IS IT possible to replace one of the very best players in the competition?
This is the question facing not one, but three clubs this week after Brisbane's Kate Lutkins, Collingwood's Brianna Davey and the Western Bulldogs' Izzy Huntington suffered ACL injuries.
All three players have their defining traits which have resulted cumulatively in All-Australian selections, an AFLW best and fairest, a Grand Final best on ground medal and a NAB AFLW Rising Star award.
BRISBANE AND KATE LUTKINS
Lutkins' role is multi-faceted – she usually takes on the opposition's biggest forward, and directs play and teammates from the last line of defence.
It's a big pair of shoes to fill.
Jesse Wardlaw – 185cm, key forward
Tahlia Hickie – 182cm, ruck/forward
Taylor Smith – 180cm, forward/ruck
Kate Lutkins – 180cm, key defender
Sophie Conway – 176cm, winger
Zimmie Farquharson – 176cm, forward
Indy Tahau – 175cm, key back
Phoebe Monahan – 174cm, defender
Sharni Webb – 172cm, utility
Farquharson and Webb are the only two not currently in the side – the former is a pure forward, while the latter is on the comeback trail from giving birth to daughter Billie in June.
Webb played managed minutes in the Lions' practice match prior to Christmas.
Another option could be to place either Conway or Orla O'Dwyer behind the ball, with potential debutant Ruby Svarc to take their original role on the wing.
Monahan stood up very well in Lutkins' absence during the loss to Adelaide, but a lot may fall on the shoulders of 19-year-old Tahau.
Compounding the Lions' issues is the 4-5 week absence of forward Dakota Davidson (foot), making the removal of Wardlaw, Smith or Hickie from attack close to impossible.
COLLINGWOOD AND BRIANNA DAVEY
Out of all three injured players, Davey's midfield role is the simplest to replace.
What isn't easy, however, is replacing Davey's strength and power around stoppages, which has been a get-out-of-jail-free card for the Pies over the past few years.
In fact, there are very few players across the entire competition itself (Lions tagger Cathy Svarc aside) who can match Davey in the contest, let alone on Collingwood's list.
Olivia Meagher, who joined Collingwood's list last week, was the sole midfielder to not play against Carlton in round one.
But the likes of Mikala Cann, Eloise Chaston, Ebony O'Dea and Eliza James can increase their time on the ball, having split their matches between the forward or defensive flanks and the midfield.
Tarni Brown is also an option for increased midfield time, but will miss this weekend with concussion.
WESTERN BULLDOGS AND IZZY HUNTINGTON
The situation is more difficult at the Kennel, in part due to a number of injuries limiting options.
Key defender Katie Lynch has played as a forward at Collingwood, but is only a chance to return from a quad injury this week.
Second and third forwards Bonnie Toogood and Nell Morris-Dalton will shoulder the bulk of the load up forward in Huntington's absence.
The Dogs only have two rucks on their list – Celine Moody and Alice Edmonds – both of whom played against Melbourne.
Skipper Ellie Blackburn is a noted goalkicker, but will miss against Geelong due to AFL health and safety protocols, and is the side's best midfielder.
Deanna Berry will slot into the attack upon her return from an ACL injury in the next few weeks. While almost fully recovered, the club has been cautious and does not wish to unnecessarily rush the mercurial forward's return.
However, Huntington's contested marking ability – widely regarded as one of the very best proponents of the skill in the AFLW – is irreplaceable.
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