ESPN's 2022 AFLW All-Australian team - Who makes the cut? Who misses out?

play
Arnell hopeful of rapid AFLW professionalisation (0:47)

Former Brisbane and Carlton player Lauren Arnell says she's hopeful the AFLW will soon attract more money and staff as the league hurtles towards professionalisation. (0:47)

It's that time of year when we perform just about the most difficult task in football - settling on 21 AFLW players for our All-Australian team.

Every year there are a number of extremely stiff omissions, so shoutouts go to Kiara Bowers, Sophie Conway, Karen Paxman, Ellie Blackburn (and countless others) who couldn't quite make the side.

Without further ado, here's ESPN's 2022 AFLW All-Australian team:

FB: Libby Birch (Mel), Sarah Allan (Adel)

HB: Nat Grider (Bris), Ruby Schleicher (Col), Emma Kearney (NM)

C: Orla O'Dwyer (Bris), Jamie Lambert (Col), Hayley Miller (Freo) (Captain)

HF: Jas Gasner (NM), Katie Brennan, (Adel) Greta Bodey (Bris)

FF: Tayla Harris (Mel), Erin Phillips (Adel)

R: Lauren Pearce (Melb), Emily Bates (Bris), Anne Hatchard (Adel)

I/C: Ash Riddell (NM), Kirsty Lamb (WB), Ebony Marnioff (Adel), Mon Conti (Rich), Ash Woodland (Adel)


Back line

Sarah Allan (Adel): Sarah Allan has been absolutely crucial in Adelaide's solid backline this year, especially when fellow defender Chelsea Randall has been absent. She reliably heaps on the pressure, especially on opposition key forwards, uses her pace to work up the ground and is excellent in mow down tackles.

Libby Birch (Mel): A pillar of consistency, Birch boasts reliability, reads the ball cleverly and applies strong defensive pressure. With an average 11.8 disposals per game with 78.5 per cent efficiency, 3.7 average contested possessions and 5.6 intercept possessions she's also a crucial ball winner for her side while mopping up her opponents.

Nat Grider (Bris): No 1. in the league for intercept possessions, Natalie Grider has been a key cog in Brisbane's backline, particularly in the absence of 2021 Grand Final Best on Ground Kate Lutkins. The 21-year-old has a dangerous penetrative left boot, a lot of pace and silky skills that have made her a reliable defensive mainstay.

Ruby Schleicher (Col): Schleicher is a tough and fearless brickwall in Collingwood's defensive structure, while also doing a lot up ground, supporting her side's mid and helping to get the ball upfield. She's second in the competition for marks and fourth for rebound 50s, proving an all-round valuable player on the field.

Emma Kearney (NM): This season, Kearney has settled into a halfback role for North Melbourne, using her pace and clever and composure ball skills in defensive work. She's tenth in the competition for metres gained and over 10 games averaged 19.1 disposals and 7.2 intercepts, making her a reliable player to shutdown the opposition while moving the ball forward.

Centre

Orla O'Dwyer (Bris): This season, O'Dwyer has gone from strength to strength, winning the ball, kicking goals and applying constant pressure to the opposition. The 23-year-old has averaged over 350 metres gained and 15 disposals per game and booted six goals, including one from 55m out.

Jamie Lambert (Col): An elite ball winner with pace and a goalscoring contributor, Lambert has stepped up in the absence of Collingwood stars Bri Davey and Brit Bonnici (ACL injuries) and buoyed her side to a finals berth. She's sixth in the competition for clearances and applies both defensive and attacking pressure, making her ever-dangerous on the field.

Hayley Miller (Freo) (Captain): First in the competition for metres gained, Miller has been an absolute workhorse around the field this season. She's fourth in the competition for both inside 50s and contested possessions and seventh in the disposal count. But it's her ability to lift her side in times of need that has her as our All Australian captain.

