Tag: North Melbourne

Maurer thrives on Tasmanian “team bond”

RETURNING for her second season of Tasmania Devils representation in 2021, there was a rise in “enjoyment” levels for tough midfielder-forward, Ella Maurer. The 19-year-old thrived across nine NAB League outings in her top-age campaign, averaging a tick under 17 disposals and five tackles as an integral part of the starting squad. She put much of her own, and the team’s success down to a rising “team bond”.

“We’ve really come together,” Maurer said. “We’ve been really united and it’s just been really enjoyable. Sometimes in previous years I found that it was a big sluggish getting to training but this year every training was enjoyable. All the coaches, staff and girls were great to be around.

“I love team sports, just the whole vibe and being out there with the girls.”

Through a consistent and much-improved NAB League campaign, Maurer was able to bring her own strengths to the fore and lean on her senior experience to provide a hard edge. She’s a player who loves the “aggression” of the game, which shows in the traits she says are her strengths, and areas for improvement.

“[My strength] is probably my attack on the ball,” she said. “Just being able to get in and get the ball out from contests and get the hands off to a teammate… [I’m working on] being cleaner and my skills, especially when I go down forward.

“I love to play in the midfield and rotate forward, I love to play down there as well. Even in the backline, I like to play some defensive footy so a bit of everything really.”

Maurer’s 2021 form saw her selected in the Allies squad, where she remained a constant ball winner and tough competitor, averaging 18 disposals, six tackles, and three clearances per her three games. The representative honours matched Maurer’s goals constantly “improving [her] game” and playing “at the highest level” possible.

She has plenty of examples to follow too, with former North Launceston captain Jodie Clifford a particular source of inspiration for the rising teenage prospect, having been there almost every step of the way.

“[Clifford] is just a really inspiring person and player as well,” Maurer said. “She’s one of the coaches for the Devils, the midfield coach, and I got to play footy with her at North Launceston. She was our captain and best and fairest both years that we played together.”

“I started playing footy when I was 14 in the junior youth girl’s team at North Launceston Football Club. I played there for two years, then went on to play in the TSLW team for North Launceston for the two years we had that. Unfortunately that folded so now I’m at Old Scotch in the NTFA.”

A raft of Tasmanians also joined Maurer in North Melbourne’s VFLW side this year, with as many as 11 of them getting out on the park at one time in blue and white. There are certainly big things happening out of the Apple Isle and if Maurer’s development is anything to go by, the rate of improvement will be steep.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW Player Focus: Sarah Skinner

NORTH Melbourne VFLW winger Sarah Skinner has enjoyed a stellar 2021 VFLW campaign, moving up from Tasmania to link with the Roos and put her hand up as a mature-age draft prospect. While her side went down to the Southern Saints on Sunday, Skinner was one of the best players afield with 17 disposals, seven marks, and two of her side’s three goals. We put her performance under the Player Focus microscope.

Q1:
Right from the opening minutes of the game, Skinner sprung into action as she took a mark – the first of many that the Tasmanian young gun produced throughout the game. Following on from her classy mark, Skinner booted a goal for her side to set up what would be a stellar performance. Skinner demonstrated poise as she was involved in a passage of play which saw her get possession of the ball before making her first handball for the quarter. Yet another touch for Skinner, this time through her second mark of the game. A missed opportunity emerged in the remaining minutes of the term, as the young gun attempted to gain possession of the ball was too late as it was deemed out of bounds.

Q2:
The second quarter quickly rolled around and once again, Skinner continued to dazzle. A major highlight included four marks taken in the space of a quarter, all of which were nicely executed under immense pressure. The 21-year-old made a handball over to teammate Alexia Hamilton. She also got a touch of the ball after a Southern Saints player fumbled the ball, leading to her kick made to another teammate Brooke Slaney. Skinner found a slight stumble during the game as she attempted to take a mark but was not able to hold onto it. Another handball was made to Hamilton, an important dynamic shaping up between the two players.

Q3:
The beginning of the second half was a more quiet one for the Tasmanian star. Quarter three saw Skinner get a touch of the ball as she got amongst the action of a game which was starting to intensify. She also was involved in her first tackle for the game and looked comfortable defending the ball.

Q4:
Skinner got back to her best in the final term, putting her athleticism on full display but not before a small mishap with a missed attempt at a mark. Her redeeming move came as a result of her seventh mark of the game, which was made in front of an opponent from the Southern Saints. Skinner’s involvement in a second tackle occurred in the final term. She managed to get another kick in during the quarter which ended up in the hands of an opposition player – something which wasn’t needed for North Melbourne with the scoreline steadily widening. The Tasmanian capped off a brilliant game with another kick to a teammate.

