By Peter Argent
The AFLW competition was inaugurated just five short years ago – back in 2017 – and has quickly developed into a potent part of the annual national sporting calendar.
The sixth edition of the league starts this weekend, with the 14-team competition for 2022.
St Kilda and Richmond launch the season on Friday evening at Skybus Stadium (formerly Frankston Oval), but the big clash from a Broken Hill perspective is the ’21 Grand Final rematch between Adelaide and Brisbane at Flinders University Stadium in the southern suburbs of Adelaide.
Brisbane were underdogs going into the 2021 season decider and defeated Adelaide by 18 points.
Known through the football community at “EJ” Jones played in that match and will be looking for retribution this Sunday.
She was originally drafted by Adelaide at pick number 24 in 2017 and debuted in round one of the 2018 campaign against Brisbane at Norwood Oval.
Balanced and composed with ball in hand, Jones has been a consistent player across the past four years, playing 31 games and kicking 20 goals in the tri-colours.
Jones was a key member of the Crows 2019 premiership win over Carlton on the Adelaide Oval, in front of a crowd that was estimated to be upwards of 50,000.
Tenacious and tough, Jones is natural leader and a classy ball winning wing.
A second Crow with a Broken Hill connection has come into the program this summer, former basketballer, 180cm utility Jasmine Simmons from Oregon State University, in the American College hoops system.
She had previous played football for North Broken Hill in the strong women’s program in the district.
Senior Crows Coach Matthew “Doc” Clarke said the Simmons is well in the mix for a AFL debut, after impressing across the pre-season.
“Jasmine has adapted quickly, after about seven years of playing predominately basketball,” Clarke, who confirmed he personally was in lockdown over Christmas, due to Covid, in a Zoom conference call on Tuesday morning.
“She’s an outside player, with long leavers and could play a variety of roles.
“I feel confident that she will get an opportunity, if not in round one, then during the season.
“There will be plenty of discussions at the selection table on Wednesday night.”
In other news a key member of Brisbane AFLW coaching staff from the beginning of the program, West Broken Hill “Robins” export Brent Staker departed from the Lions coaching panel after the premiership success at Adelaide Oval in April, 2021.
“Brent (Staker) has been an integral part of the Lions AFLW coaching staff from the very start,” Head of Women’s Football at the Lions, Breanna Brock said.
“‘Stakes” has put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears into our program and has really helped make it what it is today.
“When he first started at the Club, he’d never coached women before.
“I’m sure he’s now leaving having learnt a lot from the experience.
“We’re forever grateful for the time and effort he has put into the playing group over the years.
An accomplished AFL footballer with the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Lions in his own right, playing 160 games at the top level, Staker returned to the Lions as AFLW Forwards Coach in their inaugural season, before transitioning to the role of Defensive Coach.
He played an integral role in the team’s development into one of the strongest defensive sides in the competition, highlighted in their 2021 Grand Final win.