Ange Stannett in action during an AFLW practice match between Fremantle and West Coast at Mineral Resources Park on May 4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

COULD the loss of Ange Stannett prove to be more detrimental to Fremantle than that of Kiara Bowers?

Vice-captain Stannett ruptured the ACL in her left knee at training last week, while superstar midfielder Bowers is already sitting out the season due to pregnancy.

A former A-League player with Perth Glory, the ex-rookie took out Fremantle's best and fairest last year, her sixth season in the competition.

But her impact on the Dockers is arguably understated by the wider football public.

Stannett initially made her name as a tough but steady defender, particularly strong in one-on-one contests and rarely showing a hint of panic.

She has gradually increased her midfield time over the past few years, and even featured up forward at times for the Dockers last year.


Not only did she win the club's best and fairest, but took home the "best clubwoman" award for a fourth straight season, such is her impact on both the playing group and wider football club.

When compared to the extraordinary Bowers, Stannett's raw numbers don't quite leap off the page.

She averaged 14.4 disposals in 2023 (up from 8.7 the season prior), 6.8 tackles (3.4) and 2.0 score involvements (0.5).

Bowers is in another stratosphere when it comes to midfield numbers – an average of 20.7 disposals, 12.2 tackles, 5.8 clearances and 1.5 score involvements in 2023.

But it's the versatility of Stannett that's going to be most difficult for Fremantle to cover, given her ability to swing from role to role mid-match.

That sort of in-game adaptability is still in its infancy in the AFLW (but growing by the year as well-seasoned juniors join the ranks), and more so at Fremantle, a team which was on track for the cancelled 2020 flag but has slid down in recent years.

The taller Ebony Antonio can arguably play on all three lines, but has had trouble with her knees, and the tenacious Gabby O'Sullivan rotates through the midfield and forward line, but has also spent time with Antonio in the rehab group due to a stubborn shoulder.

Dana East will be needed in the midfield given the absence of Bowers, recruit Aisling McCarthy is another in the mid/forward mould, as is fellow Irishwoman Orlagh Lally.

Orlagh Lally is tackled by Georgie Prespakis during the AFLW R7 match between Walyalup (Fremantle) and Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on October 14, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

It leaves perhaps 21-year-old Sarah Verrier – a former first-round pick who has been growing in assuredness by the year – as the one who could step up and take on Stannett's mantle as the ultimate band-aid player, deployed to patch holes wherever is required.

"Ange always has a team first approach. Everything she did on and off the field - no matter what her role was - she gave full effort and intensity," coach Lisa Webb said after the club's awards night.

"She brought great intensity and consistency in every role we gave her and no matter what match-up it was, she was excellent at being able to play her role for the team.

Ange Stannett leads Fremantle out onto the field ahead of round six, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"Ange's ability to do the one-percenters has been extraordinary.

"Her tackle pressure, capability to follow set structure, and cover off her opponents are all things she does really well at consistently."

The Dockers have until the start of the season to name a replacement for Stannett, while a timeline is yet to be set for key forward Serena Gibbs, who tore both the MCL and PCL in her left knee during the same training session.