Sarah Black's top 30 AFLW players: Blues dynamo rockets up to No.1

AFTER a controversial, discussion-provoking debut, the AFLW top 30 is back to count down to the 2021 NAB AFLW season.

Typically, for this year, things are a little different.

The top 30 will be based on form shown in the 2020 season. As such, the unilateral decision has been made to have a three-2020-games requirement, seeing as there were six rounds of the season and one week of finals.

TOP 30 AFLW PLAYERS Watch the whole series now on AFL On Demand

You can do the maths to work out who is ineligible!

Suffice to say, North Melbourne star Jasmine Garner will NOT be sitting at No.29 this year, but that's the only clue you're getting as to the order of the top 30.

REMEMBER ME? The stars returning for 2021


The silky midfielder had an impressive debut season, showing great poise in contested situations and neat skills off both feet.

Finishing equal-first in the Saints' best and fairest and equal-third in the NAB AFLW Rising Star, Patrikios averaged 15.7 disposals, 4.0 clearances and 295.5 metres gained a match.

Patrikios held her own against midfielders 10 to 15 years older, made the All-Australian squad and was considered a crucial focus for opposition teams in attempting to nullify St Kilda.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #30 Georgia Patrikios

00:47 Dec 29. 2020. 12:00 PM

A young Saint on the rise kicks off Sarah Black's countdown ahead of 2021

29. CHLOE MOLLOY (Collingwood)

The multi-talented utility was integral to Collingwood's rise up the ladder in 2020, playing in the midfield and spending stints up forward.

Molloy didn't make the All-Australian squad and finished eighth in the Pies' best and fairest, but had match-winning turns in games, including a three-goal haul against the Western Bulldogs and 17 touches against Carlton.

She averaged 13.3 disposals, 4.6 marks and 3.9 intercept possessions in 2020, using her footy smarts to position herself where she would have the greatest impact.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #29 Chloe Molloy

00:55 Dec 30. 2020. 12:00 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

28. KALINDA HOWARTH (Gold Coast)

Affectionately known as 'Kindy', the sparky forward from the Suns had a breakout season after struggling with personal issues during her time at the Lions in 2018

Named All-Australian, Howarth booted nine goals from her six matches, including a bag of three against Brisbane and four against West Coast. She also found a fair bit of the footy, averaging 10.1 disposals.

Her agility at ground level, strength overhead and composure in front of goal makes her a dangerous proposition for opposition defenders.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #28 Kalinda Howarth

00:54 Dec 31. 2020. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent


Winning the AFLW leading goalkicker award in your debut season (albeit a shortened affair) is no mean feat, but that is exactly what Greiser achieved in 2020.

The powerful forward finished equal-first in St Kilda's best and fairest and was named All- Australian after her 10-goal season, which included a haul of three against Richmond.

Greiser has one of the longest set shots in the competition and despite the former soccer player's relative inexperience, is a smart operator who knows how to protect her space well.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #27 Caitlin Greiser

00:57 Jan 1. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

26. SARAH ALLAN (Adelaide)

The linchpin of Adelaide's defence, Allan went from strength to strength in 2020.

The composed key back was named All-Australian for the first time and finished fifth in the Crows' best and fairest count.

Allan reads the play well and is not afraid to leave her direct opponent to spoil a contest. She is sound overhead and is entrusted to be the player left on the last line of defence.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #26 Sarah Allan

00:44 Jan 2. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

25. JENNA BRUTON (North Melbourne)

Often slipping under the radar of North Melbourne's star-studded midfield, Bruton had another powerful season in 2020.

Bruton averaged 17.4 disposals at 65.6 per cent efficiency, a strong figure given her role usually entails dealing with the ball in contested situations.

Named in the All-Australian squad and finishing fourth in North Melbourne's best and fairest, Bruton's agility, clean skills and elite pressure – particularly in stoppages – means she is a key cog in the Roos' powerful engine room.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #25 Jenna Bruton

00:53 Jan 3. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

24. LIBBY BIRCH (Melbourne)

Birch took her game to a new level in her first season at Melbourne, after spending three years at the Western Bulldogs.

Locking in a role as a key defender, she was named All-Australian for the first time after a series of powerful performances behind the footy, averaging 6.4 intercept possessions and 3.6 marks.

She has safe hands overhead, is a strong interceptor and makes life highly difficult and frustrating for her direct opponent.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #24 Libby Birch

00:49 Jan 4. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

23. KATE HORE (Melbourne)

One of the most dangerous small forwards in the game, Hore was a constant threat in 2020.

