As another year of the AFL takes flight, I find myself throwing up a similar question:
"Why is there no State of Origin in the AFL?"
With one of the AFL's rival code, the National Rugby League set to begin their State of Origin series at the end of this month, I thought today would be an ideal time to reveal an AFL's version of State of Origin - but it comes with a twist.
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I propose something a little bit different, I can understand why AFL clubs wouldn't want their players to play for state pride anymore, clubs can't afford to risk their players with the number of players succumbing to season-ending injuries escalating over the past number of seasons.
So instead of a State of Origin game with men, why not do it with the AFLW? After such a succesful opening season, I think it's fair they close out the year with a game pitting the best talent of the country against one another. They did something similar last year, but they just mixed all the players around in what was essentially dubbed an 'All-Star' game in the week leading to the finals, with star-studded line-ups representing both Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
But for this year, I want the AFL to bring back the last time the AFL did something of some relevance to a State Of Origin - A showdown between Victoria's finest female footballers and the rest of the nation. I think I could speak for most people when I say it would certainly provide some must-see television, particularly on a weekend where there is no AFL footy to be played.
There has been state championships held in recent times, but with the Victorians dominating every championship so far, it sounds only reasonable to propose a Victoria vs All-Stars game for the immediate future.
Since I wrote up an article last year on what the AFL would be like if we brought back the State of Origin - writing up teams for Victoria, South Australia, West Australia and the rest of Australia, Not much has changed from AFL headquarters about a possibility to bring back State of Origin Footy, but I think this is a brilliant idea that will get: 1) Bums on seats and 2) A massive television audience.
Comparing the two teams here, It would look like it would have the makings of such an epic match. Both midfields are elite, both forward lines are loaded with players that can easily score and both defensive units are incredibly solid.
So without further ado, let's quickly run down both sides. It's important to remember that the players were selected through the team they had previously played for in the state competitions.
B: Meg Hutchins (COLL), Nicola Stevens (COLL), Hannah Scott (WB)
HB: Melissa Hickey (MELB), Brianna Davey (CARL), Steph Chiocci (COLL)
C: Lauren Pearce (MELB), Emma Kearney (WB), Ellie Blackburn (WB), Daisy Pearce (MELB)
HF: Bianca Jakobsson (CARL), Katie Brennan (WB), Kaitlyn Ashmore (BL)
F: Darcy Vescio (CARL), Moana Hope (COLL), Sarah Perkins (ADEL)
INT: Karen Paxman (MELB), Elise O'Dea (MELB), Phoebe McWilliams (GWS), Lauren Arnell (CARL), Jaimee Lambert (WB), Jess Dal Pos (GWS)
It's a very impressive line-up to say the least.
The midfield boasts of some of the name's best possession getters. Daisy Pearce, Emma Kearney and Ellie Blackburn, and that's just who's starting in the midfield. Pearce has been an established face of the game since the beginning of women's footy, and with the Bulldogs pair of Kearney and Blackburn, you get ladies that can easily win you at least 20 possessions a game, and with Blackburn, she can easily push forward and get you a goal. And then you've got coming off the bench, the likes of Karen Paxman, Elise O'Dea and Jess Dal Pos who can give you 15-20 possessions a game and also Carlton captain Lauren Arnell can also provide a lot in the midfield, and her leadership is a massive asset to the Vics. I really think it'll be hard to find a better combination of midfielders.
Most of the AFL's talented rucks are all outside of Victoria, so it was a little bit harder than I thought to settle on a ruckwoman. I eventually went with Melbourne's Lauren Pearce over both Carlton's Alison Downie and Western Bulldogs' Tiarna Ernst. Pearce sat inside the top five in the league for hitouts per game, averaging 14 per game, and given that she has played with most of these ladies over the last couple of years, the on-field chemistry would already be there.
There's a lot to love about the back six. Nicola Stevens is one of the toughest key defenders in the country and seeing her pair up with Brianna Davey brings back a couple of good memories last year when both ladies were donning the red, white and blue. Davey is not only a terrific intercept mark in defence, but she can also go into the midfield with an unbelievably positive effect. Melbourne marquee Melissa Hickey is amongst one of the game's best half-back flankers and her spot in the AFLW All-Australian team is evidence, and along with runners Hannah Scott and Steph Chiocci, have plenty of options when running the ball out of defence.
The forwards will present plenty of firepower. Read those three names in the forward line. Perkins, Vescio and Hope. These three combined for 32 goals in the 2017 AFLW season. Vescio's ability to snag goals more than makes up for her diminuitive size, as she took home the competition's leading goal-kicker award. Perkins provided a real surprise this year after Adelaide threw her a lifeline after nobody opted to draft in the Eastern Devils' Full-Forward. She finished behind only Darcy Vescio at the end of the seasons in goals kicked with 11 majors from eight games, and whilst Hope suffered from a lot of media hype, she still managed to average a goal per game, and particularly impressed in the back-end of the season.
