AFL Media previews Melbourne's upcoming AFL Women's season.
Coach: Mick Stinear
Captain: Daisy Pearce
2021 best and fairest: Tyla Hanks and Karen Paxman
2021 in a nutshell: The Demons improved throughout the season and hit top gear in the final rounds, winning crunch games against top-four sides Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle to secure a finals berth. Another victory over the Dockers put Melbourne into a prelim, but the Erin Phillips-inspired Crows were far too good. Overall, coach Mick Stinear's faith in his young brigade paid off, with Tyla Hanks, Eliza McNamara and Alyssa Bannan all playing important roles. Karen Paxman was outstanding, claiming a fifth successive All-Australian jumper, but a late-season knee injury to skipper Daisy Pearce sapped some of the Dees' momentum.
Full squad: Alyssa Bannan, Libby Birch, Alison Brown, Maggie Caris, Georgia Campbell, Gabby Colvin, Megan Fitzsimon, Maddi Gay, Tahlia Gillard, Sinead Goldrick, Tayla Harris, Tyla Hanks, Shelley Heath, Kate Hore, Sarah Lampard, Lauren Magee, Eliza McNamara, Lily Mithen, Jackie Parry, Karen Paxman, Daisy Pearce, Lauren Pearce, Krstel Petrevski, Olivia Purcell, Shelley Scott, Casey Sherriff, Isabella Simmons, Brenna Tarrant, Eliza West, Eden Zanker
Recruits: Tayla Harris (Carlton), Olivia Purcell (Geelong), Eliza West (rookie)
Draftees: Alison Brown, Georgia Campbell, Tahlia Gillard
Out: Tegan Cunningham, Meg Downie, Niamh McEvoy, Shae Sloane (retired), Chantel Emonson (Geelong), Mietta Kendall (delisted)
2022 opponents: Western Bulldogs (A), Richmond (A), St Kilda (H), Adelaide (A), Gold Coast (H), GWS Giants (H), Brisbane (A), North Melbourne (H), Fremantle (A), Carlton (H)
Circle it: A win on the road against Adelaide in round four would set up the Demons' premiership tilt nicely. Another away victory against premier Brisbane in round six would be just as vital. These two games could shape Melbourne's season.
Player to watch: All eyes will be on Tayla Harris, the former Carlton and Brisbane key forward looking to rebound from an under-par 2021 season with the Blues. The strong-marking, three-time All-Australian will replace the retired Tegan Cunningham in the Demons forward line.
Best Rising Star chance: Alyssa Bannan
2022 prediction: After seemingly constant heartbreak, the Demons are well-placed to emulate the club's men's team and win a drought-breaking premiership after falling to Adelaide in the prelim in 2021. The addition of Harris adds another threat to an already-potent attack, while young guns Alyssa Bannan, Tyla Hanks and Eliza McNamara are primed to improve again. If veteran skipper Pearce can stay healthy and the prolific Karen Paxman continues to deliver, the Demons will give the flag a real shake. The wildcard is ex-Cat Liv Purcell, a 2020 All-Australian recovering from a ruptured ACL suffered in February. While not expected to return to her best, the 21-year-old could make an important contribution late in the season.