AFLW: Western Bulldogs start favourite for 2017 flag on eve of round one.

By Stephanie Chalkley-Rhoden and Peter Lusted.

The Western Bulldogs is the team to beat in the AFL women’s league, while Mo Hope and Daisy Pearce are expected to take the game by storm, according to the eight captains on the eve of their first season.

At the season launch in Melbourne, club captains nominated their favourites for the flag.

Three predicted the Bulldogs to lift the premiership trophy on March 25, but Fremantle and Carlton were close behind with two each.

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AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said he was in the midst of a revolution in the game and the AFL was in it “for the long haul”.

“This is year one. The 176 women making their debut this weekend carry an extraordinary amount on their shoulders, I ask today that we give them time and space to grow into the elite footballers we know they can be,” he said.

“Let’s back our players in to grow the game and build the competition. I can guarantee you that AFLW will be vastly different in three years than to year one.”

Carlton’s Lauren Arnell said she could not wait to run out onto Princes Park on Friday night against Collingwood.

“There’s obviously massive history between both clubs and for us to be able to add to that history and create our own is really special,” she said.

Entertaining, high-paced football on show

Melbourne Demons captain Daisy Pearce was voted the most likely to take out best and fairest.

“The season’s launched, we’ve seen the cup, there’s no turning back now,” Pearce said.

“For the footy purest who doubt women can play the game, I just encourage them to come down and have a look.”

Collingwood’s Mo Hope has been tipped to be the competition’s leading goal kicker.

Her captain Steph Chiocci said she was jumping out of her skin to play.

“It’ll certainly be high paced and high skilled,” she said.

“I’ve no doubt that the standard’s going to be quite high and it’s going to be an entertaining brand of football.

“It’s quite a large [premiership] cup, if we’re going to win that I’m going to have to be bulking up, it looks quite heavy.”

Women’s footy back-page news in league heartland

Brisbane’s Emma Zielke said she was pleased to find out she had knocked rugby league off the back page.

“Today I’ve been getting messages all day that I’m on the back page of the Courier [Mail], which is outstanding because the men don’t even make the back page,” she said.

“They’re all getting around it in Queensland.”

The competition will hand out awards received for the best and fairest, best on ground in the grand final, leading goal kicker and rising star, but they are yet to be named.

The launch saw former Western Bulldogs vice-president and long-time women’s footy advocate and financial backer, Susan Alberti, named as the competition’s first ambassador.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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