TOTAL STATS: 17 disposals, 2 goals, 2 tackles, 7 marks

SUMMARY: An impressive and overall consistent performance from the North Melbourne star, with just a quiet third quarter in the books lowering her impact. Skinner shone in the marks department as she took seven in her side’s loss. Her performance highlighted her versatility as she shown she was good with disposals, bagged a couple of goals and made a statement getting involved in the action with two tackles. Her performance against the Southern Saints in Round 14 highlights how crucial she is to her side.

Exciting Eleven: North Melbourne’s VFLW Tasmanian connection strong

WHEN North Melbourne’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side runs out against Essendon tomorrow at Windy Hill, there will be plenty on the line in terms of finals calculations for the blue and white stripes. However beyond the fact the Kangaroos must win in order to remain a chance to play in the post-season series, they will also make history by having a record 11 Tasmanian players in the side.

More than half the team coming from the Apple Isle is an achievement at any level, and North Melbourne AFLW/VFLW list and performance manager Rhys Harwood said the connection the club had with the most southern state in Australia was special.

“We have 11 players playing this week who were born or a Tasmanian player by heritage which is cool,” he said. “It’s a combination of our AFLW players who are playing, and are from Tassie. “We have a couple of Tasmanians who have moved up here to play permanently, then we have a couple who fly up from the TSLW each or some weeks, and then we have three players who are coming up from the Tassie NAB League team, so 11 in total which is exciting.”

Harwood said while the club had played some exhibition games before which showcased a plethora of Tasmanian talent, 11 players from the Apple Isle in a VFL Women’s game for points was a record. He said the link with Tasmania had its challenges, but was “overwhelmingly beneficial” for the club and players involved. Three Tasmania Devils NAB League Girls players will run out again for the side, with AFL Women’s Academy member Perri King making her debut at VFLW level, joining Ella Maurer and Jemma Blair in the side after they debuted last week.

“She’s had a fantastic year, we’re really excited to give her the opportunity to have a run around,” Harwood said of King’s NAB League season. But the teenage Tasmanian trio were not the only ones who might be watched for a potential AFL Women’s list spot in the future.

Meagan Kiely‘s our captain, she’s had a fantastic year, I think she leads the comp in disposals, marks and a few other statistics, and she’s probably been our most consistent player across the course of the year, and played a few different roles for us as well, so she’s been pretty significant,” Harwood said.

Sarah Skinner as well has played 11 games now, she flies up most weeks, she’s had a really strong year, taking her game to another level. “Then Meg Sinclair is another one. “We’ve had a few others on the list as well who might not play this weekend but have been able to contribute as well. “It’s been good, to be honest it’s really helped us and really strengthened our on-field personnel, and obviously keeps working on that connection and relationship we have with Tassie.”

While it might be daunting for teenagers to come into the stronger state league program, Harwood said the main aim was to expose them to the higher level of football. While it might be tempting to ease them into roles, the North Melbourne AFLW list manager said the club would give them the exposure to play to their strengths, and in the roles that earned them a call-up to the level.

“Probably one of our philosophies AFLW, VFLW across the whole women’s program is to play players to their strengths and their weapons, so we’re cognisant of when girls come across is to play the roles they’ve been excelling at, and the reason they’ve been picked to come up,” Harwood said. “So Perri will start inside the centre square on Saturday and she’ll shoulder some pretty big minutes inside, Ella Maurer will play inside and go forward, and Jemma Blair will start on as a defender.

“We just want to expose to them the high level of playing similar roles that they’ve played and we think they can play going forward. “I think the thing is you need to provide them a really good opportunity to show what they can do when they’re up here, and I think they get the most out of it that way.”

While there is no doubt many of the Tasmanian players will be carefully watched by the North Melbourne recruiting team, Harwood said he suspects a number of the VFLW- listed talents would also be on opposition club radars, which is only a positive thing for the players. When asked if the club was looking to develop them into AFLW players or at least pushing for an AFLW spot in the future, Harwood was steadfast.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think a number of the Tassie players on our VFLW list and also the girls coming up are right in the draft mix, for not only us but I assume other clubs as well. “I think that’s the type of players we look to bring into our VFLW programs, to bring up. “Players that we can expose to our system, expose to other clubs, and that we think have long-term scope to play AFLW.

