(L-R): Ellie Blackburn, Dakota Davidson and Alyssa Bannan. Pictures: AFL Photos

THE dust has settled on the 2023 AFLW season, and with trade period and draft in the rearview mirror, all attention now turns to the 2024 season. 

Each club will already be focused on how to improve this year, after all, even a premiership winning season is far from perfect. Some teams' gaps are a little more obvious than others, but what will be a key indicator of your club's improvement this season?

Gemma Bastiani looks at how each club can improve in 2024.

Establish the next generation of midfielders 

Attempting to poke a hole through the Crows is difficult. They lost just three games in 2023 by a combined total of six points, while also setting a new record for average disposals and uncontested possessions. The clearest area of future improvement for the club is developing the next generation of its midfield. 

We all know that Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard are stars, but who are the next bona fide midfield beasts at the Crows?

Last season Danielle Ponter showed just how damaging she can be splitting her time between the midfield and forward line. Abbie Ballard offered promise before an ACL injury took her out late in the season. Teah Charlton seems to have found a home in attack. Niamh Kelly is too dangerous roaming the wing. 

While a host of players have potential - including Sarah Goodwin, Keeley Kustermann, Taylah Levy, and draftees Brooke Boileau, Amy Boyle-Carr and Tamara Henry - it will come down to who, when given the chance, can grab the opportunity with two hands and become that automatic third-choice midfield option. 

Danielle Ponter celebrates a goal during the preliminary final between North Melbourne and Adelaide at Ikon Park on November 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Develop a genuine second key forward

It's tough to back up a premiership season, and the easy goal for the Lions would be to become the first AFLW side to go back-to-back, but a bigger sign of development for Brisbane in 2024 would be to bolster its key forward options. 

When an injury cloud hung over Dakota Davidson in Grand Final week last year, the clear gap in Brisbane's attack was exposed: without Davidson, the Lions lack a focal point inside 50. Davidson's 23 goals led the side, with the second highest goal tally coming from winger Sophie Conway. 

While Brisbane established a broad range of attacking options – 16 different Lions hit the scoreboard throughout the season – establishing a genuine second key forward option is key. Taylor Smith and Ellie Hampson both attempted to make the role their own last year, while the recruitment of Rania Crozier and Shanae Davison adds further options in this respect. There's an opportunity there for the right player to take. 

Dakota Davidson kicks a goal during the 2023 AFLW Grand Final between North Melbourne and Brisbane at Ikon Park on December 3, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Finding consistency 

Last year Carlton notably dropped away both during games and across the course of the season. It was no doubt a symptom of a young, developing side adjusting to a new system, but should be the main point of improvement for the club in 2024. 

Carlton in 2023 


Rounds 1-5 

Rounds 6-10 


3 wins, 2 losses 

1 win, 4 losses 

Percentage (%) 



Average Points For 



Average Points Against 




Maintaining that level of ferocity throughout the whole home and away season is a crucial area that can turn Carlton's fortunes. Also doing so in second halves will go a long way toward eventual success for the club. 

After taking a lead at half-time in six games, the Blues won just two second halves in 2023 from 10 games, against West Coast in round three, and Collingwood in round seven.  

Abbie McKay (right) celebrates kicking a goal during the match between Carlton and Richmond at Ikon Park in round four, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Average 40+ points per game 

Collingwood has been a hyper-defensive team for six seasons now, only once breaking that 40-point average in that time. Defensive teams who struggle to find an attacking balance can often do enough to qualify for finals, but struggle to make it much further than that. This is the challenge in place for new Pies coach Sam Wright

The club has posted a score of 60 or more points just once across 72 games. This pales in comparison to fellow inaugural sides Adelaide (15 times), Brisbane (15), Carlton (five), Fremantle (seven), and Melbourne (17). The Western Bulldogs have managed the feat just twice, while the Giants sit alongside the Pies having done so once. 

The beginnings of a new Collingwood attack were evident in 2023, with recruits Nell Morris-Dalton (eight goals) and Eleri Morris (six goals) leading the club's goalkicking, and in this most recent player movement period further added former Sun Kalinda Howarth and promising teenager Georgia Clark.  

