Hawks' Goddard declares Dees 'a cut above' AFLW rivals


AFLW premiers Melbourne can just about be handed another flag this season if Hawthorn coach Bec Goddard's assessment is any sort of guide.

After seeing her side "ripped apart" by the Demons in their final pre-season hit-out, Goddard declared Mick Stinear's experienced outfit primed to repeat their season-seven success.

"Melbourne are going to be a cut above everyone else," inaugural AFLW premiership coach Goddard told reporters ahead of round one.

"They are unbelievably good."

The Demons lost inspirational leader Daisy Pearce to retirement over the off-season but have kept the majority of their playing list intact as they chase back-to-back flags.

They sounded a warning to their rivals with the 58-point thrashing of Hawthorn ahead of Friday night's season-opener against Collingwood at Ikon Park.

"Melbourne haven't lost any players other than the great Daisy Pearce and we're still a young group that's learning how to play football," Goddard said.

"It was a really great opportunity to see the way they explode out of contests and spread the ground. They ripped us apart."

Essendon coach Natalie Wood agrees Melbourne are the team to beat in season eight, declaring the Demons "a force to be reckoned with".

But she added North Melbourne and last season's runners-up the Brisbane Lions should not be underestimated.

The Kangaroos lured St Kilda best-and-fairest winner Kate Shierlaw to bolster their attack, while the Lions lost leading goal-kicker Jesse Wardlaw to the Saints and star duo Emily Bates and Greta Bodey to Hawthorn.

"(North) have recruited really well and they've got that height across the ground, as do Melbourne, and that's a bit of a testament to the two teams," Wood said.

"They've got such athletic footballers and North will be pressing as well, but then you can't deny Brisbane.

"Every year they've lost players to expansion and they find a way to rally together.

"Over the whole eight seasons they've been able to build a really strong program that has high training standards, so it will be interesting as it plays out."