“Meagan Kiely’s a great example of a player that I think has been able to put so many runs on the board this year that she would be a consideration for a number of clubs I would suspect. “Sarah Skinner the same, it’s obviously hard for a lot of clubs to see a lot of TSLW, we obviously do, but a lot of clubs probably don’t get the opportunity, so the capacity to bring her up and expose her to other clubs is great as well. “I think all of the players that we bring up or that are playing, are really pushing, and all are really keen to play AFLW. “That’s one thing we want to do is bring up players who want to take their game to the next level.”

Looking ahead to the clash with Essendon, Harwood said all the players wanted to be able to play finals, and whilst they will not only need to win their remaining games but hope other results go their way – such as Southern Saints and Western Bulldogs losing multiple games in the run home – the last few regular season games were all about development.

“I thought we had our best win on the weekend (against Hawthorn), it keeps us in the finals hunt,” he said. “We’re obviously still pushing for that and ambitious for that. But to be honest, as we go each week it’s just about improving our systems or the way we want to play. “There’s a few different things, like our AFLW players are really keen to keep giving development opportunities to, so we expose them to a few new roles and a few different scenarios.

“The NAB League girls we bring up we really want to expose them to the level and just see how they fit into our system. “Then the rest of the players as well are really pushing to keep playing finals and I feel like we have a number of players this year who have really thrown their hands up to being considered by AFLW clubs so for them it’s just about keeping on the path they’ve been going on for the last probably 12 or 13 weeks.”

Having 11 Tasmanians in the side will be something special for not only the players themselves and the club, but for their friends and family back home, and Harwood said it was a credit to Tasmania Devils’ region talent operations manager and head coach Cameron Joyce, as well as AFL Tasmania, for the way they have been able to develop the NAB League program recently.

“I thought they were one of the stronger NAB League teams, one of the more organised teams on-field, and the players are reaping the rewards of that and really pushing their names up,” Harwood said. “They’ve done a fantastic job and we’re really loving what they’re doing and wider down in Tassie as well the way they’re promoting their talent is really good, and it’s really great to be able to have a partnership with them and to hopefully get as many Tasmanians playing AFLW as we can.”

North Melbourne lock horns with Essendon from 10am tomorrow morning at Windy Hill with Essendon able to lock up a finals spot with a win, knocking North Melbourne out of the race in the process, whilst the Roos can keep their season alive with a victory.

Six sides race for last VFL Women’s spot

THERE are just five rounds remaining in the 2021 VFL Women’s season, and the ladder has well and truly taken shape. With the top five teams having seemingly created enough separation – three wins or 12 points and a percentage difference that will never be matched – from teams in the bottom six, it is fair to say that Essendon and Casey Demons’ 6-3 records and 165 per cent-plus will be enough for them to join the unbeaten Collingwood, and top three sides Port Melbourne (8-1) and Geelong (7-2) in the finals series. This leaves one spot for a side to grab hold of and we look at those in the running.

SOUTHERN SAINTS:

Position: 6th
Wins: 4
Losses: 5
Percentage: 104.8

As the saying goes, sixth spot is the Saints’ to lose. A recent defeat at the hands of the Western Bulldogs would have hurt the Saints, but they bounced back with an important win over Hawthorn last round. They have a superior percentage to the teams below them – 30.7 per cent higher than the next best side – which means they would need to fall in a heap to drop outside on percentage. Effectively they are a game and a half ahead of other sides with that extra percentage, so one would think that two wins in the final five matches should do it, and three wins certainly will do it – as long as the two losses are not severe.

Opponents: Port Melbourne, Geelong, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Carlton

That is one stiff draw for the Saints, coming up against two of the genuine title contenders in the next two rounds means they could slip outside the six from Round 11 if they drop them both. Whilst the final three are a little bit easier, they lost to the Bulldogs a fortnight ago, and the trio of sides are all the next in line to take their spot. Talk about pressure and making them earn it, none are guaranteed, though they should pick up a couple of wins. Will it be enough? Only time will tell.

NORTH MELBOURNE:

Position: 7th
Wins: 3
Losses: 6
Percentage: 74.1

For a side that has been heavily favouring VFL Women’s listed players compared to many of its AFLW-aligned counterparts, North Melbourne should be pretty happy with where it sits in the scheme of things. If Southern Saints do indeed lose their next two games, then the Roos could pounce with some favourable results. Ticking over an important win two starts ago against Carlton was unfortunately cancelled out by the heavy loss to Casey in Round 9, but they were helped by the fact their nearest rivals – Western Bulldogs and Carlton – both had huge defeats to reduce their percentages further.

