State of Origin is back in the AFL for the first time in almost a decade, as the AFLW hosts it's first ever battle for state supremacy tonight, as Victoria's finest female footballers take on the rest of the nation in what should be a cracking game of football in a weekend that's features very little football as the AFL gears up for what could be another thrilling and unpredictable finals series - all that kicks off next Thursday night.
For so long, State of Origin footy has been something footy fans have been craving for, and whilst it's not the men donning the 'Big V' this year or donning an Allies guernsey, this should bring in a decent crowd tonight, with entry to the game being free. Remember the first AFLW game for premiership points this Summer? That game drew over 10,000 spectators and locked out a further 2,000 people. I just get the feeling this will draw a massive crowd tonight, with no AFL footy on this weekend.
This game will showcase the best from the AFLW this summer, with best and fairests, All-Australians and premiership players all featuring in this one-off exhibition match. On one side we have the Victorians, the AFL capital of Australia, in the past, they have always boasted some of the game's finest male talent. Nothing changes here with the women as some of the AFLW's elite find themselves representing the Big V. On top of that, the Vics are coached by a legend of Women's footy in Debbie Lee - one of many that kick-started the AFLW and made it what is today, her knowledge of the game is extraordinary.
On the other end, is the rest of the nation - The Allies as they are called, coached by the AFLW's first-ever premiership coach in Bec Goddard, who steered her Adelaide Crows to premiership glory - the first-ever AFLW premiership. Her ability to connect with her players has been well documented all throughout 2017, both during the AFLW season and afterwards, and with the talent at her disposal tonight, you can definitely say they are in with a chance of knocking off Victoria.
Notable Omissions: Darcy Vescio (Carlton), Hannah Scott (Western Bulldogs), Lauren Pearce (Melbourne), Jasmine Grierson (Melbourne), Phoebe McWilliams (GWS), Danielle Hardiman (Carlton), Jess Duffin (Collingwood)
Sarah Perkins (Adelaide)
Kaitlyn Ashmore (Brisbane)
Lauren Arnell (Carlton)
Brianna Davey (Carlton)
Alison Downie (Carlton)
Sarah Hosking (Carlton)
Nicola Stevens (Carlton)
Steph Chiocci (Collingwood)
Jasmine Garner (Collingwood)
Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood)
Sarah D'Arcy (Collingwood)
Moana Hope (Collingwood)
Kara Donnellan (Fremantle)
Jess Dal Pos (GWS)
Alicia Eva (GWS)
Karen Paxman (Melbourne)
Daisy Pearce (Melbourne)
Melissa Hickey (Melbourne)
Lily Mithen (Melbourne)
Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs)
Emma Kearney (Western Bulldogs)
Lauren Spark (Western Bulldogs)
The Victorian's line-up is well poised at both ends and with an on-ball brigade as elite as it gets, it's hard to argue against them being the favourites ahead of tonight.
Have a listen to the midfielders in this Victorian line-up: Pearce, Blackburn, Kearney, Donnellan, Paxman. All five of these ladies have averaged between 17-22 disposals a game during the inaugural AFLW season, and along with Brianna Davey, should Debbie Lee opt to play her as a midfielder rather than a key defender, then this midfield will prove to be hard to stop. Then there are ladies such as Lily Mithen, Alicia Eva, Jess Dal Pos, Lauren Arnell and Sarah Hosking, who have all proven to be very good at winning their own ball.
Not having Darcy Vescio, who did lead the league in goals in the inaugural season will hurt their chances a fair bit, but the forward line still looks good. Moana Hope did kick six goals in their last 'All-Star' game last September and will be looking to get back to that form after an underwhelming 2017, while Sarah Perkins has been a remarkable presence down forward for the Crows in 2017. Blackburn has shown she can be a goal-kicking option during the 2017 AFLW season, as can Donnellan and look for Jaimee Lambert down forward as she has shown in the past that she can kick a goal or two.
