competition - 1.7 of which were inside 50. 

Garnett the great makes it look so easy

00:40 Oct 30. 2022. 6:25 PM

Georgia Garnett adds to her impressive day with another ripping goal

Hit the ground running 

Hawthorn's first ever draft pick Jasmine Fleming has already lived up to the expectation, with her smooth moves out of stoppages and uncanny composure for a teenager a feature of the club's debut season.

Adding to her clean skills is an impressive ability to adapt to wet conditions, with arguably her best games coming in wet weather, including 25 disposals and six clearances against the Western Bulldogs in round four, and 23 disposals and five intercepts against Brisbane in round nine. 

Jasmine Fleming reaches for the ball during Hawthorn's clash against Sydney in round five, S7. Picture: AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Genuine tall defenders are a rare commodity in AFLW, so for Hawthorn to have the intelligence and height of Mackenzie Eardley in its ranks is a big win in itself. 

As Eardley develops strength and confidence, she has the potential to be an x-factor for the Hawks down back, in a similar vein of Tahlia Gillard's strong season in Melbourne's recent premiership season. Throughout her debut season, Eardley used her average 7.1 disposals at 70 per cent efficiency, while also registering an average of 2.4 tackles and 3.3 rebounds in the process. 

Mackenzie Eardley in action during the S7 R2 match between Hawthorn and St Kilda at Box Hill City Oval on September 4, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Another defender, Jenna Richardson's impact on the Hawks in the back half of the season was immense. Without Richardson in the side for rounds one to five due to a thigh injury, Hawthorn conceded an average of 45.6 points per game. Upon Richardson's addition to the side, the side conceded nearly a goal less each game. While not all of this can be credited to Richardson, her impact was certainly felt. 

Often tasked with a dangerous forward, including the likes of Erin Phillips and Cora Staunton, the Hawk significantly limits the output of whoever she is assigned to blanket. 

Jenna Richardson celebrates a win on debut during round six, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

Literally. Alyssa Bannan's run and confidence to take a bounce (or six) immediately added a new dimension to Melbourne's attack.  

Taken with pick No.5 ahead of the 2021 season, Bannan's athleticism and ability to hit the scoreboard was very appealing, and the Demons have been rewarded with her output at the highest level. The forward was an important part of Melbourne's maiden premiership, and her run and carry provides head coach Mick Stinear with options as to where she can be deployed, proving useful not only up forward, but high on the wing as well. 

Bannan fools everyone in candy-selling special

00:45 Nov 4. 2022. 8:46 PM

Alyssa Bannan shows some more tricks with this clever move catching the Crows by surprise

Long-term prospect 

A consistent role and an improvement in confidence saw Tahlia Gillard go from being a fringe player only selected to cover for injured teammates, to a vital part of a premiership team. Standing at 190cm, Gillard's height and reach makes her a nightmare opponent for key forwards, while her clean skills at ground level mean she's doubly dangerous. 

Typically playing as Melbourne's deepest defender, Gillard averaged 4.9 intercepts, five one percenters and seven disposals throughout season seven as part of the best defence in the league. 

Tahlia Gillard receives her premiership medal after Melbourne won the 2022 NAB AFLW Grand Final Season Seven. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Added to Melbourne's list as an inactive player replacement in season six, Maeve Chaplin was delisted without making her debut. She was given another opportunity by the club, drafted with pick No. 44 ahead of season seven. 

Chaplin played all but one game in the Demons' premiership season, with her ability to read the play from the back half a real highlight of her game. Her chemistry with the club's established defenders was evident, which contributed to her excelling once earning her debut. 

Maeve Chaplin after the S7 R9 clash between Melbourne and Essendon at Casey Fields on October 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

A neat winger-turned-forward, Bella Eddey has been an important part of North Melbourne's system since joining the club in 2021.

After the Kangaroos lost the likes of Daria Bannister and Daisy Bateman ahead of the ball, Eddey moved into attack and proved valuable, kicking five goals, and averaging 1.9 score involvements across the course of the season. One of the best ball users in the competition, Eddey uses her average 8.2 disposals at 75.5 per cent efficiency. 

