Brianna Davey and Kiara Bowers. Pictures: AFL Photos

SUNDAY'S battle between Collingwood and a rejuvenated Fremantle looms as a temperature gauge for both teams.

Collingwood is adjusting to the return of star midfielders Brianna Davey and Brit Bonnici from long-term injuries, and the loss of Chloe Molloy, Jaimee Lambert and Steph Chiocci to other clubs, while Fremantle has a fresh coach in Lisa Webb and a much healthier list after an injury-hit season.

Already, in the second of just 10 rounds, this game could prove to be a good indication as to just where these teams sit in the AFLW pecking order.

Interested in watching the Pies and Dockers, but not yet sure which players to look out for?

Here's a cheat sheet for the match-ups which could shape the game. 

Aine Tighe v Selena Karlson

Fremantle key forward Tighe had a big hand in the Dockers beating West Coast in last week's Western Derby, the tall Irishwoman thriving in the wet and wild conditions. Athletic both in the air and on the ground, Tighe is probably too quick for veteran Pies defender Stacey Livingstone, who likes to stay close to goal. Enter draftee Karlson, who has been brought up from the Pies' VFLW team, and has AFLW experience at both the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda. She covers the ground well, and has the reach to match Tighe in marking contests.


Brianna Davey v Kiara Bowers

These two superstar midfielders could not be separated in the 2021 AFLW best and fairest count, tying for first, and are likely to spend some minutes against each other on Sunday. Davey will be in her second game back from a torn ACL, while Bowers is playing her first for the season, missing last week with knee soreness. Davey is a bull at a gate-type player, her power and long kicks from congestion key to Collingwood's scoring potential. By comparison, Bowers is shorter but just as ballistic around stoppages, with tackling also a key feature of her game.


Mim Strom v Sabrina Frederick

Before the ball reaches the feet of the midfielders, it all starts in the ruck. The two first-choice rucks are quite different players. The younger Strom's tap work is particularly strong, regularly giving her midfielders first use of the footy, and she likes to fall back into defence and take intercept marks. On the other hand, Frederick prefers to push into Collingwood's attack, having spent a lot of time in the forward line herself, and is a powerful contested mark. Imogen Barnett (Collingwood) and second-gamer Ariana Hetherington (Fremantle) are likely to support Frederick and Strom in the ruck. 

Tarni Brown celebrates a goal with teammates Ash Brazill and Sabrina Frederick during Collingwood's clash against Melbourne in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Jordyn Allen v Ebony Antonio

Collingwood's defence will be understrength for consecutive weeks, with star pair Ruby Schleicher and Lauren Butler still not recovered from their respective foot injuries. It means that rebounder and occasional winger Allen is the likely match-up for the dangerous Antonio. The veteran Docker can turn a match in the space of five minutes with a few quick goals from unlikely spots, and having had a knee injury just before round one, isn't likely to push too far onto the wing as she's done previously. Allen has the speed and smarts to match it with Antonio, but the wily Docker's experience may come to the fore.


Brit Bonnici v Sarah Verrier

A bit of a smoky match-up, but if Fremantle is keen to shut down the run, carry and drive of Bonnici from the midfield, Verrier could be a smart option. Like her captain Davey, Pies midfielder Bonnici will also be playing her second game after a knee reconstruction, and is an important source of drive across the field. Verrier is now in her fourth season, and while she often plays in defence, she has the endurance, determination and focus to complete a shut-down role through the midfield.

Brit Bonnici and Brianna Davey celebrate during Collingwood's clash against Melbourne in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos