For the first time since the team’s inception in 2019, West Coast have a fully fit and available AFLW squad ahead of round one with all 30 players putting their hand up for selection.
While this may have caused some match committee headaches over the past week, the final team boasts a number of debutants (Charlie Thomas, Evie Gooch, Aimee Schmidt), as well as some familiar faces returning from injury.
Vice-captain Dana Hooker (foot) will play her first match since round one last season, while former West Coast Fever netballer Andrea Gilmore (concussion) will line up for the blue and gold for the first time since round three.
Gilmore will retain a key forward position after showcasing her wares in the pre-season practice match against Fremantle, with the 33-year-old providing some forward-line power and slotting two goals for the night.
While Hooker will spend time in the midfield with a possible rotation to half-back, trialled by former coach Daniel Pratt last pre-season and continued with former backline coach Michael Prior over the past few months.
In terms of debutants, West Coast have named 2021 number one draft pick Thomas in the midfield after an impressive display in the practice match at Cockburn, with key defender and former Docker Gooch also selected against her former side for the round one clash.
Half-forward Aimee Schmidt will also add some depth to the West Coast’s offensive attack –alongside stalwarts Imahra Cameron and Melissa Caulfield – as she lines up for her first match in the blue and gold.
Captain Emma Swanson will lead the team out for the third season running, and has been named in the Eagles’ engine room alongside 2021 Club Champion Bella Lewis, Mikayla Bowen, and Parris Laurie. While Irish product Aisling McCarthy will start in the backline alongside Maddy Collier and Amber Ward.
“Some exciting things happening this Saturday, we’re going to see Andrea Gilmore coming back into the team after concussion last year,” senior coach Michael Prior said.
“She’ll come back in and she’ll play both through our midfield and up forward as a tall target for us.
“We’ve obviously got ‘Goochie’ coming into our team in a key defensive role, to add that experience, along with Aimee Schmidt coming from another club in GWS and playing as a forward which is exciting.
“Charlie Thomas will play through the midfield and potentially as a forward as well, we’ve obviously got Emma Swanson, (Aisling) McCarthy and (Bella) Lewis, who have had fantastic summers along with Kellie Gibson and Dana Hooker who are going to form the nucleus of our midfield.
“And then, some real good key defenders in Tayla Bresland and Amber Ward who will hold up our back end.”