Eddey's slick banana gets Roos running

00:33 Oct 22. 2022. 1:24 PM

Isabella Eddey opens North Melbourne's account with a cool checkside

Long-term prospect 

Alice O'Loughlin is an unassuming Kangaroo who really started to make her mark in season seven after three seasons at the club. Playing as a small forward, O'Loughlin averaged a career-high eight disposals and kicked eight goals as her side pushed to a preliminary final. 

That being said, there is still plenty of room for O'Loughlin to continue to improve, and at just 20 years old, there is time for that to happen. 

O'Loughlin boots cracking gem

00:29 Nov 5. 2022. 7:46 PM

The Kangaroos take the lead with this Alice O'Loughlin major

Surprise packet 

Tasmanian Mia King is a surprise packet, not so much in terms of her skill, but her ability to push into the very strong, very deep midfield contingent that North Melbourne boasts. 

In season seven, King averaged 14.6 disposals, 5.1 tackles and 3.1 clearances from the midfield, supporting the likes of Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and Ashleigh Riddell. King is another who has improved season on season, and there is no reason to expect that to fall away any time soon. 

Mia King in action during the S7 preliminary final between North Melbourne and Melbourne at Ikon Park on November 19, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

Hannah Ewings, 18, didn't just win the AFLW Rising Star in her debut season, but also took out Port Adelaide's inaugural best and fairest count, and for good reason. Pick No.3 in the 2022 draft, Ewings strikes the perfect balance between inside strength, averaging 3.9 clearances and 4.9 tackles, and outside ball movement, averaging 3.7 inside 50s and 294.9 metres gained. 

As part of an expansion team, Ewings was just as important to the side as experienced players like Erin Phillips and Ange Foley were, which bodes well for coach Lauren Arnell as she looks toward future seasons. 

'Dream come true': Ewings earns Rising Star award

04:06 Nov 22. 2022. 8:00 PM

Young gun Hannah Ewings is awarded the NAB AFLW Rising Star award in Port Adelaide's maiden season

Long-term prospect 

Amelie Borg didn't have the easiest introduction to AFLW, playing as a key defender in a new side, regularly coming up against strong forwards. Despite this, Borg showed enough to suggest she can be a key post around which Port Adelaide's long-term defence can be built. 

Throughout season seven, Borg averaged 3.3 intercepts and 2.3 one percenters often playing deep in defence, with arguably her best game coming against North Melbourne where she registered 10 disposals, five marks and five intercepts. 

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

Surprise packet 

Abbey Dowrick was an underrated expansion signing by Arnell and her team as they were building Port Adelaide's inaugural list. Dowrick, a star junior in Western Australia, had taken some time away from elite pathways and followed sister McKenzie to South Australia. While in SA, Dowrick periodically played for SANFLW side Woodville-West Torrens, and from there caught the eye of Port Adelaide's recruiters. 

Immediately her impact was evident, earning a Rising Star nomination in round one thanks to her 21 disposals, seven marks and six clearances against West Coast. Forming a strong midfield partnership with Ewings, it is Dowrick's ability to gain ground with her possession that proved so important for the Power, as she averaged 300.4 metres gained throughout season seven. 

Abbey Dowrick tackles Ellie Brown during Port Adelaide's clash against the Western Bulldogs in round two, S7. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

The pressure of being a No.1 draft pick didn't faze Ellie McKenzie, who made the All-Australian squad in her debut season and has twice been a Mark of the Year finalist.  

As a tall, strong midfielder, McKenzie immediately offered a point of difference to Richmond's midfield, able to win the hard ball but then transition to the outside and propel the ball forward. Her aerial prowess is tough to contain, but above all, her confidence to take on opponents and run and carry allows her to break lines and move through congestion with ease. 

