The season that was: A look back at 2020

IT'S SAFE to say it's been an eventful year, and the 2020 NAB AFLW season feels like seven years ago, rather than seven months. 

With all teams now back on board for pre-season training, it's time to refresh your memory – what did actually happen during over the seven weeks of the season, before it was called off due to COVID-19?

AFLW season cancelled due to virus threat

06:07 Mar 22. 2020. 6:44 PM

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announces the postponement of the 2020 AFL season and the cancellation of the AFL season

Rounds 1-3

Richmond and Carlton kicked off the season at Ikon Park – with AFL umpires on board for the first time – after the Tigers' home matches had been moved to the old enemy's home base due to capacity concerns.

Top-flight football returned to Moorabbin for the first time since 1992, but the Saints took till round three to record their first ever win, courtesy of a monster goal from new star forward Caitlin 'G-Train' Greiser.

Daisy Pearce made a comeback after a season off due to pregnancy, and successfully slotted into a position at half-back, not her customary midfield role.

The addition of Roxy Roux took Fremantle's already potent forward line to a whole new level, and the Dockers comfortably accounted for West Coast in the first AFLW Derby.

Collingwood finally won its first round one game in four attempts. A different gameplan from new coach Steve Symonds proved the goods in the first few rounds, upsetting Carlton along the way.

AFLW Match Highlights: Carlton v Collingwood

05:48 Feb 16. 2020. 5:32 PM

The Blues and Magpies clash in Round 2 of the AFLW

The early signs from an injury-decimated Adelaide weren't flash, but the Crows managed to record wins over St Kilda and Geelong to keep their finals hopes alive.

Melbourne upset North Melbourne in a howling Casey Fields wind, but the Kangaroos – led by Jasmine Garner, who had moved to the midfield – were in strong form after that one loss, demolishing Richmond by 56 points.

Adelaide midfielder Anne Hatchard set a record for most disposals in an AFLW match with 35 against Brisbane in round one.

Gold Coast recorded its first win in round two against Richmond, and on the back of a three-goal haul from Kalinda Howarth, took it right up to big sister Brisbane in the first AFLW QClash which finished in a draw.

Geelong remained winless in the opening three rounds, but came close against Adelaide. Defender Maddy McMahon was harshly penalised for a deliberate rushed behind, which sealed the game for the Crows.

Was this rushed behind deliberate?

00:26 Feb 23. 2020. 7:02 PM

Geelong's Maddy McMahon gets pinged for a deliberate rushed behind, sealing victory for the Crows

Rounds 4-6

The Eagles finally saluted for their first AFLW win in round four, holding out a desperate Western Bulldogs, with Kirsten McLeod missing a set shot in the final few minutes.

Richmond seemed to finally be getting its mojo, pushing Geelong in a high-scoring, free-flowing game in Bendigo, but the Cats held firm for their first win of the season.

The Kardinia crew finished the season in better shape than it started, out-playing the mighty North Melbourne until young gun Nina Morrison's leg was caught in a tackle and she ruptured her ACL for a second time. The Cats wilted, and North waltzed away with the win.

Collingwood's resurgence hit a snag when star defender Ash Brazill tore her ACL against Melbourne in round four, a match which was played at Marvel Stadium before the AFL's State of Origin clash.

Brazill stretchered off the field with knee injury

01:42 Feb 28. 2020. 7:08 PM

Collingwood's Ash Brazill is taken from the field after suffering a knee injury

Erin Phillips made her long-awaited return to footy after tearing her ACL in the 2019 Grand Final, but needed a week's rest after pulling up sore.

It was heartbreak for St Kilda, keeping pace with the undefeated Fremantle until young midfielder Molly McDonald had a brainfade and rolling the ball away after it had crossed the boundary line on the full. The 50m penalty took the Dockers to the square, and they ultimately won by one point.

Round five saw a clash of the two remaining undefeated sides, with Fremantle triumphing over Brisbane. Sabreena Duffy was unstoppable, kicking 4.4.

The Giants had been fairly mediocre up until round five, and outright disappointing the previous week against the Lions, but came out roaring in Wagga Wagga. Cora Staunton booted four goals against the Tigers. 

Former Adelaide premiership forward Sarah Perkins made her AFLW comeback as an injury replacement player for Melbourne, kicking a goal in the Demons' thumping 59-point win over the Eagles. 

The highest accumulated score of 117 was recorded in a cracker of a match between Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs, with the Dockers victorious by 14 points.

Richmond's horror first season was capped off when the Tigers recorded the lowest ever AFLW score of just three points against St Kilda in round six. 

AFLW Match Highlights: St Kilda v Richmond

04:38 Mar 14. 2020. 10:35 PM

The Saints and Tigers go head to head in round 6 of the AFLW

Finals, COVID-19 and season cancellation

The arrival of COVID-19 on Australian shores saw the cancellation of the final two rounds of the season and a fast-tracked and expanded finals series, with the top four teams from each conference qualifying.

It meant Gold Coast played in its first final in either the AFL or AFLW competitions, but after three weeks on the road, the Suns were comprehensively outclassed by the hungry Dockers, who finished the season undefeated.

Lily Mithen was Melbourne's hero in a nail-biting semi-final, booting the winner after the Giants let slip a 15-point lead in the final quarter.

Mithen's second seals stunning Dees comeback

00:44 Mar 21. 2020. 4:54 PM

Lily Mithen's second career goal sends Melbourne into a preliminary final

North Melbourne and Collingwood played out an equally engrossing final, with the Pies peppering their attacking 50 in the final few minutes. Chloe Molloy's set shot fell just short, and Jasmine Garner took a saving match in defence a minute later.

Carlton stamped its claim as a finals dark horse with an authoritative win over Brisbane, who after impressing during the season, had ran out of steam somewhat by the end of March.

AFLW Match Highlights: Carlton v Brisbane

05:20 Mar 22. 2020. 3:12 PM

The Blues and Lions clash in the Semi Finals

Awards time

And that was all she wrote. The season was cancelled just hours after Carlton qualified for a preliminary final, and no winner was awarded.

Star young Blue Maddy Prespakis followed up from her 2019 NAB AFLW Rising Star win to take out the AFLW best and fairest – in true lockdown style, presented to her by younger sister Georgie – ahead of Kiara Bowers, Emma Kearney, Anne Hatchard and Jenna Bruton.

Jasmine Garner took out both the AFLCA and AFLPA MVP awards, Caitlin Greiser kicked the most goals for the (shortened) season, forward-turned-defender Izzy Huntington won the NAB AFLW Rising Star and Karen Paxman was named All Australian captain.

From Rising Star to MVP: Maddy breaks new ground

04:55 Apr 28. 2020. 9:07 PM

Carlton's Madison Prespakis is top of the NAB AFLW pops after claiming the 2020 AFL Women's Best and Fairest