Top Eight: Underrated Stars of the AFLW
Updated: Jun 20, 2020
Each club in the AFL Women’s competition has their own heavy hitters and stars, from Hatchard, Bower and Garner to Pearce, Harris and Brennan.
But with every star player there are also those who fly under the radar, either because they have not been playing long or because just play their role or maybe even because they only excel in a certain aspect of the game.
Regardless, the AFLW is full of underrated stars that might one day be the next Hatchard or Harris, or at the very least they can turn the tide in favour of their own side. And now we think is a good time to put the spotlight on some of these players.
So, by doing some digging we have managed to unearth the Top Eight Underrated Stars of the AFLW.
#8 Eden Zanker (Melbourne Demons)
To kick off our list we look towards a player that, if her past tells us anything, can develop into something special within the coming seasons.
Melbourne’s Eden Zanker was drafted from the Bendigo Pioneers with pick number six during the 2017 AFL Women’s Draft and enjoyed a steady start to the AFLW during her inaugural season. Making her debut in Round Five of the 2018 season, she would go on to average five disposals and two tackles a game from the three matches that she played that year.
However, we got to see more of what Eden was capable of during the 2019 season, as she booted five goals during the seven games that she played, a performance that also saw her earn a NAB Rising Star nomination as well. Which sits nicely alongside the six disposals and three tackles a game that she averaged as well.
And this set the stage for another promising season for Eden and she did not disappoint, with 2020 proving to be her best season thus far. With the talented Demon managing to boot four goals from the seven games that she played this year, while also averaging a strong 10 disposals and four tackles a match.
At this rate, it is safe to assume that Eden Zanker will continue to improve for the 2021 AFLW season as well.
#7 Nikki Gore (Adelaide Crows)
With several key players sidelined for most the year due to injury, the Adelaide Crows certainly had their work cut out for them during the 2020 AFL Women’s season. But at least this will go down as the season that we finally got to see what Nikki Gore is capable of achieving.
Winner of the 2018 SANFL Women’s Breakthrough Player award, Nikki was picked up by the Crows with their first pick and the eighth overall in the 2018 AFL Women’s draft. But the South Adelaide product found it hard to break into the very strong Adelaide outfit during the 2019 season.
However, she finally made her long-awaited debut in Round Six, during which the Crows made easy work of the Giants to come out with a 32-point victory. But this would be the only game during the 2019 AFLW season that we would get to see her don the blue, red and yellow.
Fast forward to the 2020 AFLW season; Nikki once again got the opportunity to play, and this would be an opportunity that she would not let go of for the remainder of the season. Literally hitting the ground running, she booted one of the goals of the year during their Round One clash against Brisbane.
Over the course of the Crows’ next six matches, she managed to replicate her signature pressure around the ball, and while she did not collect huge numbers like some of her teammates, she was one of the team leaders for tackles. In fact, Nikki finished second in the team for total tackles with 35, narrowly out-pipping Anne Hatchard and falling just 12 tackles short of Ebony Marinoff, which considering the talent of these two is a major feat in itself.
As well as the tackles, Nikki also collected a steady total of 39 disposals, meaning that she nearly laid a tackle for very time she touched the ball. But being only young and with one strong season under her belt, there are certainly more standout performances yet to come.
#6 Hannah Dunn (Gold Coast Suns)
The semi-final loss, despite coming against a very tough opponent, was a disappointing end to what was a great inaugural season for the Gold Coast Suns. And one of the players that were at the forefront of the side all season was none other than Hannah Dunn.
While she had only played one AFLW level match before 2020, which was with the Giants back in 2017; Hannah’s career at state level is one of the best that we have ever seen. With Majority of her playing career being spent with Queanbeyan in the ACT, the same club that she is a life member of and has played in four Premierships with. But arguably the best stat from her time with Tigers would have to be the fact that she managed to earn a spot in the AFL Canberra Team of the year from 2011 to 2019.
However, 2019 also saw her spend some time in the SANFL Women’s competition with Norwood, which saw her finish third for the league Best and Fairest and also earn a spot in the 2019 SANFLW Team of the Year, making her the only player that we know of who has made two Teams of the Year for two different state leagues in just the same year.
On the back of this outstanding 2019 season, she was picked up by the Gold Coast with pick 22 in the 2019 NAB AFLW Draft and ended up playing six games for the Suns this year.
In total, this talented midfielder ended up collecting 81 disposals, 33 tackles and 13 marks, while also finishing third for her team for both total clearances and total tackles. And all of this added up to see her finish equal first for her side in the AFLW Best and Fairest count.
#5 Georgia Gee (Carlton Blues)
Our number five spot goes to player that has been gradually improving over the course of the last three years and it does not look as if she is going to stop improving anytime soon.