An All-Australian, winner of the Coates Hire Goal of the Year and third in the club's best and fairest count, the Dee averaged 12.7 disposals (seven contested possessions), 3.1 score involvements and kicked 4.5.

Hore's combination of speed, agility and smart leading patterns means she's a difficult prospect to corral, and she has the ability to quickly turn a game, as she did against North Melbourne in round one.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #23 Kate Hore

01:03 Jan 5. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

22. EMILY BATES (Brisbane)

An ever-dependable midfielder, Bates won a second Brisbane best and fairest in 2020 and was named in the All-Australian squad.

She averaged 19.9 disposals at 69.1 per cent efficiency, 272.7 metres gained and 3.9 clearances a game, leading an inexperienced Lions engine room.

Bates marries her ball-winning ability with clean disposal by both hand and foot, making her an extremely damaging player if left to her own devices.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #22 Emily Bates

00:43 Jan 6. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

21. ISABEL HUNTINGTON (Western Bulldogs)

Huntington was the subject of an inspired move from the forward line to centre-half back in 2020, named All-Australian and winning the NAB AFLW Rising Star and the Dogs' best and fairest.

The No.1 pick in 2018 has had a torrid run with knee and leg injuries as a junior and in her first two AFLW seasons, but dominated overhead in 2020.

Huntington averaged 4.8 marks (2.2 contested), 13.0 disposals at 73.8 per cent disposal efficiency and 8.4 intercept possessions.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #21 Isabel Huntington

00:49 Jan 7. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

20. BRIANNA DAVEY (Collingwood)

Overshadowed somewhat by Jaimee Lambert's star turn, Davey had a very strong season in the midfield, her first at Collingwood.

Making the All-Australian squad, Davey averaged 4.7 clearances and 20.5 disposals at 72.4 per cent efficiency, half of which were contested possessions. She had a day out against the Western Bulldogs, recording 30 touches and 10 tackles.

Davey is a powerful and long-kicking player, and the new Collingwood co-captain is tough to bring down in a tackle while not being afraid to lay a few of her own. She's also a handy defender in her own right.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #20 Brianna Davey

00:36 Jan 8. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

19. OLIVIA PURCELL (Geelong)

Purcell had an astonishing six games for a 19-year-old who had a limited pre-season due to a shoulder injury, including a 27-touch effort against top-tier side Fremantle.

A midfielder who is equally dangerous at stoppages near goal, Purcell won the Cats' best and fairest and was named in the All-Australian team.

Quick, elusive and a four-quarter performer, Purcell averaged 20.2 disposals, 257.4 metres gained and 5.0 clearances a match, also kicking four majors.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #19 Olivia Purcell

00:43 Jan 9. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

18. TAYLA HARRIS (Carlton)

Often marked harder due to her high profile, Harris nonetheless is the premier marking forward in the competition.

Harris kicked a goal in every round and final in 2020 (including 2.3 against Adelaide), and wasn't afraid to move up the ground to get her hands on the footy, averaging 10.4 disposals.

It's very tough to completely nullify Harris in an aerial contest and she's one of a few players to regularly nail set shots in the 40m-plus range.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #18 Tayla Harris

00:50 Jan 10. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

17. ASH RIDDELL (North Melbourne)

Riddell showed she more than belonged at the top level in her first full AFLW season, after injury restricted her to two games in 2019.

A tenacious and hard-running midfielder, Riddell was named All-Australian and finished third in North Melbourne's best and fairest, averaging a team-high 21.3 disposals, 358.8 metres gained and 3.9 inside 50s.

Riddell spreads hard from the contest, is nimble in congestion and clean by foot, and as teams found in 2020, difficult to shut down for all four quarters.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #17 Ash Riddell

00:49 Jan 11. 2021. 3:30 PM

North's gun midfielder lands at No.17 in this year's countdown

16. GEMMA HOUGHTON (Fremantle)

If Tayla Harris is one of the best aerial forwards, Houghton has claims to be the most athletic.

The Docker covers the ground at great speed, particularly for her height of 179cm, and is a crucial part of her side's quick and free-flowing game-plan.