But it's not just about the personnel up forward, it is important the team instils an attacking strategy on top of the defensive foundation. This must be the club's focus in 2024. 

Nell Morris-Dalton looks to handball during the match between Carlton and Collingwood at Ikon Park in round seven, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

More even spread of responsibility 

In 2023, Bonnie Toogood was one of the competition's breakout players, resulting in her first All-Australian selection and being named vice-captain. Although it was a season worth celebrating, the Bombers' relied on her – and only her – to shift momentum in games or carry too much of the load. 

Toogood leading the way 

Statistic led by Toogood 

Toogood's tally 

Next closest teammate 



Sophie Alexander, Amber Clarke – 6 



Sophie Van De Heuvel – 33 

Inside 50s 


Madison Prespakis – 29 

Marks Inside 50 


Sophie Alexander – 8 

Contested Marks 


Ellyse Gamble – 7 

Tackles Inside 50 


Paige Scott – 18 

Shots on Goal 


Sophie Alexander – 17 

Score Involvements 


Madison Prespakis – 38 

Metres Gained 


Madison Prespakis – 3320 


Finding a more even spread of responsibility will allow the Bombers to become increasingly more dangerous. In an ideal world, a season such as this from Toogood would become a bonus on top of a well-oiled machine, rather than the key piece of the engine. 

Bonnie Toogood and the mascot lead Essendon out onto the field ahead of round eight, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

More considered ball use 

An inaugural AFLW side, Fremantle has never averaged a disposal efficiency of 60 per cent or above across a season. The Dockers have typically focused on moving the ball forward by any means necessary, and are less concerned about neat ball movement, but now having developed a deeper attacking line, some more considered disposal will serve them well. 

Fremantle's disposal efficiency 


Disposal Efficiency (%) 

Competition Rank 









2nd last 



4th last 




2022 (S6) 


4th last 

2022 (S7) 


2nd last 



3rd last 


Now with Aine Tighe, Gabby Newton, Gabby O'Sullivan, Hayley Miller, Mikayla Morrison and Ash Brazill all expected to spend time in attack this year, the Dockers need to move the ball forward more thoughtfully to make the most of their assets up forward. 


No more late fade-outs 

Despite an impressive run all the way to a tight preliminary final, Geelong became known for its late fade outs in 2023. This is something the club will no doubt be wanting to fix this year, with improvement already indicated in its final game last season against Brisbane. 

Geelong's 2024 quarter-by-quarter record


Quarters won (from 13 games) 



The Cats conceded just four goals in opening quarters, but held the opposition goalless in just one fourth quarter, meaning opponents always knew they were in with a chance. While nearly a third of Geelong's scoring took place in opening quarters last year, 65 per cent of its opposition's scores came in second halves, 36.9 per cent of that in final quarters. 

Finding a way to maintain that early rage will be important for the Cats this year as they work to go one better and reach their first AFLW Grand Final. 

Georgia Prespakis during Geelong's match against Western Bulldogs in R1, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Come within two goals of Brisbane 

This likely seems an arbitrary goal to set, and a tough one particularly given Brisbane's dominance since the birth of the AFLW, but even when Gold Coast looks to have taken a positive turn, it struggles when it comes to the QClash. 

QClash results


Result v Brisbane 




63-point loss 

2022 (S6) 

69-point loss 

2022 (S7) 

73-point loss* 


36-point loss 

*Gold Coast's biggest ever loss 

Outside of that inaugural draw, last season's six-goal loss was the closest the Suns have come to the Lions, as part of the former's best year since joining the competition. They have all the pieces to challenge Brisbane, showing off a newfound balanced game style that can generate devastating attack, now they need to put that into practice. 

Tara Bohanna leads Gold Coast out onto the field ahead of a match during round nine, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Win consecutive games 

The Giants have not won back-to-back games since rounds seven and eight in 2021 – a 31-game stretch – and have done so just four times in their 67-game history. The club has also never won more than two games in a row. What all of this tells us is that GWS struggles to win, and then maintain momentum. 