Opponents: Collingwood, Hawthorn, Essendon, Southern Saints, Port Melbourne

An even harder draw than the Saints, North Melbourne face three of the top four sides, as well as the Saints in what could ultimately be a do-or-die clash. The game against bottom three side Hawthorn is a must-win for the Roos, as that appears to be the best chance for a win, though if they do load up on some AFL Women’s talent, then they have enough talent on the list to worry most sides. The Hawks are no easy beats either with the list they are assembling, so again, no easy games here.

WESTERN BULLDOGS:

Position: 8th
Wins: 3
Losses: 6
Percentage: 69.6

One step forward, three steps back is probably apt for the Western Bulldogs at the moment, with some great strides made in the past few weeks undone at the hands of a ruthless Geelong outfit last week. On paper the Bulldogs had the talent to match the Cats, but were blown off the park, and will be hungry to make up for it this week. This issue is, now the Bulldogs have copped a huge percentage blow, and will have to earn a finals spot via wins rather than percentage, which will mean they will need a minimum of three wins, and hope the Saints do not grab their two victories. Realistically though, the Dogs probably need to win four out of five to be a chance.

Opponents: Carlton, Essendon, Southern Saints, Casey Demons, Collingwood

Needing four wins to get in – and even then probably needing results to go their way, the Bulldogs simply must beat Carlton to be a chance, especially with four top six teams to round out their year. The Saints are a side they beat, and the only AFLW-aligned side they have managed to defeat this year. They might get two to three wins, but the last fortnight – with Casey and Collingwood not mucking around when it comes to AFLW talent – the Bulldogs need to head into those games with three consecutive wins under their belt.

CARLTON:

Position: 9th
Wins: 3
Losses: 6
Percentage: 71.8

The biggest outsider of the possibilities, the Blues have really struggled to score when they have lost, but have shown patches of brilliance, such as their hard-fought loss to Port Melbourne a couple of weeks back. Had they snatched that one, the Blues would be in prime position for sixth spot, but instead, they have the lowest percentage of the teams jostling to force their way back in the top six, and will be needing a miracle to not only notch up the required likely four of five wins, but hope results go their way as well, much like the Western Bulldogs with a sub-70 per cent.

Opponents: Western Bulldogs, Casey Demons, Geelong, Williamstown, Southern Saints

The fortnight of Casey Demons and Geelong will be a painful one based on recent results, but if the Blues can cause an upset there, then it is game on. The other three matches are winnable, but certainly not guarantees by any stretch. A loss to the Western Bulldogs this week would effectively put a line through the Blues finals chances, as it means they would need to beat both Casey and Geelong, which is asking a fair bit given what those sides have been able to achieve.

HAWTHORN:

Position: 10th
Wins: 2
Losses: 7
Percentage: 72.3

Hawthorn seem like the side that might not make finals, but they could certainly ruin some chances and play the role of party pooper along the way. They are not completely out of the running despite just winning the two games, but they need a near-perfect run from here, pretty much winning all five games to lock themselves in, or four and hope for the best with results. The one plus is they have the second highest percentage of teams in the bottom six, though that is still too far away from the sixth placed Saints.

Opponents: Darebin, North Melbourne, Williamstown, Port Melbourne, Geelong

What makes Hawthorn intriguing is the fact that they face the two bottom sides, as well as the inconsistent North Melbourne, in the next three weeks. If the Hawks can pull off three wins – one would expect they at least claim two of those – then it would give the other sides competing for a finals spot something to think about. One would suggest they probably fall short with Port Melbourne and Geelong in the final fortnight, but expect them to give it a red hot crack to the line.

WILLIAMSTOWN:

Position: 11th
Wins: 2
Losses: 7
Percentage: 50.1

Definitely into the mathematical chances now, with the Seagulls having had just the two wins this season and have a really low percentage with some heavy losses. They would need to be in a similar boat to Hawthorn, winning just about all of them, or hoping to win four and have results go their way.

Opponents: Casey Demons, Darebin, Hawthorn, Carlton, Essendon

Admittedly it is not the worst draw for the Seagulls, but they are bottom two for a reason, though they could really cause some headaches for the top sides. They have been competitive for the most part at times, and just blown away here or there to really impact their percentage, but with games against the other bottom four sides, Williamstown on a good day could come away with three wins. It would not be enough for finals though, with Casey and Essendon both having that extra class with AFLW talent.