McKenzie explodes with strength to put Tiges in front

00:29 Oct 30. 2022. 4:34 PM

Ellie McKenzie holds them off to nail a fantastic stoppage goal

Long-term prospect 

Stella Reid is the young forward Richmond has been working with to take the club into its next era. With Courtney Wakefield now retired, and Katie Brennan closer to the end than the start of her career, the skill and intelligence of Reid offers plenty of potential. 

A top-five draft pick ahead of season six, Reid struggled to hold her place in the side during her debut season, but in Richmond's recent surge toward finals she found consistency, playing every game after round seven. She kicked five goals for the season and offered up plenty of forward pressure and will only continue to improve from there. 

Richmond's Stella Reid celebrates a win during round seven, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

As an agile small forward, Emelia Yassir added immense ground level pressure and quick thinking to Richmond's attack. She was the Tigers' second selection at the 2021 draft and has played 19 games across 2022 - including both seasons six and seven. 

Throughout season seven, Yassir averaged two score involvements, 4.2 tackles and 1.1 inside 50s, while kicking four of her own goals and becoming a fan favourite in the process. 

Emelia Yassir and Kate Dempsey celebrate a goal during the S7 semi-final between Richmond and North Melbourne at Swinburne Centre on November 12, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

Signed via expansion as St Kilda built its inaugural list, Molly McDonald kicked the club's first ever goal in 2020 and has been a vital member of the side ever since thanks to her discipline and positioning. 

As the Saints' most important outside runner, she is a conduit into attack. In season seven McDonald registered 2.8 inside 50s per game to sit second at the club, while also averaging 273.8 metres gained. 

Molly McDonald in action during the R6 clash between St Kilda and Collingwood at RSEA Park on October 1, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Alice Burke has taken some time to become a first-21 selection for the Saints, playing all games of a season for the first time in late 2022. What came to the fore in that season was not only her competitiveness, but her versatility and willingness to play wherever she was needed. 

Initially playing as a small defender, Burke has now spent time running through the midfield, and making moves in-game to help get matches back on St Kilda's terms. As she improves her ability to win the ball and cleanly execute her disposal, Burke will become a weapon for the Saints. 

Alice Burke in action during the R8 clash between St Kilda and Western Bulldogs on October 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Initially signed as an inactive replacement player for the 2021 season, Jess Matin has maintained her list spot thanks to an uncanny knack of finding the goals. Averaging nearly a goal a game, Matin bagged a haul of three in just her third game, and with eight in season seven, she was second only to Kate Shierlaw at the Saints.  

While her work without the ball could improve her impact in games, it never hurts to have a small forward like Matin lurking in your attacking 50. 

Soccer Saints combine as Matin has a double

00:38 Oct 7. 2022. 7:57 PM

The Saints show off their soccer skills with this brilliant finish by Jessica Matin giving them two in a row

Hit the ground running 

The clear first-choice selection in the New South Wales talent pool at last year's draft, Cynthia Hamilton hit the AFLW hard, taking out Sydney's inaugural best and fairest award in the process. 

Her physicality is a well-known asset, but the way Hamilton moves around the contest when she has the ball is dynamic. Able to play both through the midfield and up forward, she is the ideal mid-sized player for coach Scott Gowans to work with as Sydney develops its women's program. 

Hamilton excites with spectacular first goal

00:50 Aug 27. 2022. 6:35 PM

Debutant Cynthia Hamilton shows great strength to kick this beautiful snap

Long-term prospect 

Ella Heads was added to the Swans' inaugural list after time spent at both Sydney's Academy and as a train-on player at GWS, with Gowans likening her potential to what Ruby Schleicher is today. 

Playing as a rebounding defender in a winless side, it wasn't the easiest debut season for Heads, but her 4.1 intercepts and 4.1 rebounds each game were important in relieving pressure on Sydney's deeper defenders. As she develops her in game awareness and decision making, Heads will become key to the Swans' attacking launches from the back half. 

Ella Heads looks on during the S7 R10 clash between Sydney and Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on October 29, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Lost in the story of No.1 draft pick Montana Ham nominating the NSW draft pool was fellow top Victorian talent Sofia Hurley doing the same, and as a result, the latter's impact came as a surprise to some. 

