With the regular season of the AFLW in the books (along with week one of the finals), thought turns to who deserved nods in the All-Australian team. While most analysts take a primarily subjective view on these honours, HPN has taken a more data-driven view, based on Player Approximate Value (PAV) and as found here.
The top 75 players, according to PAV, tell an interesting story.
Kiara Bowers rates as the best player from with strong all round contributions led by her midfield output. Brianna Davey isn’t too far behind with more of an offensive bent to her value, and then sit other gun midfield and mid-forward players such as young Giant Alyce Parker and 2 time former MVP Erin Phillips.
This top group are all walk up to All Australian nomination and selection, obviously. Sorting by Offensive and Defensive PAV gives some good idea who the specialists are, who will of course be nominated to the back and forward parts of the team.
Without further ado, here’s the team that falls out of PAV.
Nearly all the top players for defensive PAV are on the tall side, although the spread of player sizes in the AFLW isn’t as pronounced as AFLM footy and defence is a somewhat more positionless affair. AFLW players are mostly capable of handling all but the most extreme matchups. Not too many smaller defenders emerge at the top end, perhaps because more of the sweeping rebound duties are often performed by players who are also midfielders
Livingstone and Lutkins are the clear standout defenders, the anchoring talls at the two statistically best defences in the league, Collingwood and Brisbane.
Their more attacking offsiders, Schleicher and Campbell, also rate a spot. Schleicher is the most clearly rebounding and offensive defender in this team and that gets her the nod over other tall defender candidates such as Freo’s Janelle Cuthbertson and Adelaide’s Sarah Allan. Campbell is in more on team balance, being the sole more medium-sized defender here. If this group has a weakness, it will be small forwards.
Bowers is both the most valuable overall and most valuable midfielder, and Davey rates second. Davey’s more offensive orientation reflects her status as a versatile utility and sees her placed on an AA wing, as is almost tradition. Garner is another flexible multi-position player, but is a pretty strong ball winner and distributor for the Kangaroos and second in the league in clearances. Ebony Marinoff is a more attacking midfielder with big metres gained and inside 50 numbers and this sees her on the other wing.
GWS number one pick Alyce Parker has gone from strength to strength and leads GWS in a bunch of stats not normally associated with primary midfielders. This includes stats such as rebound 50s, intercepts, and metres gained. If Parker continues her progression, she should pretty soon be challenging for the league best and fairest.
Carlton’s Breann Moody just gets the ruck nod ahead of Melbourne’s Lauren Pearce, but this is nearly a tie in PAV terms.
On the bench sit the next ranked set of midfielders filling out most positions, making this an unashamedly midfielder stacked team. Among them sit 2020 PAV-leader Karen Paxman and another young star in Georgia Patrikios. Patrikios, still a teenager, gives the Saints plenty closer to goal as well as plying her trade in the middle. The second main mids from Adelaide (Ann Hatchard) and North (Emma Kearney) also sit here.
Collingwood’s Jaimee Lambert, 7th highest rated player over all, could probably be slotted into the forward line onfield, but instead takes a bench position as someone able to play in both areas.
The first three named here pick themselves. Darcy Vescio was the first player to have a 100 point season, and is a must pick. As well as being rated second on offensive value, Erin Phillips could easily fit into the midfield as well, so naturally comes in as a forward. Katie Brennan’s efforts at Richmond included 14 goals and she’s the third walk-up.
The specialist Georgia Houghton (4th in overall offensive value) is another all-round dangerous forward and a marking target.
After that, it’s a question of priorities. Huntington’s league-leading inside-50 marking was only let down by slightly higher inaccuracy that kept her to 12.9 and 6th on the goalkicking tally, and she also adds a genuine marking target to an otherwise smaller forward line.
The bench rounds out the forward options with the hybrid Ellie Blackburn being the 8th most valuable player and too good to leave out. Her value, like Lambert’s and Phillips’, is fairly evenly split between offence and midfield.