2021 VFLW season preview: North Melbourne

A NEW-LOOK North Melbourne VFLW side has been “promising” during preseason, according to new head coach Cheyne Webster. Having cut his teeth as an AFLW development coach at the Kangaroos, Webster is now set to take the reigns in his first senior gig and says the squad is in good shape heading into season proper – even after a heavy turnover and nearly 12 months off.

“It’s been a really promising preseason,” Webster said. “We’ve got a really good blend of youth and experience and adding into the mix the alignment with AFLW has helped the girls in terms of having some experienced heads around them to lead the way.

“In terms of fitness and touch, we’ve been able to take the opportunity to get back to Arden Street and our sessions have been really strong, so I’m happy with where we’re at.”

“I think having that 12 months off has made the group even more hungry to have success and to get back on the field and play some footy again. “It’s a really exciting time at North Melbourne, both from a VFLW and an AFLW space, so to have the girls back is really exciting.”

With the alignment to North Melbourne’s AFLW team seeing its reserves transition away from the Melbourne Uni title, the Kangaroos have overseen a “huge turnover”, one which Webster says spawned the opportunity for somewhat of a talent search.

“We’ve only kept about six Melbourne Uni-based players, obviously through that transition between the Melbourne Uni Football Club and North Melbourne Football Club,” Webster said. “We’ve searched far and wide and gone on a bit of a talent search, we’ve got some girls from interstate – from Canberra, Darwin, and also down in Tasmania.

“A number of girls that we’ve recruited from interstate either have family or are relocating to Melbourne, so it’s exciting that those girls from interstate see North Melbourne as a destination place to both grow their footy, but also for potential opportunities in the AFLW space.

“It’s a very new-looking list and I think it’s going to take some time, but we’ve got every opportunity with the quality of talent we’ve got to press for finals and to have a successful year.”

The Roos have returned to competitive action in the form of two practice games thus far, taking on Geelong and the Southern Saints. Webster says the hitouts served as a handy educational tool to “try a few things” and blood some youth, with some of the side’s key strengths in competitiveness and energy set to quickly come to the fore.

“In terms of where out list is at, it provided us with an opportunity to have a look at players which we haven’t signed and players that we feel like we need to get some gametime into, and try a few things,” he said. “For us it was more of a case of getting some girls into roles that we want to see them play this year in VFLW and in terms of our senior players, we’ve been very cautious with not overloading them in going through that process.

“I think out number one trait will be our competitiveness and our pressure around the football. “We’ve got a really strong and experienced defensive group and our midfield is young and hungry, so I think our challenge is going to be being able to consistently kick scores but for us, our competitiveness and our energy and pressure around the contest will be our number one attribute.”

Though a selection of around five to six AFLW-listed players will inevitably aid the Kangaroos’ cause each week, there is a bunch of strong talent set to impress weekly at the reserves grade. Webster pointed out some of the most promising preseason performers who will be at the forefront of their side’s finals push.

“We’ve got a couple of girls who have played some AFLW football in the past – girls like Nikki Wallace and Lexi Hamilton – but I think one to look out for is a girl that we’ve recruited, Meagan Kiely. “She’s been in and around (GWS) Giants programs up in Sydney for a little while but she’s someone that I think has every opportunity to play some good footy and to get on an AFLW list, that’s for sure.

“Two (signings) that really stand out are Ciara Fitzgerald, who’s come from the Richmond AFLW program to us, she’s been really exciting, and also a young ruck in Olivia Woods who’s played a little bit of college basketball. “She’s a cross-coder that will play in the ruck for us and she’s been really promising as well with how much she’s picked up the game in such a small space of time.

“We’ve got one (NAB League player) that is on our development list, Marli Klaumanns-Moller. “She’s currently with the Western Jets but has played in one of our practice games and also played in Round 1 of the NAB League. “She’s a really exciting defender and I think that she’ll get some opportunities to play VFLW football at some stage this year, that’s for sure.

The club’s leadership group is set to be voted in on Friday, with a core group of three or four players in the box seat to claim those roles. Though no fixture has officially been released yet, the Roos are set to line up for Round 1 later this month.

Image Credit: North Melbourne FC

2021 AFLW Preview: North Melbourne Kangaroos

PERENNIAL premiership contender, North Melbourne will be hoping to bounce into consecutive finals series’ after its promising 2020 run was cut short. The Roos managed to maintain much of their strong core heading into this season and have added even more quality – not just to the overall squad, but also to the starting lineup with a star returnee. Under new head coach, Darren Crocker, expectations will be high at Arden Street.