Down back, we will see All-Australian defender Nicola Stevens potentially team-up with Brianna Davey for the first time since Stevens was traded from Collingwood in the AFLW's first-ever trade period and expect Collingwood skipper Steph Chiocci along with Melbourne veteran Mel Hickey to keep the defence steady. I'm also very interested to see what role Lauren Spark has in the Victorian side, with her ability to take great contested grabs, she could virtually play any position.
Notable Omissions: Sam Virgo (Brisbane), Erin Phillips (Adelaide), Erin McKinnon (GWS), Kellie Gibson (Fremantle), Nicola Barr (GWS), Lara Filocamo (Fremantle)
Chelsea Randall (Adelaide)
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide)
Courtney Cramey (Adelaide)
Stevie-Lee Thompson (Adelaide)
Jessica Sedunary (Adelaide)
Sabrina Frederick-Traub (Brisbane)
Emily Bates (Brisbane)
Emma Zielke (Brisbane)
Jess Wuetschner (Brisbane)
Kate McCarthy (Brisbane)
Leah Kaslar (Brisbane)
Tayla Harris (Carlton)
Emma King (Collingwood)
Ebony Antonio (Fremantle)
Kirby Bentley (Fremantle)
Dana Hooker (Fremantle)
Hayley Miller (Fremantle)
Emma Swanson (GWS)
Renee Tomkins (GWS)
Elise O'Dea (Melbourne)
Bianca Jakobsson (Melbourne)
Katie Brennan (Western Bulldogs)
The first thing I notice in the Allies' team is the number of goal-kicking options this team has - both big and small. Sabrina Frederick-Traub is a proven star, Katie Brennan will be out to prove how dangerous she really will be after her 2017 AFLW season was ruined by injury, whilst the duo of Kate McCarthy and Bianca Jakobsson provide more pace in the forward line that will be badly needed. Tayla Harris however, will be an interesting player to watch as she makes her first AFLW appearance since being traded away from Brisbane, and she'll have to do it playing alongside six of her ex-team mates.
Alongside McCarthy and Fredrick-Traub, the Lions also have Emily Bates, Leah Kaslar, Jess Wuetschner and captain Emma Zielke representing the Allies, however, they will not have All-Australian defender Sam Virgo after she ruptured her ACL, forcing her to miss the entire 2018 AFLW season. The reigning premiers Adelaide will be represented by five players, including co-captain Chelsea Randall, and AFLW Rising Star winner Ebony Marinoff but not reigning league best-and-fairest Erin Phillips.
Whilst the Vics' possess a very potent midfield, the midfield of the Allies' is considered a much weaker group. After Marinoff and Melbourne's Elise O'Dea, The Allies don't have many stars, they could potentially throw Randall in the midfield as well as Fremantle's Hayley Miller or Dana Hooker, but it'll struggle to comprehend the star power of the Vics, but the Allies will however, have the best female ruckwoman in the land in West Australian Emma King, who should provide first use to the midfielders.
Five Match-Ups I'd Love To See Take Place Tonight
Nicola Stevens (VIC) vs Katie Brennan (ALL)
Ellie Blackburn (VIC) vs Ebony Marinoff (ALL)
Brianna Davey (VIC) vs Sabrina Frederick-Traub (ALL)
Moana Hope (VIC) vs Chelsea Randall (ALL)
Melissa Hickey (VIC) vs Kate McCarthy (ALL)
Whilst the Allies possess a mighty forward line, games are often won and lost in the midfield, and given that the Victorians have a plethora of midfielders and many of them can go forward and kick goals, I think at the moment, I'd have to go with the Victorians. Unless Bec Goddard can find a way to keep the ball off of ladies like Daisy Pearce, Ellie Blackburn or Emma Kearney, then there is absolutely no way the Vics can drop this game.
Watch out for Katie Brennan to have a big game for the Allies as she tries her best to get her side over the line, but on the same token, look out for Moana Hope from the Victorians to wreak havoc much like last year. Despite the glaring comparisons in midfield, this should be a very entertaining game of footy and one that should be enjoyed by all.
Victoria By 5 Points
Victoria's Best: Ellie Blackburn
The Allies' Best: Katie Brennan