Carlton’s Georgia Gee has been a rather consistent performer for the Blues since she was drafted from the Dandenong Stingrays with pick number 12 during the 2017 NAB AFLW Draft. The young gun enjoyed a strong first season of AFLW in 2018, averaging six disposals and three tackles a match from the six games that she played that season.
The following year saw her step things up a notch, with Georgia managing a strong average of 11 disposals and four tackles a match, from the eight games she played during the 2019 AFLW season. It was also this same strong performance that saw her gain a NAB Rising Star Nomination as well.
Fast-forward to the 2020 AFLW season and once again, Georgia managed to improve even further. This time she managed to collect 71 disposals and 25 tackles from the seven games she played. However, the most impressive feat by Georgia this season is that she managed quintuple her career goal tally, taking it from two goals at the start of the season and finishing with ten by the end. With her eight goals this season being on par with fellow teammate and star forward, Tayla Harris.
With this in mind, we cannot wait to see what 2021 and beyond has in store for Georgia Gee.
#4 Mikayla Bowen (West Coast Eagles)
As the Most Valuable Player for Western Australia during the NAB U18 Championships, it was not much of a surprise when West Coast signed Mikayla Bowen as an under-age selection for their inaugural season.
A very promising footballer, Mikayla made her debut in Round One of the 2020 AFLW season and made her presence felt around the ground as she collected a total of ten tackles. While the Eagles themselves would not have had the year they particularly wanted, they can at least be very proud of Mikayla and her performance throughout the year.
She went on to collect 62 disposals, 31 tackles and a goal from the six games that she played for the blue and gold this year. A performance that saw her collect the second highest amount of tackles for the year at the Eagles, second to that of only Dana Hooker.
And as good of a start as this was for her AFLW career, we are certain that she will only get better in the coming seasons.
#3 Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw (Brisbane Lions)
Brisbane’s Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw improved out of sight during the 2020 AFL Women’s season.
The Coorparoo product was drafted in the 2018 NAB AFLW Draft with pick number 61, and while her inaugural season was pretty strong, as she managed to boot a goal and average six disposals and two tackles a game from the seven matches that she played, it is nothing compared to what she managed to pull of this season.
Playing seven matches for the Lions this year, Jesse collected a strong total of 45 disposals, 21 marks and nine tackles.
However, the best part of performance this year was the fact that she managed to boot nine goals, which saw her win the Lions goalkicker tally by six goals.
Add to this the fact that she also finished second for the side for total contested marks, and it equals a player for will prove very valuable up-forward for years to come.
#2 Lucy McEvoy (Carlton Blues)
Our number two spot goes to the former Geelong Falcons Captain and the number two pick from the 2019 NAB AFLW Draft, Lucy McEvoy.
Lucy enjoyed a dream start to her AFLW career, collecting an outstanding total of 91 disposals, 29 tackles, 13 marks and three goals from the seven games that she played this season. Not only that but her total of 57 contested possessions was the secound highest at Carlton, behind that of only Madison Prespakis.
Likewise, her average of four tackles a match saw her place third overall for the Blues in regard to total tackles; making Lucy’s performance this season outstanding, which is only made more impressive when you consider that this was her first season of AFLW as well.
It takes some serious skill to make yourself standout in a team that has as many star players as Carlton do, but she has managed to pull it off in her season, and we cannot wait to see what she does in the years to come.
#1 Chloe Molloy (Collingwood Magpies)
Collingwood’s Chloe Molloy comes in at our number one spot as a player that plays her role brilliantly and as a player that is also right on the cusp of reaching greatness again.
As a once gifted basketballer, Chloe gave it away to pursue her dreams in football, a decision that she was ultimately rewarded for making within the following year and a decision that we are certainly thankful that she made, or women’s football would have lost one very talented player.
Enjoying a standout career in both the TAC Cup competition and the VFLW, it was not a surprise that Chloe Molloy was drafted by the Magpies with pick number three during the 2017 NAB AFLW Draft. And she instantly made her presence felt during the 2018 season. Averaging 14 disposals and three marks a match, Chloe went on to claim the 2018 NAB AFLW Rising Star, as well as finishing runner-up to the AFLW Best and Fairest and also earning All-Australian honours.
Add to this, Collingwood’s AFLW Best and Fairest and their Best First-Year Player award, and the future looked very bright for young Chloe Molloy. But unfortunately, an injury would rule her out for the entire 2019 AFLW season.
Luckily for us, the 2020 AFLW season saw Chloe make her long-awaited return to football and her stats were pretty much on par to what they were during her breakout 2018 season. In total, this year saw her play seven games for the Magpies and collect an impressive total of 93 disposals, 32 marks, 16 tackles and six goals.
And to add icing to the cake, she was voted as the Captain of the inaugural 22 Under 22 Squad. An outstanding player who is still considerably young, Chloe can quite easily become one of the game’s greats within the years to come.
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Minutes with Moose would like to thank our ambassadors. Special Thanks to all those who nominated players for this list.