SEVERAL practice matches took place across the country over the weekend, giving players their first real hitout in match conditions ahead of season seven.
In Queensland, Brisbane and Gold Coast tried out new combinations, with new faces Ella Smith, Charlie Mullins, Kiara Hillier, Jasmyn Smith, Georgia Clayden and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster all getting a run.
Highly rated Gold Coast winger Annise Bradfield also made a successful return from an ACL injury that saw her watch last season from the sidelines. Meanwhile, reigning competition best and fairest winner Emily Bates picked up where she left off in April.
As this was their first match simulation of the season, scores were not kept between the sides.
AFLW FIXTURE Who does your team play in season seven?
At Essendon's home base of The Hangar on Saturday, the Bombers took on Melbourne to show what they might bring later in the month.
While the Demons flexed their muscles, particularly in attack with Alyssa Bannan and Casey Sherriff forming an exciting, quick forward duo and combining for four goals, it was Paige Scott who offered plenty for Essendon at the other end of the ground, kicking the only two goals of the third quarter.
Former Saint Jacqui Vogt was handy for the Bombers both around the ball and in defence, while Bonnie Toogood looked unstoppable when the ball came her way. For Melbourne Samantha Johnson - drafted out of Casey's VFLW program - played a crucial role on the wing and looks to be a possible replacement for the unavailable Eliza McNamara.
Melbourne ultimately came away with the win 12.12 (84) to Essendon's 6.4 (40).
In WA, Richmond dominated Fremantle, winning 10.11 (71) to 1.2 (8), and showed just how important Courtney Wakefield is to its forward structure as the veteran marked everything that came her way. Wakefield went on to kick five goals as the Dockers' defence didn't have an answer for her in the air.
The Tigers have added an extra level of speed and skill to their game, putting together some nice passages, many of which were neat end-to-end plays started by new defender Eilish Sheerin. Former Cat Steph Williams also showed what she is made of up forward, as did Stella Reid.
For the Dockers, who were without important midfielders Hayley Miller and Kiara Bowers, and managed Ebony Antonio, Ange Stannett, Janelle Cuthbertson and Gabby O'Sullivan's minutes, Megan Kauffman added some grit and determination across the field. Philipa Seth also made her return from an ankle concern that saw her miss all of season six.
Also out west, West Coast claimed victory 11.4 (70) to 6.5 (41) over new side Hawthorn. The Eagles tested out their new forward combination with Aimee Schmidt, Mikayla Western, Aisling McCarthy, Shanae Davison and Kate Bartlett each hitting the scoreboard.
Tamara Luke was the clear shining light for Hawthorn, kicking four of the side's six goals after a slow start had them on the back foot. Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Tegan Cunningham and VFLW elevation Jenna Richardson also showed plenty for the visitors.
Between St Kilda and Carlton, it was the former who registered a narrow win. Without Caitlin Greiser or Grace Kelly in attack, Jess Matin and Nicola Xenos were strong in front of goal, and the Saints looked best when getting it in the hands of Tarni White and Molly McDonald out in space.
Carlton was strong through the middle of the ground, showing off its new-look midfield led by Mimi Hill, but struggled to transition neatly into the forward line. Tall forwards Imogen Milford, Jess Good and Mia Austin presented moved well, and defender Mua Laloifi also snuck forward to kick a goal.
In South Australia, Danielle Ponter played out four quarters in the middle of the ground as Adelaide took on Port Adelaide. Scores were not kept for the hitout as the latter managed a number of key players in the second half.
Crows replacement player Jess Waterhouse kicked three goals as draftees Keeley Kustermann and Kiera Mueller played important roles in both the backline and midfield.
For Port Adelaide's first game together, Gemma Houghton was important in attack and ruck Liz McGrath used her voice to lead well from the middle.
Meanwhile in Sydney, GWS registered an 18-point win over Sydney, 7.9 (51) to 5.3 (33), with a number of young players putting their hand up for early selection.
Local talent Zarlie Goldsworthy kicked two goals working from the middle, and half forward Tait Mackrill spent the game running through the midfield. Coach Cam Bernasconi also mentioned Jasmine Grierson's work as a key defender with Pepa Randall not playing.
Emily Pease is another who impressed, hitting the scoreboard, and pinpointed as the Giants' best by Bernasconi.
The Swans were without Montana Ham who is still balancing her studies in Melbourne with footy in Sydney, but Sydney local Cynthia Hamilton stole the show in her bright red and white helmet, kicking three goals in the process.
In a contested game Sydney was able to put together some handy passages of play and show they won't be easybeats come season seven.
A full slate of official practice matches will kick off on Friday evening:
Friday August 12
St Kilda v Brisbane at RSEA Park, 3:30pm AEST
Saturday, August 13
Adelaide v North Melbourne at Norwood Oval (Coopers Stadium), 10am ACST
Essendon v Port Adelaide at The NEC Hangar, 12pm AEST
Western Bulldogs v Greater Western Sydney at VU Whitten Oval, 11:30am AEST
Gold Coast v Geelong Cats at Austworld Centre Oval, 12:30pm AEST
Sydney v Collingwood at Blacktown International Sports Park, 1pm AEST
Fremantle v West Coast at Fremantle Oval, 12pm AWST
Carlton v Melbourne at the MCG, 4:40pm AEST
Sunday, August 14
Richmond v Hawthorn at the MCG, 10:30am AEST