Developing momentum with consecutive wins can really change a team's fortunes, just look at Richmond's seven-game winning streak in season seven which resulted in a top-four berth. This momentum is also something the club has found difficult to maintain in-game, giving up four or more consecutive goals eight times across the 2023 season. This included eight straight goals from Melbourne, and nine from both Adelaide and Port Adelaide. 

Some of this is simply a mental game, while it also comes down to player availability. The Giants have had a tough time with injury in recent seasons, so keeping the list fit and available is an important part of the club's improvement this year. 

Georgia Garnett celebrate a goal during round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Find more control 

Last year the Hawks started to find more control in game compared to their first season, and it is here that they need to continue to grow in 2024. In its 10 games, Hawthorn won the disposal count just three times, resulting in the fifth-lowest average disposals of the season. Every club that averaged fewer disposals than the Hawks in 2023 did, however, record a higher disposal efficiency across the course of the season. 

From there, Hawthorn averaged the fifth-fewest inside 50s of the year, and generated a shot on goal from just 36.5 per cent of those entries.  

Developing more control in-game will allow the Hawks to not only possess the footy more – meaning the opposition is without it – but also become a more genuinely attacking side. This, ultimately, comes down to a combination of skill and decision making. 

Hawthorn players huddle up during round eight, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Maintain composure under pressure 

The Demons played their best footy last year when they were moving the ball on their terms. But that started to break down when the opposition turned up the pressure, so Melbourne's key to improvement is maintaining composure under immense pressure. 

Melbourne in wins v losses 





Average Disposals 




Average Disposal differential v opposition 




Average Uncontested Possessions 




Average Uncontested Possession differential v opposition 




Average Points For 




Average Points Against 





Melbourne lost the disposal count just three times in 2023 – all in losses – and in the process, also lost the tackle and uncontested possession counts. It was essentially a snowball effect, as the Demons fought to win the outside ball, other parts of their game were weakened, and good sides were able to move through those weak points. 

Maeve Chaplin and Paxy Paxman look dejected after Melbourne's loss to Geelong in the semi-final at Ikon Park on November 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Increase forward efficiency 

It's tricky to pinpoint a gap in North Melbourne after its most successful season, narrowly falling at the very last hurdle. The problem that has haunted the side for a couple of years, however, has persisted, albeit improvement has certainly been made. 

With a strong defence and a powerful midfield, the area the Kangaroos have continued to break down has been that midfield-forward connection and, ultimately, the ability to turn inside 50 entries into scores.  

Improved accuracy meant the side's goal efficiency (goals per inside 50) increased, but on the whole North Melbourne generated fewer shots on goal per inside 50 throughout 2023. Much of this was masked not only by the club's conversion of 43 per cent, but also its competition-leading 37.5 inside 50s per game.  

Cleaning up that efficiency once in attack is the last piece of the puzzle in North Melbourne's journey to a maiden premiership.

Emma Kearney looks dejected after losing the Grand Final on December 3, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Find composure 

After a promising pre-season where the Power showed off the potential of young gun Matilda Scholz and bookends Ashleigh Saint and Janelle Cuthbertson, the side fumbled through the season, ultimately recording just two wins and a draw from 10 games. Much of this was down to repeated lapses of composure. 

Port Adelaide recorded the worst average disposal differential in competition history, losing the disposal count by an average of 59.1 each week, resulting in the lowest average disposal count for the season. Not only did the Power struggle to get their hands on the footy – particularly uncontested possessions – they only used the disposals they did record at an average of 58.5 per cent efficiency. 

Often when the side found itself in control, a panicked decision or want to rush gave that up. No matter what game plan you put in place, if players are unable to find calm in the face of true game scenarios, it is all for nought. A sense of calm will be the Power's biggest asset in 2024.

Ange Foley marks the ball during round nine, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Midfield balance 

Reigning AFLW Best and Fairest winner Monique Conti is clearly a star, and any midfield with her is better for it, but what the Tigers lacked in 2023 was midfield balance. Young gun Ellie McKenzie was set to be the key to this, offering an impressive five inside 50s and 325m gained from 15 disposals in her side's round one win over eventual premier Brisbane. 

