The inaugural season for the Hawthorn AFLW team has hit the halfway mark and we have seen some impressive feats from our fledgling Hawks throughout their first five games.
In the first half of the season, the team overcame a tough draw and a stunted preseason to record their first victory in AFLW history against Sydney in Round 5.
This was a wonderful feat and a just reward for excellent effort and hard work.
Also, this is impressive considering other expansion teams have taken more than a season to record a victory previously, putting the Hawthorn team ahead of the curve.
Bec Goddard has shown her ability to help build a playing list for the future, with Hawthorn having a dozen players under the age of 21 on the list, while looking at building a nurturing and supportive team culture.
Her elite football brain and ability to implement a successful brand of football, shows the future is bright and one that will help to see the team rocket up the AFLW standings.
We have seen the coaching develop a game plan that involves a commitment to defence, which can be highlighted through the fact that in each of the first five games of the season, the team has won the tackle count.
The girls are showing that the ability to stop opposition teams and work hard for each other is at the forefront of team ethos.
We have seen shining moments and break out games from our young guns in Jasmine Fleming, Charlotte Baskaran, Tamara Smith, Tahlia Fellows and Lucy Wales, while seeing our experienced players in Kaitlyn Ashmore, Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Akec Makur-Chuot and Aileen Gilroy leading the way and helping to set up a wonderful team culture at our first year club.
So while we have seen these amazing positives so far, what does the rest of the season have in store for the Hawthorn AFLW team?
The back end of the season sees Hawthorn having a chance to sneak another victory or two from their last five games, which would be a wonderful achievement in their first season.
The team plays three home games at SkyBus Stadium in Frankston, while rounds eight and ten see them playing interstate for the first time, against the GWS Giants and the Fremantle Dockers.
With games against West Coast (eight points, 13th position ), Port Adelaide (six points, 14th position), GWS (four points, 16th position), Brisbane Lions (16 points, 1st position) and Fremantle (six points, 15th position), the team has a wonderful opportunity to secure some more wins in the back end of the season, which will help build confidence going into next year’s pre-season.
In the five games to date so far, Hawthorn has used 28 out of the 30 players on the list, partly due to injuries sustained to Tamara Luke, Louise Stephenson and Eliza Shannon.
The team has debuted 17 out of 18 players who had never played AFLW before, which has been a wonderful achievement and shown that the squad is full of players who are willing to play their part for the team, no matter their age or experience.
With having so many young players on the list who had never played at the highest level before, the remainder of the season gives us a wonderful opportunity to see these players continue to develop and hone their skills.
Only Jenna Richardson is left on the list of 18 debutants not to have played a game so far, having been out injured for the first half of the season.
Richardson will be a welcome addition to the team due to her defensive abilities, her impact in marking contests and her ability to take intercepting marks.
Richardson was named in the VFLW team of the year for 2022 at the age of 20, and will hopefully debut before the end of the season, allowing her to form a cohesive key defensive unit with fellow young guns Emily Everist and Mackenzie Eardley.
Hawthorn’s team this year has been synonymous with their ability to defend, having recorded more tackles than their opponents in each of their games so far.
However, over the past fortnight, we have seen some structural changes that are allowing the team to incorporate some more attacking play into their game.
Through the move of Akec Makur-Chuot to one wing and Kaitlyn Ashmore holding down the other wing position, Hawthorn have two incredibly fleet-footed attackers with penetrating kicks.
This has seen the backline and midfield trying to use the width of the field more in transition and allowing these girls more space to break the lines and give the forwards better opportunities inside 50.
With this new style of play being incorporated, it means that over the last half of the season, we will see the likes Tahlia Fellows, Aine McDonagh, Aileen Gilroy and Tegan Cunningham having more opportunities to hit the scoreboard.
With 40% of the playing roster being under the age of 21 and having not been nominated for the NAB Rising Star before Jasmine Fleming was in Round 5, we will see some of our young, emerging stars be nominated for their individual performances at the highest level.
The likes of Charlotte Baskaran and Lucy Wales are already pressing for nominations for the award based on excellent performances over the first half of the season and with five games to go, it will be a case of watching closely as these girls in their first season of AFLW continue to showcase their immense talents at the highest level.
In the inaugural season for the Hawthorn AFLW team, there have been some excellent green shoots that have started to sprout in the first half of the season.
We now watch closely in the second half of the season to continue to see our young team develop and build a wonderful culture and playing style that encapsulates the best qualities of the Hawthorn Football Club.