2020 RECAP

A shock opening round loss to Melbourne could have derailed North Melbourne’s season before it even started, but instead served to emphatically kick the Roos into gear. The Roos got on the board with a steady three-goal win over GWS in Round 2 and never looked back, notching three victories of over 40 points among a fearsome undefeated run heading into finals. After finishing top of Conference A at 5-1, North was very nearly handed another upset loss in the postseason, but narrowly accounted for Collingwood to qualify for the would-have-been preliminary finals round. Skipper Emma Kearney was named vice-captain of the All Australian squad, joined by fellow midfielders Jasmine Garner and Ash Riddell in the side as outstanding individual performers. Kaitlyn Ashmore finished as leading goalkicker with 10 goals, one major ahead of Garner in the most potent side competition-wide.

NEW FACES

A handful of draftees were joined by emerging former-Richmond midfielder Grace Campbell in finding their way to Arden Street, adding some spark and plenty of potential to the Roos’ squad depth. 25-year-old Campbell is a raw talent who brings plenty of speed and tenacity to the engine room, making the squeeze for spots all the more tight after five appearances in her debut AFLW season.

Bella Eddey headlined the Roos’ draft haul at pick 13 and is aptly nicknamed ‘Silk’, credit to her wonderful skill on the ball. The 18-year-old will likely start forward alongside fellow NAB League graduate Alice O’Loughlin, but both have the potential to move through midfield in future. Also among the fresh faces are surprise father-daughter selection Amy Smith, VFLW coup Georgia Hammond, and Tasmanian Brooke Brown. North VFLW product Katelyn Cox was also given a chance through unlisted free agency after Elisha King‘s season-ending hamstring injury.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Fans of all clubs will likely be looking forward to seeing what Jess Duffin can produce upon her return in 2021, with the former Magpie ready to add to her seven outings in the blue and white during 2019. An All Australian that season, the 31-year-old is far from finished in the top flight and will slot straight back into the Roos’ defensive setup. Her clean skills will only aid North’s ability to move the ball efficiently via foot, only raising her side’s potential to hurt the opposition going forward. With stars aplenty already littered across the Roos’ starting side, Duffin looks primed to serve a reminder of her own talents.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

Kearney, Garner, Riddell, Jenna Bruton – the list goes on. This North Melbourne side is stacked through the midfield and as has already been showcased, the Roos are as lethal as any side going forward. Dominating out of the middle goes a long way to doing exactly that on the scoreboard, which is the most significant factor in North’s premiership potential. Kearney and Garner can find the goals, there’s Emma King rotating forward through the ruck, Kate Gillespie-Jones standing tall, and the dynamic duo of Ashmore and Daisy Bateman inside 50 – all of whom prove that North has the stock to capitalise on its engine room prowess.

QUESTION MARK

It is difficult to find a fault with this North Melbourne side on paper, but one may ponder whether the Roos have missed the boat. 2019 may have been their inaugural season, but the Roos missed finals despite looking like a top two contender. Their run was cut short last year through no fault of their own, so can they maintain that level of performance for a third year running? Other teams like Fremantle and Carlton are only getting better, while Adelaide will be hungry to bounce back from a down season. The Roos have the stock and have only added to that, but the pressure will be on.

FINAL WORD

One of the competition’s powerhouse teams will surely accept nothing less than another finals win in 2021, with the chance for a maiden AFL Women’s premiership beckoning. The Roos’ stars are aligning and there are very few weaknesses to be exploited across the ground, making Crocker’s side one of the teams to beat once again. A tough early-mid-season fixture will truly test North’s credentials.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

2020 AFL Draft recap: North Melbourne

NORTH Melbourne came away with one of the more significant hauls at this year’s AFL Draft, introducing a total of seven new faces to its developing list. The Kangaroos will see great opportunity in their midst having grasped an elite talent with pick three, and incoming head coach David Noble setting lofty expectations on his side’s future projection. It comes after a season which was hardly short of disastrous at most times, but the upside of a fresh start and plenty of young talent will hopefully keep supporters tuned in as North looks to head in exactly that direction.

NORTH MELBOURNE

National Draft:
#3 Will Phillips (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#13 Tom Powell (Sturt/South Australia)
#36 Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#42 Phoenix Spicer (South Adelaide/South Australia)
#56 Eddie Ford (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

Rookies:
Patrick Walker (North Hobart), Connor Menadue (Werribee)

The first real surprise of the draft came as North Melbourne opted to select Will Phillips with Pick 3. While the durable inside midfielder is perhaps much like what the Kangaroos already have through the engine room, he looks every bit the 250-game lock who will impact immediately at AFL level.