Forward line

Jas Gasner (NM): Garner is an ever-reliable pillar in North Melbourne's team and a vital score contributor. This season, she averaged 20.9 disposals, 4.1 marks and 3.8 inside 50s and was sixth in the competition for disposals, seventh for contested possessions and fifth for score involvements.

Katie Brennan (Adel): Averaging 216.1 metres gained, 3.3 marks, 1.6 goals and 4 score involvements per game, Brennan has been invaluable in Richmond's side. She ended fourth in the competition for goals, consistently booting at least one goal a game, and if playing for a more competitive team this year, could have contested that top spot.

Greta Bodey (Bris): The Lions forward line has been much lauded with a great mix of talls and smalls and Greta Bodey has been in the thick of that action. The club's leading goal kicker for 2022, Bodey's 13 goals saw her finish the year in equal fifth on the overall goals list. Her 51 score involvements for the season see her sit behind only Erin Phillips in that metric.

Tayla Harris (Mel): To say Tayla Harris has enjoyed her move to Melbourne would be putting it a little too simply. The tall forward has starred for the Dees this season, kicking a career-best 18 goals in a season and helping propel Melbourne to the Grand Final.

Erin Phillips (Adel): Erin Phillips continues to show exactly why she is a champion. The Adelaide Crow has helped the club in their push for a third premiership. Her work in the forward 50 complemented the bulk of goals Ash Woodland scored and she led the league for score involvements, averaging 5.6.

Ruck

Lauren Pearce (Melb): From a pure hit outs perspective, Lauren Pearce's numbers are well below the likes of Tahlia Hickie and Lauren Bella. But what Pearce brought to this Melbourne side was more than just hitouts. She averaged more score involvements than her fellow rucks, was equal second in the league for clearances, averaging 5.1, and averaged 13.5 disposals a game.

Emily Bates (Bris): Emily Bates has been integral to the Brisbane Lions midfield this year. While she hasn't necessarily grabbed the headlines her football has done the talking. The AFL Coaches Association sat up and took notice after she won the Champion Player of the Year gong. She's enjoyed some career best numbers averaging 21.3 disposals, 7.1 tackles, and racking up a league-high 67 clearances.

Anne Hatchard (Adel): A key cog in the Crows midfield machine, Anne Hatchard's ferocity and tenacity have once again been crucial to Adelaide's premiership tilt. Averaging 24.1 disposals, 6.6 marks, and 4.3 score involvements per game, Hatchard's best typically correlates with the Crows best.

Interchange

Ash Riddell (NM): Like a moth to a flame, the ball simply couldn't stay away from Ash Riddell. The Kangaroos midfielder has always been a solid player in the centre of the park but her disposal numbers made her impossible to ignore. Riddell's 322 touches, at an average of 29.3, was 52 more than the next best ball magnet. Her record of 42 disposals in a game equated to a touch every 1.48 minutes.

Kirsty Lamb (WB): A standout season for Kirsty Lamb at the Bulldogs saw the midfielder take her game to another level. She and Ellie Blackburn became an important one-two punch in the Western Bulldogs midfield. Lamb averaged 18.7 disposals, 3.9 clearances and inside 50s, and 3.5 score involvements.

Ebony Marnioff (Adel): Ebony Marinoff continues to elevate her game and become a better-rounded midfielder. Her combination with Anne Hatchard in Crows midfield has become a nuisance for opposition teams. In 2022, Marinoff averaged 24.5 disposals, 396.5 metres gained, 7.3 tackles, and led the league in inside 50s.

Mon Conti (Rich): Monique Conti was a bright spark in what was an otherwise disappointing season for Richmond. Her much-discussed decision to focus on footy fully this season appeared to pay dividends with Conti racking up 23.9 disposals on average, as well as 5.3 clearances, and 337.1 metres gained.

Ash Woodland (Adel): Ash Woodland took the league by storm in the opening rounds; everything she touched turned to goals. The Adelaide Crow was a force to be reckoned with in the forward 50 and not only secured the leading goal kicker award for season 2022 but kicked the most goals in a season in the AFLW's short history.