AS THE AFLW develops, players' skills increase and coaching panels become more strategic, key game styles have emerged among the competition's best sides.
With a shorter turnaround into season seven, it is unlikely we will see significant changes to what worked last season, but rather minor tweaks to keep opponents on their toes.
So which sides stand out in different statistical areas like scoring, tackling, disposal and defence?
Brisbane was the most prolific attacking side in the competition last season, averaging the third-highest score in AFLW history with 49.2 points per game. This in turn led to the third-highest average margin the competition has seen at +24.2 points, and all of this came thanks to the side's ability to overwhelm opponents.
The Lions averaged the most inside 50s ever in the League, sending the ball forward 40.7 times per game – 18 more than their opposition.
Adelaide's impressive 2019 premiership side set the bar high when it came to the attacking half, and this year Brisbane came close to emulating that dominant side.
Brisbane in attack – season six
For the second consecutive year, Brisbane broke its club record for highest score, and for a week, the Lions held the competition record for the highest score with 15.8 (98) in round eight against West Coast. They scored 60 or more points in 41.7 per cent of games, up from 18.2 per cent last year.
Greta Bodey led the way for the Lions with 13 goals, and Sophie Conway contributed 10 of her own. Brisbane also enjoyed hauls of five or more goals from a record-breaking eight players.
No. of players to kick 5+ goals each season by club
Ominously, Brisbane's forward line has seen little change. The damaging combination of Bodey, Dakota Davidson, Jesse Wardlaw, Courtney Hodder, Taylor Smith and Zimmorlei Farquharson are all set to spend plenty of time inside 50 in season seven, while Conway presses forward from the wing.
Unsurprisingly, Fremantle took the mantle of best tackling side last season, pipping its own record set in its undefeated 2020 season. Throughout season six the Dockers averaged 71.2 tackles per game – 22.5 more than their opposition – establishing that pressure as a hallmark of the side.
Top 10 average tackles
Prolific tackler Kiara Bowers led the way with 11.5 per game, just below her career average of 11.8, while three other Dockers averaged more than five tackles throughout the season.
This tackling pressure did not simply come from an inability to win their own ball, with the Dockers averaging the sixth-most disposals per game in the competition last season (216.8).
Inside 50 pressure, however, was led by Brisbane. The Lions set a new record for average tackles inside 50 with 15.8 per game – a massive 11.4 more than their opponents each game. For those playing 10 or more games last season, Courtney Hodder led the way with 1.9 tackles inside 50 each week, and Greta Bodey proving her willingness not just to attack but also defend, with an average of 1.7.
No team focused on controlling the ball more in season six than North Melbourne. Since joining the competition in 2019, the Kangaroos have looked to win the uncontested ball, and use neat foot skills to maintain possession and move into attack.
North Melbourne averaged 240 disposals per game last season, the most in the competition's history. Going hand-in-hand with this control, the Kangaroos averaged 52.2 marks per game.
Not only did they win more ball than any team has before, they also set a new record for disposal efficiency, hitting targets 66.7 per cent of the time, well above the average of 61.6 per cent across the rest of the competition in the same season.
Of the club's 24 AFLW wins since 2019, just four have come despite losing the uncontested possession count, and only three when registering fewer disposals than its opponent.
North Melbourne v the rest of the competition
Of the nine Roos who averaged 10 or more disposals per game last season, five used the ball at an efficiency of 65 per cent or higher – Emma Kearney, Brooke Brown, Mia King, Jenna Bruton and Ashleigh Riddell – all of whom are set to play important roles for the club next season.
Adelaide won its third AFLW premiership not off the back of its attacking potency – albeit boasting season six goalkicking leader Ashleigh Woodland – but its ability to suffocate the opposition.
The Crows averaged 61.2 intercepts throughout last season, often meaning they were able to trap the ball in their front half and limit attacking opportunities of their opponents. Because of this, they conceded just 22.8 inside 50s per game and just 7.3 shots on goal.
Naturally, this led to the lowest average score conceded in AFLW history, with the Crows giving up just 19.1 points per game. No other side has conceded less than 21 points per game since the competition began.
The only player in the top 10 for intercepts at the Crows last season who has since left is Nikki Gore. The club still has all the assets to maintain this oppressive game style into season seven.
Taking away the opposition's assets
While Melbourne's impressive run to its first Grand Final was largely thanks to its own slick skills, stacked forward line and deep midfield, what it did better than almost any other club was take away its opponent's control of the game.
The Demons conceded just 197.7 disposals per game – the fewest of any side in season six – well below the competition's average of 214.1 disposals in that time. Not only did they limit their opponents' ability to get their hands on the ball, they forced poor ball use when the opposition did take possession. Allowing a disposal efficiency of 57.9 per cent, Melbourne was the only team to force its opponents' efficiency below 60 per cent last season.
Limiting the opposition
Much of this comes from Melbourne's speed and ability to close down space, combined with the side's own clean disposal and ball control. What the Demons were able to do in the process was win more contested ball than any other team, averaging 111.1 contested possessions each game.
Heading into next season, while teams will no doubt tweak what hasn't quite worked and evolve the things that have, these key traits look all but certain to continue in some capacity or another.