At 180cm, the Oakleigh Chargers graduate has a good balance of inside and outside traits; proving clean in congestion and a touch handball happy, but also boasting a zippy burst away from traffic with the ability to chain possessions. He was a key part of Oakleigh’s 2019 premiership, waxing with the likes of Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson through midfield. Being given Brent Harvey‘s number 29 only proves the faith North Melbourne has in its primary selection.

With Pick 13, the Kangaroos doubled up on ball winning midfielders with South Australian Tom Powell. The Sturt product averaged over 35 disposals per game in the SANFL Under 18s, making for a monster season in which he proved difficult to ignore. He is best suited to the stoppages with his clean hands and composure, proving arguably the best exponent of the handball in his draft class. Much like Phillips, the reliability and honesty this selection brings will go a long way to helping North Melbourne turn its fortunes around quickly and he could well earn an early berth in the senior squad.

More smalls were in the offing later down the order, but this time bringing a touch of speed and dynamism to the squad. Geelong Falcons product Charlie Lazzaro is a quality character who brings toughness and tackling pressure on-field, able to play on both sides of midfield or as a small forward at 179cm. Phoenix Spicer was somewhat of a bolter, but a prospect with clear AFL interest this year having impressed for South Adelaide’s Under 18s and Reserves. He has pace to burn and loves to take the game on, able to hit the scoreboard from a wing or more simply ply his trade as a lively small forward.

Dynamic forward Eddie Ford rounded out the National Draft intake, a bargain at Pick 56. The spring-heeled Western Jets graduate is capable of taking big marks and bombing home long goals, making for an eye-catching highlight reel thus far. He would have looked to move more permanently into midfield as a top-ager, but was denied the opportunity. Tasmanian Patrick Walker adds some outside class as a rookie option, while 24-year-old former Richmond dasher Connor Menadue was a surprise selection after being delisted in 2019. Overall, it was a midfield-first approach from North with seven overall selections, though key position pillars still require fulfilment down the line.

Featured Image: Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images via AFL Photos

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Club AFL Draft previews (Part 3)

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, special guest Tom Cheesman joined Chief Editor Peter Williams and AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to breakdown how this year’s draft may pan out for each club.

The clubs featured in part three are Collingwood, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Sydney, all of whom have key decisions to make at the pointy end. The Magpies, Hawks, and Swans all have high-level academy products who look set to yield bids in tricky spots, putting their recruiting staff under the pump.

A bid for Collingwood’s Reef McInnes could come as early as with Essendon’s top 10 picks but the Pies will be sweating on him falling past their first selection (currently 14). Hawthorn is in a similar boat with Connor Downie, who will tempt clubs around the Hawks’ second pick (currently 24), especially given it is set to slide down the order on the back of other academy bids. Then there is Sydney, who is preparing to match a bid for Braeden Campbell within the top 10 and will be sweating on Errol Gulden‘s value in round two. North also looms as a key player given its rights to picks two and 11, which will undoubtedly yield a pair of elite talents. Either way, these will be some of the busier list management and recruiting teams come draft time and they each have some tough calls to make.

Below are the picks held by each club, as of December 1.

Collingwood: 14, 16, 65, 70, 75, 92
Hawthorn: 4, 24, 45, 46, 49, 72
North Melbourne: 2, 11, 30, 39, 71, 81
Sydney: 3, 34, 37, 43, 48, 60, 82

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020
>> Power Rankings: November Update

Past Episodes:

Club-by-club previews…
Club AFL Draft previews (Part 1)
Club AFL Draft previews (Part 2)

The best…
AFL Draft hands
Best academy and father-son hauls
Non-aligned midfielders
Readymade prospects
Players under 175cm
Midfielders over 190cm

Player comparisons…
Logan McDonald vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone
Key defenders kicking comparison

Further analysis…
Potential cult heroes
An early top 10 look
Offence from defence

2020 AFL Draft Preview: North Melbourne

WITH the 2020 trade period done and dusted, it is now time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the draft. Between now and draft day (December 9), clubs will have the opportunity to exchange picks until the final order is formed a couple of days out. While the chaos ensues, Draft Central takes a look at how each club may approach the upcoming intake opportunities with the hand they formed at the close of trade period. Obviously they are still subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Next under the microscope is North Melbourne, a side which got busy during trade period amid great overall change at the club. After finishing 17th, the Roos gained access to pick two and have plenty of options to consider in their efforts to maximise this year’s draft haul. As it stands, North lays claim to the fourth-highest total draft points value heading into this year’s intake and has a great opportunity to form the base of what looms as a long rebuild under incoming coach, David Noble – though, those at Arden Street have different ideas. As was hardly the case on-field in 2020, North Melbourne will be an important player in what goes down during the draft period.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 2, 11, 30, 39, 71, 81

2021 PICKS*: NM Rd 1 | NM Rd 2 | NM Rd 3 | BRI Rd 4

* – denotes as of November 30

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Nil.