The talent on the half-forward line isn't to be underestimated either. With Western Bulldogs' captain Katie Brennan, you get a talented woman who can play as a stay-at-home forward, or she is very much capable of being an extra midfielder. It was a real shame that she wasn't able to play a lot this year, sitting out most of the campaign with an ankle injury, but I'll be keeping a close eye on her in the state league, as I will with a lot of the ladies who played in the AFLW this year.
Joining Brennan in the half-forward line are two players that would be familiar playing with Brennan at those Bulldogs exhibition games in Bianca Jakobsson, who is an incredibly talented lady who can take a great mark and has great skills in either in front of goal or in general play and Kaitlyn Ashmore, who is an elite runner and has shown she can kick a miraculous goal or two. The Victorians also have forward options coming off the bench, with GWS' Phoebe McWilliams proven to be a notorious goal-scorer, averaging a goal a game for the Giants this season, and Western Bulldogs' livewire Jaimee Lambert, who can go either forward or provide another midfield rotation.
B: Ebony Antonio (FREM), Leah Kaslar (BL), Courtney Cramey (ADEL)
HB: Sam Virgo (BL), Chelsea Randall (ADEL), Tahlia Randall (BL)
C: Emma King (COLL), Kara Donnellan (FREM), Ebony Marinoff (ADEL), Erin Phillips (ADEL)
HF: Jess Wuetschner (BL), Tayla Harris (BL), Kellie Gibson (ADEL)
F: Kate McCarthy (BL), Sabrina Fredrick-Traub (BL), Jacinda Barclay (GWS)
INT: Erin McKinnon (GWS), Kiara Bowers (FREM), Emma Swanson (GWS), Emma Zielke (BL), Dana Hooker (FREM), Renee Forth (GWS)
As talented of a team as this is, I would be extremely keen to see if this team can match the Victorians on every line.
Having Chelsea Randall on the Centre-Half Back line and go head-to-head with Katie Brennan would provide an unbelievable one-on-one match-up between arguably two of the most athletic players in the AFLW. I'm not surprised to see half of the All-Stars' back six occupied by Brisbane players, because they were the number one defensive team all season. Leah Kaslar, Tahlia Randall and All-Australian Sam Virgo don't get a lot of recognition down here in Victoria, but these three are the cornerstones of what is an elite Brisbane defence. Another All-Australian in Courtney Cramey is exactly in the same boat in an equally as impressive Adelaide defence, and is one that I admittedly underestimated at the start of the year and you add the tenacious Ebony Antonio from Fremantle, I think it's a defensive group that could give the Victorian forward line a run for their money.
There are eight Brisbane players in this team, that's how good they were travelling this season, but four of them are named as forwards for this All-Stars team. Having Brisbane marquees Tayla Harris and Sabrina Fredrick-Traub as the key-forwards was always going to be the obvious choice, and the scary thing is, they're both in their early 20s, and are going to get so much better before their time is up. Kate McCarthy is an absolute gun, with her speed burning many an opponent this season, and with nine goals in eight games this season, she finds herself a spot in the pocket, with another elite runner in Jess Wuetschner the other Lion in the All-Stars forward six. Also in the All-Stars forward line is Adelaide marquee player Kellie Gibson and GWS' Jacinda Barclay, both ladies capable of kicking goals and playing midfield.
But it's the midfield depth of this All-Stars team that will be intriguing to watch. With Emma King - arguably the game's best ruckwoman - starting at the centre bounce, I've opted to start the current AFLW's best and fairest winner Erin Phillips, alongside her team mate and AFLW Rising Star winner Ebony Marinoff and Fremantle marquee player Kara Donnellan. Phillips averaged 20 disposals and kicked 10 goals in eight games, so can also pushed down as a forward when required. Marinoff and Donnellan are amongst the game's top inside midfielders. Both ladies are in the top 10 in contested possessions, whilst both ladies are also in the top three in tackles, with Marinoff leading the league in tackles, nearly averaging 10 per game and Donnellan averaging just under seven tackles per game.
There is plenty of midfield depth coming off the bench, we have GWS ruckwoman Erin McKinnon who is second in the league for hitouts behind King, as well as team mate and marquee Giant Emma Swanson, who enjoyed some good football after a delayed start to the year due to injury. Also on the bench includes Fremantle best and fairest winner Dana Hooker, Brisbane captain and injured marquee signings Kiara Bowers from Fremantle and Renee Forth from GWS. Despite missing the whole season due to ruptured ACL's, these two possess so much talent and leadership, it was impossible to leave either woman out of this side.
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Which Team Would You Think Be Victorious?