Houghton was named All-Australian in 2020, finishing fourth in Fremantle's best and fairest after kicking 4.10 and averaging 11.1 disposals and 4.9 score involvements a game.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #16 Gemma Houghton

00:51 Jan 12. 2021. 3:30 PM

The athletic Fremantle forward is firmly entrenched in the AFLW's top 20 players

15. EBONY ANTONIO (Fremantle)

Comfortably capable of playing in both defence and up forward, Antonio took her game to a new level in 2020, slotting in on the wing to great effect.

Her strong marking, ability to read the play and powerful endurance made her a dangerous linking player, averaging 12.1 disposals at 70.6 per cent efficiency, 3.4 score involvements and 3.3 marks a game.

Antonio finished second in Fremantle's best and fairest and was named in the All-Australian squad of 40..

Sarah Black's Top 30: #15 Ebony Antonio

00:59 Jan 13. 2021. 3:30 PM

Fremantle's strong-marking utility comes in at No.15 in this year's countdown


The Blues co-captain had another stellar season in 2020, once again performing a role as a cornerstone of her team's defence, intercepting and then re-directing play.

An All-Australian in 2020, Harrington averaged 13.7 disposals at 81.3 per cent efficiency, 4.4 marks and 6.6 intercept possessions across the season.

Harrington has seemingly not missed a beat since switching from basketball to football in 2018, her ability to read the play, bravery backing into packs and steady hands overhead puts her in the top echelon of defenders.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #14 Kerryn Harrington

00:48 Jan 14. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

13. MONIQUE CONTI (Richmond)

Conti busted her heart out during Richmond's difficult first season and was a clear winner of the club's best and fairest.

The midfielder averaged 19.3 disposals, 4.8 intercept possessions and 330.9 metres gained in 2020, running hard both ways and continually trying to take on the game.

Named in the All-Australian squad of 40 and finishing equal-seventh in the AFLW best and fairest, Conti's speed, agility and game sense means she's usually the first player opposition sides attempt to shut down.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #13 Monique Conti

00:58 Jan 15. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

12. DANA HOOKER (West Coast)

Despite West Coast's tough season, Hooker produced another string of strong performances in 2020, winning the club's maiden best and fairest.

Also finishing equal-11th in the AFLW best and fairest and named in the All-Australian squad of 40, the tireless midfielder averaged 19.7 disposals (12.5 contested possessions), 336.6 metres gained, 6.8 tackles and 4.2 clearances a game.

Hooker is a tough player and strong ball-winner, with excellent endurance making her a threatening four-quarter performer.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #12 Dana Hooker

00:56 Jan 16. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

11. KATE LUTKINS (Brisbane)

One of the premier defenders across the four seasons of the AFLW competition, Lutkins patrols Brisbane's backline with fierce determination.

Lutkins was named All-Australian and finished second in the Lions' best and fairest, averaging 13.3 disposals, 254.5 metres gained, 4.4 marks and 6.7 intercept possessions in 2020.

Equally adept at playing an intercept or lockdown role, Lutkins covers the ground easily and is often entrusted with covering the Lions' last line of defence.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #11 Kate Lutkins

00:55 Jan 17. 2021. 3:00 PM

Sarah Black countdown for top AFLW talent

10. ELLIE BLACKBURN (Western Bulldogs)

The Bulldogs captain has consistently been one of the best midfielders in the competition across her four seasons.

A dynamic and explosive player who is equally dangerous bursting from stoppages as she is streaming towards goal, Blackburn finished second in the Dogs' best and fairest, equal-11th in the AFLW count and made the All-Australian squad.

Blackburn averaged 17.3 disposals, 325.4 metres gained and 4.7 clearances, and attempting to curtail her influence is crucial to shutting down the Dogs.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #10 Ellie Blackburn

02:12 Jan 18. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent

9. DAISY PEARCE (Melbourne)

We're used to seeing Pearce stamp her influence on a match in the middle of the ground, but she took to her new position off half-back with aplomb in 2020.

Returning from a year off due to pregnancy, Pearce was poised under pressure and had an innate sense of just when to drive up the ground to break the game open.

Pearce finished fourth in Melbourne's 2020 best and fairest and was selected in the All-Australian squad of 40, averaging 14.9 disposals, 237.4 metres gained and 5.7 intercept possessions.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #9 Daisy Pearce

01:43 Jan 19. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent


Parker pushed her game to a whole new level in her second AFLW season, arguably winning a few matches for the Giants off her own boot.

A bullocking midfielder with clean skills in heavy traffic, Parker averaged 21.1 disposals (11.7 contested possessions), 376.7 metres gained, 4.1 intercept possessions and 4.0 clearances, working hard both ways.

