AS WE look ahead to the fast-approaching 2023 AFLW season, there are many unknowns. While there are plenty of questions swirling around all 18 teams, some sides are more intriguing than others after development over back-to-back 2022 seasons and targeted recruiting during the summer.

But which sides are we most curious about heading into the season? 

Western Bulldogs 

The Bulldogs made just their second finals series last season, sneaking into seventh spot with a come-from-behind win against Carlton. The late comeback against Collingwood in their elimination final the following week didn't quite work as well, falling by five points. 

What makes the Dogs so fascinating this season is just how unpredictable they've shown they can be. They've often needed to fight tooth and nail for a win - regularly relying on captain Ellie Blackburn to lift the side - while in others they looked in control for a full four quarters. 

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The Dogs failed to score during the opening term in three of their 11 games last season, but regularly finished strong, winning eight of their final quarters with a percentage of 157.7. Too often they left their run too late, which resulted in them failing to register a win against a top eight side – a one-point loss to Geelong in round six was the closest they came. 

They've made some adjustments, bringing in midfield support through Dom Carruthers and Maggie Gorham, and more attacking power through Brianna McFarlane. These additions will complement the likes of Gabby Newton and Alice Edmonds, who established themselves last season. 

With experience under their belts and a reasonably consistent list, the Dogs must take that next step and beat a top eight side, but whether they will remains to be seen. 

LIST ANALYSIS How your side is shaping up ahead of season 2023


West Coast

For the first time in their five preseasons, the Eagles have enjoyed stability. They have retained their head coach and the bulk of their playing list, while also adding emerging utility Amy Franklin. As a result, they now have a strong base to build some good form on. 

Just five inaugural Eagles remain on the list, pointing to the significant change the club has experienced in its four years.

Current coach Michael Prior is already the third person to fill the top job – the only others to experience such coaching overhaul are inaugurals Carlton, Fremantle, and Greater Western Sydney. It's a side that has never had an opportunity to settle. 

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West Coast has never won more than two games in a season, never registered back-to-back wins, and never beaten a finals-bound team.  

But this season is one that is full of potential. Potential that will only be harnessed should the hints of improvement we saw last season continue to grow. 


Gold Coast 

The Suns started the reap the rewards of eighteen months of upheaval, with a club record five wins and finishing one place out of finals.  

Another summer of change with targeted player recruitment, combined with another season into the bodies of players like Charlie Rowbottom, Jac Dupuy, and Claudia Whitfort puts them in good stead to make more progress this season.  

The addition of Jordan Membrey in attack, Maddy Brancatisano around the footy and special compensation signing Darcie Davies as a tall option, Gold Coast has everything at its disposal to genuinely challenge for a place in finals.

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Importantly, now is the time for the Suns to really stamp their authority on the competition. After making the finals by virtue of a conference system and pandemic-affected 2020 season, the Suns have found a way to beat those near or below them on the ladder.  

What they haven't been able to do is beat any finalists, but it really is now or never for the club. They have the potential this year to either rise to that challenge and show the footy world just what they stand for, or they could fall away once more.