Kiara Bowers poses for a photo during Fremantle's team photo day on August 10, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

SHE’S A one-of-a-kind player, so Kiara Bowers’ absence in the 2024 season creates a fresh challenge for Fremantle.

The midfielder announced her pregnancy on Tuesday, and while wonderful news for Bowers and her family, it creates a big hole in the Dockers’ side.

The upside is that Freo has trod this path before.

Covering a player of Bowers' calibre is no easy feat, but after the 2021 League best-and-fairest played only six of a possible 10 games due to a persistent knee injury last year, the side has experience in adapting to her absence.

Kiara Bowers attempts a smother during round nine, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Across the course of her six games in 2023, Bowers averaged 20.7 disposals, 12.2 tackles, and 5.2 clearances – elite midfield numbers that have been synonymous with Bowers since her debut in 2019.

The Dockers won two of those six games, but on average, won more of the footy, more consistently won clearances, and posted higher scores with Bowers in the side when compared to games without her.

Fremantle in 2023


With Bowers

Without Bowers

Losing margin (points)



Points For



Disposals (total)










Curiously, the Dockers averaged fewer tackles with Bowers playing, potentially a result of a reliance on one player to apply that defensive pressure through the middle of the ground. In her absence, a broader spread of players opted to prioritise defensive actions through the midfield.

A shift made by head coach Lisa Webb at the contest early in the season was to put reliable small defender Ange Stannett into the midfield for extended periods.

Ange Stannett is seen ahead of round nine, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

In addition, the likes of Orlagh Lally (forward), Joanne Cregg (winger), Gabby O'Sullivan (forward), and Sarah Verrier (defender) all spent time in the middle alongside established midfielders Dana East, Megan Kauffman, and Hayley Miller.

Miller also spent much of the season playing as a key forward target thanks to her height, working to cover Fremantle’s other issues ahead of the ball.

Without Bowers this year, it is expected that Miller will return predominantly to the midfield, while some fresh recruits also give Webb some flexibility right across the park.

Aisling McCarthy, who made the move from West Coast during the offseason, is a reliable, physical midfield option who can also sneak forward to hit the scoreboard. McCarthy appears to be the immediate replacement for Bowers' midfield rotation, after averaging 15.8 disposals, 5.3 tackles, and 3.1 clearances last year.

Aisling McCarthy after being traded to Fremantle in December 2023. Picture: Fremantle Football Club

Another recruit, Gabby Newton, joined the club from the Western Bulldogs to reunite with Webb, who was the Dogs' midfield coach throughout 2022. Although Newton has more recently become known as a key forward, or even key defensive option, she began her AFLW career as a tackling, big-bodied midfielder.

There is real potential for Newton to make the midfield her home at Fremantle, with the capacity to work with Miller in a forward rotation throughout games.

The club has a strong contingent of emerging midfield options, but for Webb, it becomes a question of how those pieces best fit together.

Lisa Webb addresses her Fremantle players during round eight, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Finding the right combination will be key. O'Sullivan's speed and agility complements Kauffman's grit. Miller's size complements East's in-and-under strength. Lally's power complements Verrier's dexterity.

Amidst so much change, and as good as the 32-year-old Kiara Bowers is, the Dockers do have the assets available to cover her absence not only this year, but looking to the future.

And it may just signal a new era of Fremantle in the process.