Madi Capsalis runs with the ball during the round 12 VFLW match between Southern Saints and North Melbourne. Picture: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

Southern Saints looked set to atone for their 2022 grand final defeat when sitting atop the ladder at Round 11 before a late-season fadeout cost them a place in the finals.


Position: 7th
W-L-D (%): 8-6 (109.3%)
Players used: 39
Played every match: 4 – Tessa Boyd, Gabriella De Angelis, Winnie Laing and Charlotte Ryan
AFLW players used: 3 (22 matches)
Debutants: 13 – Georgia Foran, Meg Ginnivan, Sera Kaukiono, Margaret Kershaw, Dakota Mason, Caitlin Matthews, Jane Moore, Charli Murphy, Jemma Ramsdale, Yara Taylor, Abbey Tregellis, Mikayla Williamson and Jemima Wrigley 


Best and Fairest: =1st: Winnie Laing, 2nd: Tessa Boyd, 3rd: Gabriella De Angelis, 4th: Ali Hynes, 5th: Madison Capsalis
Lambert-Pearce Medal votes: Winnie Laing (10), Lucy Burke (5), Tessa Boyd (4), Alexandra Hynes (4)
Coaches MVP votes: Tessa Boyd (48), Gabriella De Angelis (31), Winnie Laing (29)
VFLW Team of the Year representatives: Tessa Boyd and Winnie Laing
Goalkickers: Gabriella De Angelis (10), Lucy Burke (9), Abbey Tregellis (6)

Winnie Laing celebrates a goal during the round 13 VFLW match between Southern Saints and Williamstown at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. Picture: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos


(Averages – Minimum 6 matches)

Disposals: Tessa Boyd (18.1), Winnie Laing (16.8), Gabriella De Angelis (15.7)
Kicks: Tessa Boyd (13.3), Winnie Laing (10.1), Gabriella De Angelis (9.7)
Handballs: Winnie Laing (6.7), Gabriella De Angelis (6.0), Sophie Phillips (6.0)
Marks: Tayla Kearns (3.8), Lucy Burke (3.5), Tessa Boyd (3.3)
Tackles: Alexandra Hynes (7.9), Jemima Wrigley (7.2), Madison Capsalis (6.4)
Hitouts: Alexandra Hynes (16.3), Margaret Kershaw (15.0), Lucy Burke (2.5)
Clearances: Madison Capsalis (5.8), Jemima Wrigley (4.0), Margaret Kershaw (3.9)
Inside-50s: Madison Capsalis (4.1), Sophie Phillips (2.5), Jemima Wrigley (2.3)
Rebound-50s: Tessa Boyd (3.9), Georgia Foran (2.7), Jemima Wrigley (1.8)


The Saints’ best was very good, with the highlight being a 25-point win over Essendon in the first Grand Final rematch to gain the slightest modicum of satisfaction for the defeat on the biggest day in 2022. They sat on top of the ladder at Round 11 with an 8-3 record, having been experts at winning the close games with a 5-0 record in games decided by less than 10 points before losing a Round 13 thriller against Williamstown. Winnie Laing had another outstanding season on the wing to win the best and fairest and midfielder Tessa Boyd starred in her second season with strong support from Madi Capsalis.


Having been in pole position so close to the finals, the Saint would have been devastated to drop their last three games to fall all the way to seventh. The turning point was the Round 12 game against North Melbourne. Handed an unexpected advantage when the Roos’ home match was transferred from Arden Street Oval to Trevor Barker Beach Oval, the Saints managed just one goal in a 24-point defeat and never recovered. Losing promising recruits Dakota Mason and Meg Ginnivan to injury early in the year didn’t help, while the experienced Bec Neaves couldn’t get going and missed out on her century game celebration. Hopefully that can come in 2024.


After making a Grand Final in 2022 to missing the top six in 2023, it was a disappointing result for the Saints. It was a season that promised so much for so long – achieved with only three AFLW players taking the field for a combined 22 games. However, it ended up delivering another sobering reality check as they failed to kick a goal with their season on the line for the second year in a row. They had a good mix of youth and experience, but the inseparable nature of the competition meant the slightest slip up in intensity would be punished most severely. That was the case for the Saints.




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