2022 AFLW early look: North Melbourne

IN an early look at the upcoming AFL Women’s 2022 season, Draft Central checks out each of the 14 clubs over the next three weeks ahead of preseason commencing. Next up is North Melbourne, a team that scraped into the last finals spot, but were not far off the minor premiership either, and ranked in the top three defensively.

LAST SEASON:

Position: 6th
Wins: 6
Losses: 3
Draws: 0
Points For: 379 (5th)
Points Against: 202 (3rd)

North Melbourne have perpetually been considered a contender in the AFL Women’s competition, and 2021 was no different. Despite finishing sixth, the Roos were only one win and percentage off top spot such was the evenness of the competition, and a result here or there could have changed the finals outlook. As it stood, the Roos were beaten by a fast-finishing Collingwood in the finals series, though were able to match-up against most sides, with the Magpies causing them the most trouble during the season. The ranked inside the top five for both points for and least points conceded, with very few holes across the board, and a title-winning side on paper. It might not have gone the way they would have liked, but the Roos were able to provide young players with more games as they did during the VFLW season.

OFF-SEASON:

Ins: Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons), Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers), Kim Rennie (Western Bulldogs), Jasmine Ferguson (Collingwood VFLW), Perri King, Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
Outs: Vivien Saad (Gold Coast), Jasmine Grierson (GWS), Katelyn Cox, Kate Gillespie-Jones, Georgia Hammond, Beth Lynch, Tahni Nestor (delisted)
Inactive: Nil.

North Melbourne had a fairly uneventful trade period, with only a couple of players departing the club and none arriving in that time. Ruck Vivien Saad headed north to play with the Suns, and Jasmine Grierson found her third club at the GWS GIANTS. The Roos tried to get Western Bulldogs ruck Kim Rennie into the club during the trade period, but the clubs could not come to terms, though North Melbourne eventually got their player via the AFL Women’s Draft. There, they also picked up mature-age talent Jasmine Ferguson to replace key defender Kate Gillespie-Jones, with the latter among five players to be delisted. Those included inaugural Roo Beth Lynch, Tahni Nestor, and first-year Roos Katelyn Cox and Georgia Hammond, the former taken as an injury replacement player prior to the 2021 AFLW season. Heading to the draft and having access to the Tasmanian zone, North Melbourne were able to pick up AFL Women’s Academy member Perri King and her Devils’ teammate Ella Maurer. King would have a case as the biggest steal of the draft, though she was far from the only one for the Roos. Tess Craven was touted to go top 10 and Tara Slender was another terrific first round prospect, and the Roos were able to snap up both for below value. Able to add extra elements to their midfield, forward and defence, North Melbourne was able to nail the draft well.

2022 TEAM LIST:

Sophie Abbatangelo
Kaitlyn Ashmore
Daria Bannister
Daisy Bateman
Brooke Brown
Nicole Bresnehan
Jenna Bruton
Grace Campbell
Tess Craven
Jess Duffin
Bella Eddey
Jasmine Ferguson
Jasmine Garner
Ellie Gavalas
Britt Gibson
Aileen Gilroy
Danielle Hardiman
Emma Kearney
Elisha King
Emma King
Mia King
Perri King
Ella Maurer
Alice O’Loughlin
Tahlia Randall
Kim Rennie
Ash Riddell
Tara Slender
Amy Smith
Sarah Wright

KEY QUESTIONS:

  • Can North Melbourne finally make the next step and reach the AFLW Grand Final?
  • How many of their first-year young guns will crack into the senior side in 2022?
  • What percentage of the game will Emma King play forward compared to ruck next season?

PREDICTION:

North Melbourne has very few flaws in its team, so expect the Roos to be right up there when the whips are cracking. After initially building a side to win in 2019, North has steadily filtered in more youth to replace outgoing players and has a list that will compete with the very best. Led by Emma Kearney, Jasmine Garner and Ash Riddell in the midfield, on paper North Melbourne could easily be favourites for the title, but premierships are not won on paper. Expect the new kids on the block to be more readymade than ever before, and the Roos to be an incredibly exciting side to watch in 2022.

Picture credit: Michael Dodge / AAP

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