Used largely through the middle, some time spent up forward late in the season proved valuable as Hurley kicked three goals in two games thanks to her discipline, providing an option ahead of the ball. She was rewarded with a Rising Star nomination in round nine and a third-placed finish in Sydney's inaugural best and fairest count. 

Sofia Hurley celebrates with teammates during Sydney's clash with Fremantle in AFLW S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

West Coast's best and fairest winner in her debut season, Bella Lewis is a mature, talented midfielder that any club would love to have on their list. Strong around the ball and a reliable clearance winner, she has been an automatic selection in the Eagles' midfield since her debut in 2021. 

In season seven – Lewis' third – she added more of an attacking slant to her game, taking her impact up a notch. She averaged 3.1 inside 50s and 243.5 metres gained, while also kicking three goals of her own – all career bests. 

Isabella Lewis in action during the S7 R6 match between West Coast and Hawthorn at Skybus Stadium on September 30, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Long-term prospect 

Taken with pick 21 in the 2021 draft, Courtney Rowley has been more of a slow burn for the Eagles, but started to really make her mark in season seven. 

Playing all 10 games, Rowley averaged 10.3 disposals, 2.6 marks and 3.7 intercepts last season, showing off her deft movement and agility around the ball. As she continues to solidify her place in the young Eagles' side, her steady improvement will reward the club tenfold. 

Courtney Rowley in action during West Coast's clash against Port Adelaide in round one, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Charlie Thomas' talent was never in question, as the first-choice selection in the WA draft pool ahead of season six, but it was a positional change in season seven that saw the teenager really come to the fore. 

After several retirements and injuries, West Coast was desperate for defensive depth and so Thomas spent the season supporting Sophie McDonald and Belinda Smith in the back 50. She averaged 14.7 disposals, 5.4 rebounds, 5.3 intercepts and 309.5 metres gained last season in the club's second-best defence since joining the competition. 

West Coast's Charlie Thomas in action during round 10, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hit the ground running 

Jess Fitzgerald joined the Bulldogs via pick No.2 in the 2020 draft and immediately became an important cog in their midfield rotation. In that year, Fitzgerald earned a Rising Star nomination in round two and was a Goal of the Year finalist for an impressive running goal in a tough slog against Geelong. 

Steadily increasing her impact over her three seasons, Fitzgerald averaged 14.5 disposals, 4.3 tackles and three clearances in season seven – all career bests. 

Jess Fitzgerald during the S7 elimination final between Western Bulldogs and Collingwood at Victoria Park on November 6, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Long-term prospect 

Drafted as the Western Bulldogs' first father-daughter selection ahead of the 2020 season, Issy Grant was sent to the VFLW to hone her craft, biding her time before earning her AFLW debut in round three, 2021. It took until season six, however, for her to play regular games in earnest thanks to a move to defence. 

Athletic and courageous, Grant's ball use is impressive, averaging 74.9 per cent disposal efficiency across her 23 games, while her contested marking is eye-catching. Now settled in the backline, Grant's persistence has certainly paid off – both for her and the Bulldogs. 

Isabella Grant is tackled by Chloe Molloy during the S7 elimination final between Western Bulldogs and Collingwood at Victoria Park on November 6, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet 

Initially drafted as an athletic defender, Isabelle Pritchard's graduation to the midfield has been a revelation for the Bulldogs. A hard-hitting, contested ball player, Pritchard is one of few AFLW players who can then deftly move to the outside, rather than relying on pure power to break away from congestion. 

She plays with a real attacking intent, and averaged 2.8 inside 50s, 2.4 clearances and 15.5 disposals per game last season. Pritchard has not lost her defensive roots in the process, however, averaging 3.5 intercepts and 3.4 tackles at the same time. 

Powerful Pritchard picks Newton with peach of a pass

00:49 Oct 1. 2022. 2:27 PM

Isabelle Pritchard adds to her impressive quarter with another strong grab and beautiful delivery to Gabby Newton