Kaitlyn Ashmore, Lily Mithen, Sofia Hurley, Dana East. Pictures: AFL Photos

EVERY team has that player who flies under the radar outside of the club. Fans love them, their teammates love them, but they're often lost in the week-to-week conversation as an AFLW season progresses.

So, who was your team's most underrated performer throughout the 2023 NAB AFLW season?

Teah Charlton

An important member of Adelaide's midfield/forward mix, Charlton played all 13 games with genuine consistency. Averaging 14.2 disposals, 7.4 tackles and 3.1 score involvements, Charlton's smooth moving at ground level added plenty to the Crows' forward stoppages, while her pressure in attack was immense. At just 21 years of age, she has played 48 games and become a staple at the club, but can often get lost amid the star names around her.


Jennifer Dunne

After arriving in Australia on the eve of the season never having played AFLW before, Dunne was thrown in the deep end in the hopes of fast-tracking her development. The Lions knew they would need some taller, stronger bodies in defence if they were to challenge for a second flag, and Dunne was part of that plan. She showed off an impressive ability to read the ball, and challenged some of the best key forwards in the game, including countrywoman Aishling Moloney in the preliminary final against Geelong. It all went to plan, as Dunne is now a premiership player just 11 games into her career.

Jennifer Dunne celebrates Brisbane's win in the 2023 NAB AFLW Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Amelia Velardo

Still only 21 years old, Velardo brought a measure of maturity to the Blues this year, particularly given the absence of captain Kerryn Peterson for much of the season. Taking on a permanent role in defence, her strength and cool head complemented the rest of the line beautifully. Velardo finished second at Carlton for rebound 50s, helping to generate attacking launches out of the back half.

Amelia Velardo in action during the match between Carlton and Collingwood at Ikon Park in round seven, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Grace Campbell

The lesser-mentioned returnee from an ACL injury at Collingwood, Campbell made the small pressure forward role her own. Brought to the club with a clear vision of what was needed of her – add that defensive layer inside 50 to help retain forward territory – she excelled, while also willing to play higher up the ground when needed. Campbell finished the season third at the Pies for tackles, and equal first for tackles inside 50.


Georgia Clarke

Initially delisted by Geelong, Clarke was picked up by the Bombers for nothing, and has turned into the bargain of the season. Clarke has made her home in Essendon's backline, bringing that rare combination of height and speed, also offering a toughness that has really helped to sure up the Bombers' defence. She played every game including the club's maiden finals appearance, averaging 7.9 disposals and 4.4 intercepts in the process.

Georgia Clarke tackles Orlagh Lally during the match between Essendon and Fremantle at Windy Hill in round four, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Dana East

East offers quick, clean hands at the contest, rotating through the midfield and forward line to add strength at stoppages. Without Kiara Bowers available for much of the season, and Hayley Miller playing largely as a key forward, East had to carry a lot of the load through the middle, expertly feeding the ball to outside runners. Her best game, in round eight against St Kilda, saw her use her 19 disposals at 73.7 per cent efficiency, 11 of her possessions contested.

Dana East handballs during the match between Richmond and Fremantle at Ikon Park in round five, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Chantel Emonson

One of the best field kicks in the competition, Chantel Emonson used her 14.7 average disposals last season at an impressive 78.5 per cent disposal efficiency. Emonson sets up the Cats expertly coming out of the back half, and is one of the competition's most consistent performers. A no fuss player, her best game came in round seven against Fremantle, with a career-best 22 disposals at 86.4 per cent efficiency, and 324m gained.

Chantel Emonson handballs whilst being tackled by Jessica Wuetschner during the elimination final between Geelong and Essendon at GMHBA Stadium on November 12, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Meara Girvan

Girvan was taken with pick 10 in the Supplementary Draft ahead of the season, and arguably ended up as the draft find of the year. Although she missed one game through injury, Girvan was an intercepting marvel across the half-back line for Gold Coast, averaging 11.5 disposals and 2.7 marks, while her 70 intercepts led the Suns for the metric. She was willing to play a physical style of footy to at least equalise aerial contests, while her positioning behind play meant she was often ready and waiting to mop up opposition kicks forward.

