Kiara Bowers might already be one of the best players Fremantle have ever produced.
Bowers is quickly establishing herself as one of the club’s most important and greatest players.
Take into account the modern-day heroism of Nat Fyfe and Matthew Pavlich, the historical legacy left by the likes of George Doig (East Fremantle) and Bernie Naylor (South Fremantle), and the universal love and admiration for Maurice Rioli.
While the AFLW is still in its formative stages, as are the Fremantle Dockers as a club, Kiara Bowers is creating her own legacy after just ten senior matches, much like these players did during their playing careers.
Deprived of two years’ worth of her career due to injury, Bowers debuted in 2019 and immediately became the inspirational, carry-the-team-on-her-back type of player that is truly admired across competitions all over the world.
Signed as a marquee player, the expectation was that Bowers would be one of the league’s top players, but the injuries meant she flew under the radar until she made her presence felt during her debut season.
Bowers ranked first in tackles and pressure points, while rated top ten in contested possessions, clearances, metres gained and score involvements.
Fremantle had an excellent season and while many of the plaudits went to Eagles recruit Dana Hooker, Bowers finished just two places behind her in the league’s MVP count come season’s end.
The impact of the 17 disposals and 11 tackles she averaged in 2019 somehow pales in comparison to the way Bowers has started season 2020, when Fremantle are expected to be a serious contender thanks to fixturing quirks and home games.
Against Geelong in Round 1, Bowers was a class above, finishing with 22 disposals (20 kicks), 14 tackles, seven clearances and eight inside 50s.
In the first ever AFLW Derby in the second round of the season, Bowers had 13 disposals, 18 tackles and four clearances to win the Derby medal.
Clearly the 28-year-old is a tackling machine, but her all-round game is arguably the best we have seen in AFLW history, without demanding any headlines or attention.
Her defensive accountability cannot be overstated, with her pressure game so in-tune with the current landscape of the league that she naturally shuts down the opposition’s best players with sheer hunger alone.
Bowers’ kick-to-handball ratio is astonishing for an inside player, having averaged 14.5 kicks and 2.6 handballs in 2019, and beginning the opening stanza of 2020 with 30 kicks and five handballs.
Kicking efficiency is difficult to judge for inside midfielders, particularly in the AFLW where there is a higher chance of effective kicking given the naturally congested areas in which the ball tends to go to, and Bowers is an above average distributor of the ball.
Perhaps it’s the simplicity in Bowers’ tactical approach to the game that should inspire a generation of footballers.
Of course there is nuance in the way she plays, and studying tape to understand running patterns and Bowers’ instinctive positioning in stoppages can be valuable.
But in its purest sense, the best way to approach the game is to attack the ball and get it forward.
When Bowers doesn’t have the ball, she hunts her prey until it’s in her possession, before launching forward to give Fremantle the best opportunity to score.
She makes an increasingly tactical, over-regulated and congested game look easy, which should set the tone for hundreds of professional footballers all over the country.
The Dockers are off to a flyer in 2020 and won’t be stopping anytime soon. They are almost locked in for a top two spot in Conference B, largely thanks to their star midfielder, who should be the favourite for the league’s MVP.
The significance of a player like Bowers to footballing history simply cannot be overstated. In 50 years when AFLW historians refer to certain awards and statistics, there is little doubt that her name will be mentioned on a consistent basis.
A bright future awaits the purple army as it continues to grow, and the modern-day legacy of Kiara Bowers will have her as a Fremantle Football Club legend sooner rather than later.