BY Fletcher Kearney
After what was legitimately the longest offseason since the AFL Women's competition was born back in 2017, safe to say we could hardly wait for the girls to get back on the track. And what an incredible first round of footy the 2021 season gave us, with some huge individual and team performances.
Watching all the action from round one got us thinking about how the rest of the season might play out. Check out some of our bold predictions below.
We've called it, Adelaide will win their third out of four possible premierships in 2021. After the return of a healthy Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall looks to have been the catalyst for a huge turn-around in form from the 2020 season. Having some young talent coming through the ranks, like Ashleigh Woodland, to complement their seasoned stars looks to be a formula for success. After a 38 point drubbing of the West Coast Eagles, the Crows have started this season with a bang. Combine their early performance with their list, which includes three of the best ten players in the league (Phillips, Randall and Marinoff) and it's hard to see why they aren't premiership favourites this year. Sportsbet has them sitting at $7 odds, behind both North Melbourne ($3.75) and Fremantle ($4.33).
We'll admit, our first two predictions are closely tied together. But we can't ignore Erin's resume and performance in Adelaide's opening-round win. With two league best and fairest medals, two best on ground in the Grand final medals and two premierships, Erin is undoubtedly the best player the AFLW has ever seen. With 23 disposals, 5 marks, 6 tackles and 2 goals from 5 shots on the scoreboard, Phillips would have almost certainly locked up the three votes in the season opener.
The class of Adelaide no doubt made West Coast look bad in the opening round, but the Eagles have a lot of work still to do. Entering just their second year in the comp, it looks like it could be a long year for West coast in 2021.
Might be the bravest player in the AFLW, Birch has never backed away from a contest and has the battle scars to prove it. We love the way she attacks the footy and back her to feature in the biggest contest of season 2021.
Finally healthy after two ACL injuries, we've got Tarni penciled in for the All Australian squad this year. She collected 18 classy disposals against the dogs on Friday night and will only get better as the season progresses.
After bursting onto the scene in the first ever AFLW game in 2017 with four goals, Vescio had a brilliant first season, but has largely failed to impress since. After having only four possesions in the season opener this year, it feels as though Vescio's time as the main target in the Carlton forward line is limited. If Vescio doesn't finish the year with a big haul of goals, her future could be in jeopardy.
### Where to watch
These times present some serious challenges for even the most committed fans. Reduced capacities and travel restrictions mean that you won't be able to get to every game live. So what are your options if you want the stadium atmosphere away from the game, MatchPint has you covered. Our pub finder lists the pubs and bars that are definitely showing the game near you.
For the ultimate AFLW viewing experience this year, visit our best pubs for AFLW page here.