Port Melbourne players celebrate during the 2023 rebel VFLW Grand Final. Picture: Josh Chadwick/AFL Photos

The numbers suggested they shouldn't have achieved what they did.

Despite that, Port Melbourne defied the odds to secure a famous rebel VFLW premiership triumph in just its third season in the competition.

Position: Premiers
W-L-D (%): 12-6 (124.7%)
Players used: 39
Played every match: 1 – Lauren Caruso
AFLW players used: 6
Debutants: 12 – Keely Byrne, Ruby Dale, Lily Hart, Isobel Hartog, Maggie McKellar, Tilly Mottram, Brit Mueck, Emma Robins, Charley Ryan, Saraid Taylor, Taylah Watson and Kristy Whitehead


(top 3 for all categories)

Best and Fairest: 1st: Lauren Caruso, 2nd: Kaitlyn O’Keefe, 3rd: Jessie Williams, 4th: Maggie McKellar, 5th: Claire Dyett
Lambert-Pearce Medal votes: Kaitlyn O’Keefe (6), Stephanie Williams (6), Stella Reid (5)
Coaches MVP votes: Kaitlyn O’Keefe (47), Jessie Williams (39), Lauren Caruso (20)
VFLW Team of the Year representatives: Lauren Caruso, Kaitlyn O’Keefe and Sean Buncle (coach)
Goalkickers: Federica Frew (11), Emily Harley (9), Chanelle Slater (6), Nayely Borg (6)


(Averages – Minimum 6 matches)

Disposals: Lauren Caruso (15.4), Kaityn O’Keefe (14.6), Jessie Williams (14.4)
Kicks: Kaityn O’Keefe (11.8), Jessie Williams (11.8), Olivia Barton (10.6)
Handballs: Lauren Caruso (6.6), Isobel Hartog (5.4), Kristy Whitehead (4.7)
Marks: Emily Harley (3.7), Maggie McKellar (3.3), Kaitlyn O’Keefe (2.9)
Tackles: Courteney Bromage (9.5), Kaitlyn O’Keefe (9.4), Lauren Caruso (7.1)
Hitouts: Kate Dudley (27.5), Beth Wilson (14.4), Molly Maloney (6.7)
Clearances: Kaitlyn O’Keefe (4.2), Jessie Williams (3.8), Courteney Bromage (2.5)
Inside-50s: Jessie Williams (3.7), Kaitlyn O’Keefe (2.5), Emily Harley (2.5)
Rebound-50s: Olivia Barton (4.9), Lauren Caruso (2.8), Eliza Morrison (2.5)


Obviously everything that needed to. In just their third season in the VFLW, the Borough lifted the premiership cup with a remarkable fightback after being well beaten by Collingwood in the qualifying final. Port Melbourne is the most successful club in VFL/VFA men’s history and wasted no time writing the first premiership chapter in the women’s book. They announced themselves by thrashing the Magpies in Round 2 and proved fast learners in close games, finishing the season 6-3 in matches decided by under 10 points after dropping three in a row from Rounds 7-9. Coach Sean Buncle’s gameplan to win the Grand Final was a masterstroke carried out by his players to the letter and it was no surprise when he claimed the VFLW Coach of the Year honour, with Lauren Caruso bouncing back after being an emergency for Essendon’s premiership team last year to dominate the decider and win the Lisa Hardeman Medal.


Former captain Mel Kuys didn’t make it onto the park due to injury and they didn’t see a heap of their Richmond AFLW listed players (just 30 games from six players), which only adds to their premiership achievement. Apart from that, it’s hard to find anything. The surprise loss to Casey Demons in Round 14 that cost them the minor premiership and a home qualifying final would be one as it resulted in a big loss to Collingwood at Victoria Park in the qualifying final and sent them on the long road to the premiership.


How did they do that? There were no expectations on Port Melbourne after they finished 10th last year but this club has an unbelievable spirit and never-say-die attitude. All the numbers suggest they should not have achieved what they did. They had the sixth best attack and fourth best defence. They only had two players make the rebel VFLW Team of the Year. Their leading vote getters in the Lambert-Pearce Medal only polled six votes each. One of those, Kaitlyn O’Keefe, topped their coaches voting in equal sixth spot. The other, Lauren Caruso, was their most prolific ball winner at an average of 15.4 per game – the lowest of any club leader across the league. Yet they are the premiers. The champion team always beats the team of champions.




Box Hill Hawks
Southern Saints
Geelong Cats
North Melbourne
Casey Demons
Western Bulldogs
Darebin Falcons