Meara Girvan during the match between Collingwood and Gold Coast at Victoria Park in round three, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Pepa Randall

Solid Giants key defender Randall returned from an ACL injury to play every game of the season, regularly tasked with the opposition's best key forward in the process. Generally giving up height to her direct opponent, Randall is a smart footballer who uses her body expertly to impede access to the footy. It's not easy to play a lockdown defensive role in a team that concedes so many inside 50s, but Randall was persistent all season.

Pepa Randall and Alice O'Loughlin compete for the ball during the match between North Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney at Arden Street Ground in round five, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Kaitlyn Ashmore

Playing arguably her best season since 2020, Ashmore worked exceptionally hard up and down the wing for Hawthorn. Averaging a career-best 15 disposals and 249.8m gained, she played every game of the season and did well to provide an important link between the midfield/defensive line and the attacking half. Her speed and use of space was crucial to Hawthorn's method throughout the season.

Kaitlyn Ashmore in action during Hawthorn's clash with the Western Bulldogs in AFLW round two, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Lily Mithen

An inaugural Demon, Mithen is certainly a fan favourite but often gets lost in the context of her impact on the field. Mithen just does what is asked of her week in, week out and that includes playing different roles on the wing, in the midfield and up forward. She kicked a career-best four goals throughout the year, including one in her best outing against Geelong in round five, which also saw her register 23 disposals, five inside 50s and six score involvements.

Lily Mithen in action during the 2023 semi-final between Melbourne and Geelong at Ikon Park. Picture: AFL Photos

Tess Craven

Craven might not have played a starring role, but she was an important piece of the Kangaroos' puzzle that bore their first Grand Final appearance. Thanks to her expert positioning and disciplined role, Craven was often the one challenging opposition kicks out of defence, regularly against taller and stronger opposition players. Her average of 7.8 disposals, 2.3 intercepts and 1.6 score involvements might not be numbers that jump off the page, but Craven was exactly what the Roos needed throughout the season.

Tess Craven in action during the 2023 Grand Final between North Melbourne and Brisbane at Ikon Park. Picture: AFL Photos

Ebony O'Dea

The tough O'Dea moved into a small defensive role last season and excelled. Needed down back with Ange Foley shifting higher up onto the wing, O'Dea is relentless and you always know what she's going to bring you. She played all 10 games for the Power averaging 7.9 disposals and 3.6 tackles, often caught unprotected backing into packs, ready to put her body on the line for the sake of the team.


Beth Lynch

Lynch's performance against Geelong in round nine alone makes her the clear choice for the Tigers, with her 20 disposals, 16 intercepts, and 284m gained a huge effort to hold off the Cats for as long as Richmond did. Throughout the season Lynch played both on the wing and in defence, averaging 10.2 disposals, 3.7 tackles, and 3.4 inside 50s, and bringing her relentless attitude across both lines.

Beth Lynch during the Richmond official team photo day at Punt Road Oval on August 14, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Olivia Vesely

Finding consistency in her body for the first time since 2020 – her debut season – Vesely was able to show exactly what she is capable of throughout the year. Vesely finds a great balance between contested work in the thick of it, and an ability to work neatly out in space. Playing every game of the season, she finished third at the Saints for disposals while also kicking three goals.


Sofia Hurley

Hurley was a huge part of Sydney's push to finals in just her second season. Rotating through the forward line and midfield group her kicks going inside 50 were brilliant, key to the Swans' improved attacking method. A two-way runner, Hurley's best performance came in Sydney's elimination final win over Gold Coast, with 17 disposals, 16 tackles, three inside 50s, and five score involvements.


Belinda Smith

An experienced head behind the play, Smith's composed style of play has greatly assisted in the development of young key defensive duo of Charlie Thomas and Sophie McDonald. Smith works exceptionally hard to turn her defensive efforts into attack, bringing run and carry to the Eagles. She finished equal-first across the competition for bounces with 20, while also recording the second most intercepts for West Coast throughout the season.

Belinda Smith avoids the tackler during the match between West Coast and Adelaide at Mineral Resources Park in round 10, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Aurora Smith

It might have been a tough year for the Bulldogs, but Smith's return from an ACL injury, in a new role no less, was certainly a highlight. Stationed in defence, Smith offered a calmness that one might expect of a seasoned AFLW player, and in the face of plenty opposition attack she showed off a persistence and neat set of skills. Smith finished the season with an average of 12.4 disposals, 2.9 tackles, and 5.5 intercepts.

Aurora Smith during the AFLW Round 5 match between the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda at Whitten Oval, September 29, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos