Demons all set to defend AFLW crown without Pearce


Melbourne coach Mick Stinear expects his AFLW premiers to make a smooth transition to life after Daisy Pearce in Friday night's season opener against Collingwood.

All eyes are on the Demons, who are hot favourites to defend their title despite losing their decorated former captain to retirement after last year's breakthrough flag.

"Daisy's left the place in great shape," Stinear said.

"She created space for others to step up and gave them the skills to do so. 

"The group's just excited to show her what we can do and what we've learnt, and show her that the program will continue to move forward."

Two-time All-Australian Kate Hore has taken the reins as Melbourne captain after claiming best-and-fairest honours last season.

"Kate's someone the group really looks up to and she inspires them with the way she prepares and consistently executes," Stinear said.

"She has a genuine care and connection for those around her and she's been that consistent across her time at the club, so I'm not expecting that to change.

"She's got stronger and quicker over the off-season and I'm confident her footy will go to another level as well."

In the annual pre-season poll of AFLW club captains, all bar three rival leaders tipped Melbourne to play off in another grand final.

There is huge expectation on the Demons to go back-to-back but Stinear sees the new campaign as a clean slate.

"It is good reinforcement but unfortunately it doesn't give you any points in the home-and-away season," Stinear said.

"Our group's really determined to take some of the learnings from last year and to suit up and get ready to do battle again.

"I'm sure those captains won't be showing us any mercy, so we'll make sure we're ready."

Collingwood reached the semi-finals last season and have since been strengthened by the return of captain Brianna Davey and Britt Bonnici.

Both are back after long lay-offs with knee injuries.

"They'll be much stronger through the midfield with Bri and Britt coming back through there," Stinear said.

"They don't rely on anyone in particular up forward, so we're going to have to be on our game there.

"We're expecting a great battle and we'd like to think we match up pretty well."

Melbourne vice-captain Tyla Hanks will reach the 50-game milestone in the season opener at Ikon Park.