NORTH Melbourne’s recruiting strategy was a bold one, poaching players from all sorts of AFLW clubs. As a result, the Kangaroos did not do much damage in the draft, but still picked up some handy players to go with their experienced line-up.
List: Emma Kearney, Jasmine Garner, Jamie Stanton, Jess Duffin, Danielle Hardiman, Tahlia Randall, Jenna Bruton, Katherine Gillespie-Jones, Maddison Smith, Brittany Gibson, Daria Bannister, Ash Riddell, Georgia Nanscawen, Elisha King, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Moana Hope, Emma King, Emma Humphries, Jasmine Grierson, Sophie Abbatangelo, Jessie Williams, Taylor Mesiti, Alison Drennan, Jess Trend, Nicole Bresnehan, Libby Haines, Chloe Haines, Courteney Munn, Daisy Bateman, Beth Lynch
The North Melbourne list has a total of four former Collingwood players, four Brisbane players, three Western Bulldogs players, two Carlton players and two Melbourne players. Out of their 30-player list, 15 players have already played AFLW, which will give the Kangaroos plenty of confidence heading into the season. They have also sourced some talented players from the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with Sophie Abbatangelo, Ash Riddell, Jess Trend, Courteney Munn, Alison Drennan and Beth Lynch, adding further depth to their talent pool. Top that off with some exciting Under 18 talent in Daisy Bateman, Chloe Haines and Libby Haines and North Melbourne has one of the strongest lists in the AFLW without even playing a game as a team.
Area of strength: Forward line
North Melbourne has recruited some big names in its forward line, led by former Collingwood forward, Moana Hope. This will be a big year for Hope who has copped criticism from her past two years of AFLW. Interestingly, she played no VFLW in the off-season so she comes into this AFLW season with fresh legs. She will be joined by Abbatangelo, who is arguably just as dangerous. She was dominant for Melbourne University in the VFLW and also knew how to rack up the disposals. Jasmine Garner is also likely to play inside 50, but has versatility to go back in defence as well. Add in Daisy Bateman, who came second in the TAC Cup Girls’ goal kicking, and kicked six goals for Collingwood’s VFLW side in 10 games, and North Melbourne has a pretty exciting line-up inside its forward 50.
Area of weakness: Defence
It is quite hard to find a weakness in North Melbourne’s line-up, but the structure of their defence is quite interesting. The Kangaroos have a lot of running defenders but could struggle when it comes to matching up on dangerous forwards such as Sabrina Frederick-Traub. Garner is a good-sized defender but inexperienced in the backline after spending half a season there for the Pies last year. Kate Gillespie-Jones has the strength to match up on a key position player, but her skills can sometimes disappoint. Tahlia Randall is the one who could potentially play that role but is also inexperienced.
Players to watch:
Abbatangelo was one of the first players recruited to North Melbourne and it’s not hard to see why. From eight games for Melbourne University, she averaged 15.6 disposals and also kicked four goals. Her best game came in Round 1 when she racked up 20 disposals against Geelong. Abbatangelo creates real excitement with the ball in hand and can excel both in the midfield and up forward. Given North Melbourne’s stacked midfield, Abbatangelo is likely to be used up forward for the 2019 season.
Alison Drennan was the equal winner of the Southern Saints’ Best and Fairest, along with Rhiannon Watt. She managed to rack up the disposals week in, week out, and used it well both by hand and by foot. A clever footballer that dominates on the inside, Drennan will be a key force in the North Melbourne line-up. She averaged 22.4 disposals per game, and racked up more than 20 touched on nine occasions.
Daisy Bateman scored 14 goals in seven games for the Oakleigh Chargers in the TAC Cup Girls competition. Her best game came against the Bendigo Pioneers where she scored five goals. Bateman then went on to play for Collingwood in the VFLW and scored three goal on debut, proving she has what it takes against the bigger bodies. When representing Vic Metro, Bateman provided a great target up forward and read the ball well, often running out the back for a quick major, which is a trademark of her game.
2019 prediction: 3rd in Conference A
Although North Melbourne has a ready-made AFLW list, it’s always very hard for a new team to go straight into the finals in its first season. The Kangaroos do have a chance to get off to a good start, hosting the first ever AFLW match at Hobart against the Blues to open the season. Following that, they face the Giants, Bulldogs and Melbourne, which may prompt a wake-up call. Expect North Melbourne to be a high-scoring team with some firepower up forward, while the Haines twins should cause some havoc through the midfield and defence.