>> Podcast: The best academy/father-son hauls

LIST NEEDS:

Key forward
Midfield depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 2)

It seems North Melbourne’s options have been whittled down to three or four avenues at the top end, including the chance that the Roos part with pick two altogether. Should the draft order remain as is, Elijah Hollands seems the most likely to land at Arden Street. The dynamic midfielder/forward would add some spark to North’s engine room while also potentially developing as a forward early on. He is coming off an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear suffered during preseason, but North showed little hesitation in selecting Jy Simpkin with its first pick in 2016 when he missed his top-age year off a badly broken leg. Will Phillips is another midfielder in contention, but North may look to favour Hollands’ upside and versatility.

There is a chance that Adelaide opts to select local key forward/ruck Riley Thilthorpe with pick one, leaving Logan McDonald to be snapped up by the Roos. The West Australian key forward would suit North’s needs perfectly with Ben Brown fresh out the door, looming as a readymade option after thriving at senior WAFL level in 2020. The Roos also have Nick Larkey and are high on Charlie Comben, but the chance to snare this level of key position player does not come around often. Speaking of key forwards, the Kangaroos may well be the ones to bid on Western Bulldogs NGA talent Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who is the consensus best player in the draft pool. A bid would inevitably be matched, but they may as well get it out of the way before snapping up their own player.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

A lot of the above discussion could be washed by North Melbourne’s potential to split pick two into a couple of top 10 picks. It is well known that Essendon is a club looking to move right up the order with eyes on McDonald and Hollands, making North a prime candidate to deal with. The Roos should be looking to maximise their hand at the top end given the state of their squad, so obtaining two of Essendon’s three-consecutive top-10’ers would be ideal. The Roos may have to give something back, perhaps pick 30 to make it a fair trade, but could extract some great value with a total of three first round selections. Should they opt against that play, the Roos might also look to package picks 30 and 39 to move up the order, or even to bolster their hand for next year’s intake.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will North Melbourne part with pick two?

Will North Melbourne target key position stocks at the top end?

Will North Melbourne make the most selections of any club?

2020 AFLW Draft review: North Melbourne Kangaroos

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with North Melbourne, one of the title contenders who finished top of their Conference in 2020 and will look to be among the premiership favourites again in 2021.

#13 – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#44 – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)
#49 – Brooke Brown (Launceston)
#55 – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

North Melbourne has beefed up its forward half with the 2020 draft, including a mix of talls, mediums and smalls with its selections. The Roos have also added mature-agers to their list including a basketballer and the daughter of a high-flyer.

The selection known prior to the draft was Aberfeldie’s Amy Smith who would have played with Williamstown in the VFL Women’s this year had the year not been cancelled. As a versatile player who can play through the midfield or out of defence, Smith has some great upside and is able to provide some great depth to that part of the field.

Another mature-age VFL Women’s player was Georgia Hammond who has strong hands and can be a leading target inside 50. As someone who could play in other positions around the ground, Hammond is someone who knows the club well, as a train-on player in 2020. A Darebin Falcons talent, Hammond is a popular player and one who has certainly earned her spot on an AFL Women’s list.

The Roos’ top selection in the draft was talented forward-mid Bella Eddey who is class personified. With silky skills and an ability to create something out of nothing, Eddey does not need a lot of touches to do a lot of damage. She will likely play inside 50 roving to the tall targets, but can play further up the ground and use her speed and run to work off opponents on a wing.

Alice O’Loughlin does not have the experience that some others have had, playing just the two games of NAB League football over three years due to rowing commitments and an ankle injury. She does however have serious talent, being an impressive player in Round 1 this year kicking three goals in a big win, and just stands out on the field for Oakleigh Chargers.

The final selection and second last on the night by the Roos was Brooke Brown who comes in from Tasmania having played NBL1 with Launceston Tornadoes. Still only 23-years-old, Brown has shown quick development in her transition playing with Launceston in the football, where the 184cm talent could slot in anywhere as a key position player. With her potential upside, Brown could be one to watch come through the program.