espnW foresight: Looking ahead to 2019 season

Jessica Wuetschner celebrates kicking a goal in the Lions' AFLW win over the Dockers. Jono Searle/Getty Images

As the countdown to the 2019 season begins we look ahead to our four big women's winter codes: AFLW, Super Netball, Super W and women's rugby league.

What will be the same in 2019? What has changed? Read ahead for our bold predictions for the season ahead.

AFLW

What will be different in 2019? There are two main differences to be aware of heading into AFLW 2019, firstly that the competition has welcomed two new teams in Geelong and North Melbourne, and the second is that the competition has been divided into two conferences of five teams. As there are ten teams in the competition but only seven home-and-away rounds, teams will play all other teams in their conference once, while playing three of the teams from the other conference.

In addition, the finals series has been expanded to two weeks, with a preliminary final round to be introduced the week before the grand final. The top two teams in each conference will play off in the preliminary finals before progressing to the grand final.

Now into its third year, the AFLW competition will also likely start to see some improvement in the standard of play. With young girls now having had three years to look up to their heroes while playing junior footy themselves, the 2018 draft class was full of young talent the likes of which we haven't seen before.

What will remain constant? Despite the more-than-likely uptick in quality of young players across the board, the addition of two more teams does mean that the talent pool will be diluted somewhat, and that scoring may remain low for the foreseeable future. Combine the effects of summer heat, full-size grounds and fewer players trying to cover the space, and fatigue will remain one of the competition's biggest enemies.

Who will win the premiership? Western Bulldogs. The reigning premiers are warm favourites to go back-to-back, and considering they were without superstar Katie Brennan when they beat Brisbane Lions in last year's decider, she (and the Dogs) will be hungry to win it all again.

-- Matt Walsh

Super Netball

What will be different in 2019?

With little to no player movement between Super Netball season 2017 to 2018, 2019 will see completely new looks for multiple sides with one of the most interesting off-season player transfers yet. For back-to-back champions the Sunshine Coast Lightning, they may find it difficult to make it a three-peat with stars Caitlin Bassett, Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne all making moves, while the Thunderbirds generated plenty of buzz when they picked up Silver Ferns star Maria Folau. The structure of the competition also takes on a change with a new split draw introduced to fit around the Netball World Cup. The four week hiatus should prove interesting for some teams with the World Cup final to be played out just six days before Super Netball returns. This could be problematic for sides like the Melbourne Vixens and the Magpies who could potentially lose up to five players to international duties. The World Cup could also see the introduction of resting international players in order to manage their workloads throughout the Super Netball season and the World Cup period. Either way, it's going to be a new look competition that starts up in April.

What will remain constant?

Much is the same in Super Netball 2019 with the competition not likely to expand any further for at least another few years, while they've resisted temptation to bring in additional points. Speculation has swirled the last few years that the competition would introduce the two-point shot and while the rule change isn't completely off the table, Netball Australia chief Marne Fechner has clearly decided 2019 isn't the year to bring it in. A controversial idea, the two-point shot has divided players, administrators, coaches and fans for some time. Last year's changes will also continue in 2019, with each win to earn a team four points, while winning a quarter will see a team earn a bonus point.

Who will win 2019?

After two huge championship victories, Sunshine Coast Lightning are going to find it hard to back it up in 2019 after the loss of some of their key talent, while coach Noeline Taurua will have plenty on her plate coaching the Lightning as well as the Silver Ferns. This year instead looks to be the season for West Coast Fever and Melbourne Vixens. The Fever pulled out one of their best seasons in five years in 2018 as they climbed their way to the top of the ladder with the help of new signing Jhaniele Fowler, only to come unstuck in the final against the Lightning. They've taken a gamble by releasing experienced GA Nat Medhurst, but once they find the missing link to their attack end they're going to be a difficult side to overcome, especially at home. The Vixens, meanwhile, are primed to deliver in 2019 after impressing many pundits in 2017 and 2018. With the signing of Caitlin Thwaites to counter the loss of the injured Mwai Kumwenda, the Vixens have the right cattle in all the right places, and with internationally experienced players in all three sections of the court they have the experience and youth to take them all the way. How they bounce back after the World Cup break could make or break their season though.

2019 Champions: Melbourne Vixens to recover from the World Cup hangover and take out the title.

-- Brittany Mitchell

SuperW

What will be different in 2019?

The 2018 season went the way of the Reds and Waratahs, with both sides standing head and shoulders above the rest, but don't expect the same this year. While both sides remain choc full of talent, the Brumbies, Western Force and Melbourne Rebels have all unearthed some gems including Swiss import Camille Chamodon who's found her way to Melbourne. With a mix of international talent and youth, expect a jump in skills, fitness and precision across the board.

What will remain constant?

Not much has changed heading into the 2019 season. With no thoughts of expansion any time soon, the five original sides will likely remain indefinitely. But with the fixtures list yet to be finalised, the possibility of expanding to a full home and away season could be on the cards.

Who will win the premiership?

Waratahs. Full of international talent, the Waratahs are going to be a hard side to stop. With a mix of youth and experience, expect to see Ash Hewson and her side lift the trophy again in 2019.

-- Brittany Mitchell

Women's Rugby League

What will be different in 2019?

While the NRLW season has not expanded, women's rugby league will see two big additions in 2019. After a one year absence, the Women's All Star game will return, however it has seen a change this year with the Indigenous Women's All Stars set to take on the Maori Women's All Stars side at AAMI Park, Melbourne, to kick off the women's season in 2019.

In another move to expand the women's game, the Jillaroos will take part in the Rugby League World Cup 9s to cap off the year in October. The inaugural competition will be another chance for players at both ends of their careers to take to the international stage.

What will remain constant?

Despite plenty of calls to expand the NRLW competition, the NRL have remained steadfast in their decision to keep it to just the four teams from the 2018 season. Defending premiers Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra Dragons and New Zealand Warriors will take to the field again in a four-week series to be played out during the men's finals.

Women's rugby league will continue to get their season underway with their six-team National Championships which will again see players compete for state spots ahead of the State of Origin. The one off Origin match has again been pencilled in at North Sydney Oval in June, when the Blues will look to defend their trophy.

The match length for all NRLW, State of Origin and National Championships games will remain at 60 minutes.

Who will win?

Predicting winners without squad lists is asking for embarrassment, but here goes ...

State of Origin: Blues

NRLW: Warriors

Rugby League World Cup 9s: Jillaroos

-- Brittany Mitchell