IT WAS A resurgent Collingwood who took to the field in 2020.
The Pies rebounded from a one-win season in 2019 to fall just short of top side North Melbourne in the finals.
There was improvement across the board from the Magpies in new coach Steve Symonds' first season at the helm, with a large group of players putting in their best AFLW seasons yet.
Over the next two weeks, womens.afl will look at each of the seasons of the 14 AFLW teams, kicking off proceedings with Adelaide and moving alphabetically from there.
Coach: Steve Symonds
Leadership group: Steph Chiocci (captain), Ash Brazill, Brianna Davey (vice-captains)
2020 finishing position: Fourth in Conference B, four wins, two losses, 153.7%. Lost to North Melbourne in a semi-final.
Best win: Collingwood 6.3 (39) defeated Carlton 3.6 (24)
The Pies recorded some very solid wins, including those over Western Bulldogs and Brisbane, but this was the victory that made everyone sit up and pay attention. The Pies played with freedom and flair, and youngsters Jordyn Allen, Lauren Butler and Mikala Cann all had big influences on the game.
Best individual performance: Jaimee Lambert had a stunning start to the year, and her game against Fremantle in round three was the best of the lot. The diminutive midfielder – up against the likes of Kiara Bowers and Kara Antonio – won 32 disposals, laid eight tackles and kicked a goal.
Club best and fairest candidates: Jaimee Lambert, Britt Bonnici, Sharni Layton, Brianna Davey
NAB AFLW Rising Star nominations: Nil
Debutants: Ebony O'Dea, Alana Porter, Aishling Sheridan
Retirees: Emma Grant
Most improved: It was a season and a half from Sharni Layton. The former Australian netball captain had a rocky introduction to footy in 2019, but steadily built during her VFLW campaign and emerged in 2020 as one of the premier rucks in the competition. Nods also to Lauren Butler and Jordyn Allen.
Star recruit: There was only one player brought in from another club, but Brianna Davey isn't your normal recruit. She took a little while to settle in, but came home with a bang, averaging 24 disposals, 3.5 marks and six tackles in her final month.
Unsung hero: Sophie Casey is a Magpie who has been around since the start of the competition, originally signed as a free agent. The hard-nosed defender grew in confidence this year, playing every game against dangerous small forwards and improving her disposal.
- A different game plan. As a new coach, Symonds brought in some tweaks, and when the Pies were at their best, there was an increase in handballing and greater utilising of wingers. It brought skipper Steph Chiocci into matches a lot more, and players appeared to enjoy the run-and-carry it allowed.
- Freeing up inaugural Pie Britt Bonnici from her usual tagging role. Bonnici is now 23 and entering her football prime. She came into her own as a ball-winner in her own right this year, upping her average disposal (and influence on matches) from 13 to 20.
What needs improvement:
- The Pies struggled with consistency across the season, going through a brief lean patch in the middle of the season. It wasn't for a lack of trying, especially against Fremantle, but a lack of polish in losses hurt.
- The forward line is still an area that needs some work, as does Chloe Molloy's best position. The two go hand in hand – the attack looked threatening when Molloy was ahead of the footy, but she was often needed on or behind the ball.
Season in a song: Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles). After three long seasons of missed opportunities, and a particularly lacklustre 2019, the Pies burst through, playing their best footy yet.
Early call for 2021: After such a rapid improvement, it could be a "maintaining" type season for the Pies. If the finals system (top three in each conference) is the same in 2021, Collingwood should qualify.
Season rating: 7/10