The Giant took out her club's best and fairest at just 19 years old, was named All-Australian and finished equal-11th in the AFLW best and fairest.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #8 Alyce Parker

01:37 Jan 20. 2021. 12:15 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent

7. ANNE HATCHARD (Adelaide)

One of the best ball magnets in the game, the hard-running Hatchard set a record for most disposals (35) in an AFLW match in round one last season.

Hatchard, No.17 in our countdown last year, had a stellar 2020, taking out the Crows' best and fairest, named in the All-Australian team and finishing equal-fourth in the AFLW count.

Her endurance and ball-winning ability saw Hatchard lead the competition in average disposals (25.3). She averaged 11.8 contested possessions, 5.7 tackles and 5.0 intercept possessions in 2020.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #7 Anne Hatchard

01:58 Jan 21. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent

6. JAIMEE LAMBERT (Collingwood)

Many teams tried and failed to bring a halt to Lambert's influence on matches in 2020.

The dogged Pie was a powerful force in the midfield, averaging 22.3 disposals (second in the competition), 349.2 metres gained, 6.4 tackles and 4.6 clearances and inside 50s in 2020.

She won Collingwood's best and fairest, finished equal-seventh in the AFLW edition and was awarded an All-Australian berth.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #6 Jaimee Lambert

01:42 Jan 22. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent

5. EMMA KEARNEY (North Melbourne) 

Getting to the top five means it is really time to start splitting hairs.

The North Melbourne skipper produced another brilliant 2020 season, providing an incredible amount of drive from her run-and-carry game.

In 2020, Kearney averaged 20.6 disposals, 353.9 metres gained and 4.1 clearances and inside 50s, generating plenty of movement from the midfield and sparking disposal chains heading into attack.

She was named vice-captain of the All-Australian team, finished third in the AFLW best and fairest and second in North Melbourne’s count.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #5 Emma Kearney

01:55 Jan 23. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent

4. KAREN PAXMAN (Melbourne)

Forget being one of Melbourne’s most consistent players, Paxman is one of the entire competition’s most reliable players.

A steady head in the midfield, Paxman knows just where to place herself to have the most impact on a match, and was named captain of the All Australian team, finishing second in Melbourne’s best and fairest and sixth in the AFLW best and fairest.

Paxman averaged 21.3 disposals at 71.1 per cent efficiency (with 10.6 contested possessions), 337.1 metres gained and 3.4 inside 50s a match in 2020.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #4 Karen Paxman

01:48 Jan 24. 2021. 11:30 AM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent

3. KIARA BOWERS (Fremantle)

The long-time Fremantle vice-captain is more than just a tackling machine, but there's no denying she's very good at that particular aspect of the game.

Bowers had an outstanding 2020, making life very difficult for opposition teams attempting to clear stoppages but also winning plenty of her own footy.

'Turbo' was named All Australian, won Fremantle's best and fairest and finished second overall in the AFLW's count.

She averaged 17.6 disposals (10.9 contested possessions), 322.5 metres gained, 3.6 inside 50s and – quite frankly – an astonishing 14.1 tackles a game in 2020.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #3 Kiara Bowers

01:55 Jan 25. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent

2. JASMINE GARNER (North Melbourne)

The Roo took the leap into the very top echelon of players in 2020, winning both the AFLPA MVP and AFLCA's player of the year award.

A genuine game-breaker, her versatility means she can turn a match whether she's a forward or a midfielder, and she's one of the best marks in the game.

Garner won North Melbourne's best and fairest and was named All-Australian, but bizarrely barely polled in the AFLW best and fairest, recording just four votes.

She averaged 20.1 disposals, 335.3 metres gained, 4.6 marks and kicked eight goals from seven matches in 2020.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #2 Jasmine Garner

02:17 Jan 26. 2021. 3:15 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent


It makes sense that the No.1 player for the 2020 season was the AFLW best and fairest, right?

The Blue dynamo completed an incredible double in 2020, backing up her NAB AFLW Rising Star win the year prior with the AFLW's top award at just 19.

Prespakis is a ferocious midfielder who has a powerful burst from stoppages and is a smart user of the footy.

She averaged 21.3 disposals (11.3 contested possessions), 281.9 metres gained, 4.3 clearances and 3.3 inside 50s in 2020.

Sarah Black's Top 30: #1 Madison Prespakis

02:41 Jan 27. 2021. 3:30 PM

Sarah Black's countdown for top AFLW talent