The second edition of AFLW kicks off again with Friday night's Carlton-Collingwood clash at Ikon Park. Who could forget last year's groundbreaking opener when the same ground was filled to capacity, with thousands of fans locked out of the stadium? It was an incredible start to an incredible debut season.
But what will the 2018 version bring?
One significant change is the fact last year's AFLW draft was the first to introduce emerging, rather than established, talent to the football world. This first generation of female players with access to a comprehensive high performance pathway throughout their adolescence will give onlookers more insight into what the future of AFLW will become.
While the likes of Erin Phillips, Daisy Pearce, Brianna Davey and Darcy Vescio are now household names, who will put their names in lights through the 2018 season?
Isabel Huntington (Pick No. 1, Western Bulldogs) was destined to be a No. 1 draft pick long before AFLW's arrival. Talent staff knew how special she was when she arrived at a clinic as a 12-year-old. It's hard to say what the aspiring paediatrician has more of - innate athletic ability or the things that we need to consciously cultivate to become exceptional, like workrate, resilience, leadership, humility, aspiration, work/life balance, and self-discipline. Huntington's read of the game is brilliant, her left foot damaging, and her unparalleled ability to take high-flying and contested marks might see her one day win Mark of the Year.
Chloe Molloy's (Pick No. 2, Collingwood) drafting to Collingwood is somewhat of a homecoming. A talented junior footballer who matched it with the boys was drawn away from the game by international basketball opportunities. With a US college career on the horizon, AFLW's timely emergence piqued Molloy's interest, reinvigorating her dream of emulating her uncle Jarrod Molloy's exploits for the Pies. Powerful through the core with elite hands and read of the game, Molloy's versatility makes her dangerous in all zones, and she thrives on defending just as much she loves kicking goals.
Dual athlete Monique Conti (Pick 4, Western Bulldogs) is already a rising star - as a basketballer with the WNBL's Melbourne Boomers, but it wasn't always this way. Whilst carving out a remarkable junior football career with boys and girls that included All-Australian and National Academy selections, Conti's basketball achievements were harder to come by. Short and slight, Conti struggled to fit basketball's physical mould and be noticed amongst her rangier peers in early adolescence. This only fuelled her rare work rate and determination, with football the beneficiary. Football accolades were flowing fast when she eventually earned her first Australian basketball honours. When named in the 2016 World Basketball Team, her destiny of juggling both codes was sealed. In either code, Conti's freakish ability to win the inside ball by exiting gaps with elite acceleration is mesmerising. Her ball use makes those around her even better. Conti's biggest weapon however, her humility, keeps her working when others think they've done enough
At 185cm, Jessica Allan (Pick No. 8, Adelaide) is never short of most things, including football role models. Her father Keith played SANFL football, while her older sisters, Megan and Sarah, were U18 South Australian representatives. A 12cm growth spurt and an indefatigable workrate secured Jessica All Australian honours and a place at the 2017 AFLW Combine. Her vertical leap reach of 3.13m make her a formidable ruck, whilst her sixth place in the Combine's 20m sprint shows her versatility to play as a key forward, both of which the Crows will need to remain title holders.
Leading by example with everything she does, Darcy Guttridge's (Pick No. 9, Collingwood) impact on those around her is just as critical as what she does ball in hand. Her Victoria Country captaincy was vital in their undefeated run at the 2017 AFLW National Championships. Switching rebounding defence and midfield roles, Guttridge's All-Australian performance announced her as a big time player. A dangerous left footer who is strong in the air and thrives on physicality, Guttridge has now added an aerobic engine that matches her tireless desire to impact the contest.
There are also lower-profile athletes who also have the ability to impact this year's AFLW season. Here's five unheralded players to keep an eye on.
Georgia Gee (Pick No. 12, Carlton), an outside small, is an elite user of the ball, possesses an incredible willingness to run both directions, and will push forward to crumb goals. One of the best kicks in AFLW.
Sarah Dargan's (Pick No. 20, Collingwood) unassuming presence allows her to easily find space to crumb goals as a small forward. An improving engine will allow her to run through the middle for short bursts in time.
Jodie Hicks (Pick No. 5, GWS), a WBBL player with the Sydney Sixers, is a tough midfielder who finds the football often, gets good penetration by foot and will become a critical component of the GWS midfield.
Iilish Ross (Pick No. 13, Collingwood), a motorcyclist who raced internationally, is a latecomer to the game with natural skills. Her toughness and physicality stand out in defence.
Eden Zanker (Pick No. 6, Melbourne), a key forward from regional NSW, thrives on the contest, combining her hardness with leadership and presence to be a crucial goal kicker.