That was the only game McKenzie would go on to play, with an ankle injury ending her season, and quickly sending Richmond's year south in the process. Finding balance in the midfield group was the club's biggest challenge without McKenzie available. As good as Grace Egan and Sarah Hosking are, they are less dynamic and attacking than McKenzie, more providing coverage for Conti.

It is for this reason that Eilish Sheerin was such a revelation in the middle come round 10, boasting the size and attack McKenzie offers. Finding some depth in the players who can provide this to the midfield mix should injury strike again is crucial to Richmond's bounce back to finals this year. 

Eilish Sheerin in action during Richmond's clash against Fremantle in round five, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Increased aerial strength 

St Kilda has never really had a dominant ruck. The importance of a strong ruck is not just down to their ability to win neat hitouts, but also to provide an aerial presence around the ground. Last season Jesse Wardlaw started to bring that, but she cannot be their No.1 option, she is simply too dangerous up forward.  

The former Lion was responsible for nearly a third of St Kilda's contested marks in 2023, with the club averaging the fewest contested marks and marks across the competition last season.  

Recruit Rene Caris has the makings of a solid tap ruck, crossing over from Greater Western Sydney to join Simone Nalder as a ruck at the Saints, but what both need to develop is that athleticism to cover the ground and stand strong in aerial contests around the ground. 

Simone Nalder attempts to take a mark during round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Protecting the backline 

The Swans' immense improvement across their first two seasons was impressive, and the side's clear focus on generating damaging attack was a significant part of its push to finals. Where it came unstuck, however, was its ability to defend high up the ground. 

Sydney's backline worked hard, showing off the development of the likes of Brenna Tarrant, Alice Mitchell, and Ella Heads, while Lucy McEvoy provided a steadying head. But they had to do so under an onslaught of opposition inside 50 entries. The side averaged 34.4 inside 50s conceded last season – the fifth-most in the competition – and, more importantly, the opposition generated a goal from 18.9 per cent of those entries.  

Sydney's development


2022 (S7) 


Inside 50s conceded



Goal Efficiency conceded (%)



Points conceded




This resulted in 46.3 points conceded each week – an improvement on season seven, but that improvement needs to continue. Doing more to protect the backline higher up the field is the first step in limiting opposition scoring, and alleviating some of the pressure on the side's defensive unit. 

Brenna Tarrant and Lucy McEvoy after the semi-final match between Adelaide and Sydney at Norwood Oval on November 18, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Harnessing the midfield 

Despite boasting some impressive midfield names, the Eagles seriously struggled to win the contested ball and clearances. This regularly left the team on the back foot, needing to win possession back before generating attacking forays.  

West Coast's 2024 midfield contingent 

  • Emma Swanson 
  • Bella Lewis 
  • Courtney Rowley 
  • Dana Hooker 
  • Alison Drennan 
  • Ella Roberts 
  • Jess Rentsch 
  • Kayley Kavanagh 
  • Sarah Lakay (ruck) 
  • Lauren Wakfer (ruck) 
  • Georgie Cleaver (ruck) 

In 2023 West Coast boasted the fewest average clearances (23.7 per game) and the lowest contested possession count (95.1 per game), winning the latter metric just once in 10 games.  

Developing an ability to win the hard ball should be a key focus for new coach Daisy Pearce, as it will allow the Eagles to establish better control in games, maintain more attacking territory and, ultimately, climb up the ladder. 

Ella Roberts celebrates a goal in West Coast's round six clash with Hawthorn at Skybus Stadium on September 30, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos


The Bulldogs' one-win 2023 season was the low point after a shocking three-season run of player availability and fitness concerns. Stretching back to season six where the side was hard-hit by COVID, it has struggled to not just get players to full fitness, but to simply get them out on the park. 

Each pre-season the Bulldogs have had a stack of players missing, severely limiting the side's ability to establish any continuity, let alone a polished game style. 

The as yet unnamed new coach will have a task on their hands to instil the standards required to limit injury concerns, but finding consistency at the selection table will be a bit first step in forming a new base from which to rebuild.

Western Bulldogs players look dejected after a loss during round six, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos