Well… this is going to be a different kind of season summary.
15-0-2 at a percentage of 394%… I don’t think I remember anyone picking that at the start of the year. I do distinctly remember many pre-season predictions that went 1) Collingwood to go undefeated and 2) Geelong or Essendon to be the other team in the Grand Final.
The above, of course, was basically saying 2022 would be a clone of 2021. By the end of round one, everyone was backtracking after the Saints rolled the Pies 29-9. They were feeling validated by us (98-0) and Geelong (73-14), though, with the Hawks the other big winner for the round (72-13).
At the time of these predictions we didn’t know AFLW 2022(B) would be brought forward and affect the latter part of the VFLW season. What many should have better considered was how Essendon and Hawthorn were attractive places for players to advocate for a role in the coming expanded AFLW competition.
The VFLW has no draft, no longer has a points system, and the salary cap is so low ($30,000) that no one is selling their club to prospective players based on pay. So the AFLW possibilities, the facilities you can offer (yeah nah, Dawks), and the culture you can sell are huge.
Bits of all that resulted in us adding ex-AFLW players in Danielle Marshall, Joanne Doonan, Jordan Zanchetta, and Bella Ayre. Throw in Alana Barba there if you wish to stretch that comparison a bit, plus a number of missed-on-being-drafted players in Renee Tierney and Bella Clarke (the latter from the Suns Academy). That’s the best part of a third of the team, and I likely don’t need to tell you what impact they had this year. Bella Clarke is the only one not to be upgraded to our AFLW team.
We also pulled out the surprise of the season with 26yo recent-convert-from-soccer Radford from Moonee Ponds in the EDFL. Note that’s Division 1, not Premier League. She would go on to be one of two Essendon players to feature in all games this year (the other being Courtney Ugle).