Another AFLW season is underway, and for AFL fans in Europe, there is plenty of reasons to be excited with four women playing in the opening round.
This season will see a record number of Irish women playing in the AFLW. New recruits Ailish Considine, Sarah Rowe and Yvonne Bonner all made their debuts this weekend.
Aisling McCarthy is on the list of reigning premiers Western Bulldogs but was selected as an emergency so hopefully, she will make her debut over the coming weeks.
Star international Cora Staunton is back again and got her season off to a great start kicking two goals but couldn’t prevent her GWS Giants side losing 4.3 (27) to the Brisbane Lions 4.5 (29). Cora kicked a total of five goals in last years AFLW season, and if she continues her impressive start to the season, she should kick more this season.
After an impressive opening game, Cora was awarded two votes in the AFLCA AFLW Champion Player of the Year, as she finished with 14 touches, two marks and two tackles.
Joining Cora at the Giants this year is Yvonne Bonner. Yvonne is still new to the sport of Australian Rules Football, having grown up playing Gaelic football from a young age at school then for her local club Glenfin.
Yvonne joined the Giants after a trial as part of the Cross Coders initiative back in September. She had played her first game only a couple of weeks ago in a pre-season game but quickly looked right at home, kicking the opening goal of the game from about 30 metres out after winning a free kick.
She also provided an important passage of play leading up to a goal in the third quarter as she kicked the ball into the Giants forward line looking for a one-on-one, and her Giants teammate snapped the goal.
Despite a loss in her opening AFLW match, Yvonne showed what she is capable of with a goal, seven disposals and some key passages of play.
Down in Victoria, Sarah Rowe also lined up for her first AFLW match, as her side Collingwood played away to the competitions newest team, Geelong. Sarah is a talented athlete but is still relatively new to the game of Aussie Rules.
Sarah grew up playing Gaelic football (GA) and soccer, spending much of her time juggling both from the age of eight. She received five caps at a senior level for the Irish soccer team but then committed her time to GA.
Then midway through 2018, she had interest from each of the Melbourne clubs and Collingwood secured her services for this season. Despite only having a few weeks of experience playing Australia Football, she started in the forward line for Collingwood on the weekend as she had six kicks, two marks and a tackle. Unfortunately for her side, they lost by a solitary point against the competition’s newest team 3.5 (23) to 3.6 (24).
Another close game saw Ailish Considine’s Adelaide Crows lose 1.11 (17) to the Western Bulldogs 2.6 (18) in a close thriller.
Alilish is another Gaelic football star recruited to the AFLW through Cross Coders, having played GA for 20 years since she was just six years old.
Starting on the interchange, Ailish had a positive impact for her team, setting up their only goal of the game. After winning the contested ball on the wing, she delivered a perfectly weighted kick to a teammate running back with the flight in the forward-50.
She finished the game with a total of nine disposals, which consisted of seven kicks, on top of three marks showing her ability to contest in the air, learnt through GA and Camogie.
Despite no players involved with a winning side in the opening round, they have all shown why the clubs have looked towards Ireland to improve their lists. Cora started off well and looks like she will be one of the competitions key players this year. Teammate Yvonne had an outstanding debut match and will certainly be looking forward to a GWS home game on Friday.
For Sarah and Ailish, they will use this round as a stepping board going forward. It was a chance to get valuable game time with teammates and continue learning about the game, but they both performed key roles for their side and will look to improve as the weeks go by.