Tag: North Melbourne

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.

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Geelong & North Melbourne

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two sides from Victoria, in Geelong and North Melbourne.

Geelong Cats – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 10 (5), 20 (13), 21 (14), 27 (19)

Off-season summary:

As if often the case, Geelong was rarely sighted throughout the sign and trade period, through the Cats made the bold move of bolstering their draft hand by parting with pick five. In return for said pick, along with number 35 and a fourth rounder, Geelong received selections 10, 20, 27, and 39. The move was in line with the Cats’ strong youth focus and trend of growing from within, with a bumper draft likely to see them build on a two-win 2020 season. Mel Hickey was a major retiree along with Anna Teague, while Gemma Wright and Cassie Blakeway were delisted. A steady turnover of players bodes well for squad stability, and the lure of local players should see some fit right in come draft time.

A draft look:

The forwardline is arguably Geelong’s greatest priority, in need of both tall and small options. Some key position depth up the other end wouldn’t hurt either, while the midfield is a known strength of the squad at full capacity. Local Geelong Falcons guns Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney are likely first-rounders, but hardly fit the bill in terms of squad needs as ball winning midfielders. With the Geelong nomination zone scrapped, the Cats can look to a wider Victorian pool with their selections. They’d be thrilled if Alyssa Bannan gets through to the fifth Victorian pick, an athletic key forward who is raring to play Round 1 in 2021. Fellow key position outlets Sarah Hartwig, Olivia Barber and Isabelle Pritchard could also suit a need, while the likes of Maggie Caris, Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman loom as other long-term tall options.

North Melbourne – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 13 (8), 22 (15), 43 (29), 48 (31), 55

Off-season summary:

The Roos didn’t need to add much to their stacked list, but went about securing Grace Campbell as yet another midfield option – nabbing her from Richmond in exchange for pick 43. Slightly improving their draft hand in a three-way trade was also shrewd, moving up to pick 22 from 29 to have two picks within the top 15 in terms of the Victorian pool. North lost two players to other clubs in Abbey Green (Collingwood) and Jess Trend (Fremantle), while Taylor Mesiti was the sole retiree, and Chloe and Libby Haines were among four players to be delisted. Jess Duffin should also act as somewhat of a new recruit as she returns to the fold.

A draft look:

As mentioned, the Roos lay claim to a couple of picks within the top 15 of the Victorian pool. With no real pressing list needs, they can essentially select the best available at that range and get some great value from a strong local crop. With their later selections, a project ruck option could be the way to go in lieu of Green’s departure, with Tasmanian tall Charlie Vandenberg a likely suitor late in the draft. Of course, North Melbourne has also secured an historic father-daughter selection in Amy Smith, the daughter of Shaun. The athletic midfielder was a bolt from the blue among this year’s nominees, with the Kangaroos committing to her despite not being able to play at VFLW level in 2020.

Featured Image: New North Melbourne father-daughter recruit Amy Smith | Source: NMFC.com.au

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW players: #4 Emma Kearney

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we enter the final four with one of the competition’s most decorated players, and a leader who continues to set the benchmark as she pushes for a second AFLW premiership.

#4 EMMA KEARNEY

7 GAMES AVE: 20.6 disposals, 3.4 marks, 4.4 tackles, 4.1 clearances, 4.1 inside 50s, 2 rebounds 50s, 0.4 goals (3)

Coming off a premiership and league best and fairest award in 2018, there would have been no better player to choose to lead an incoming AFL Women’s side than Kearney, who continues to perform as one of the competition’s elite midfielders. In 2020, that is arguably still the case. At the forefront of North Melbourne’s second campaign, she would lead the Roos to their maiden finals appearance and victory after they finished top of Conference A at 5-1.

The Kangaroos were the preseason premiership fancies and more often than not lived up to the lofty standard set, in large part credit to the consistency of Kearney and her unmatchable on-ball brigade. The skipper did not lead her side in any key statistic this year – an absolute rarity – but was right up there across the board, impacting each game with help from the likes of Jasmine Garner, Ashleigh Riddell, and Jenna Bruton.

Kearney twice achieved a disposal high of 26, dropping below 20 just twice across her seven outings. Even in her season-low effort of 12 touches in Round 3, she managed to prop her stats back up with three goals to prove her well-roundedness, and that you simply cannot keep a good player down.

All Australian honours came Kearney’s way for the fourth consecutive year as one of three Kangaroos in the final side, and the decorated veteran also took home some silverware come North Melbourne’s awards night. The gun midfielder placed second in her club best and fairest, but was also recognised as Shinboner of the Year and Best Clubwoman, proving her value extends further than pure on-field brilliance.

It seems there is plenty left in the tank for one of the league’s pioneers, with a flag for North Melbourne surely at the forefront of Kearney’s upcoming goals. The depth and maturity of her side suggests it is well within the premiership window, and it would only be fitting if she could lead the Roos into the history books.

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFL Women’s Players: #11 – Ash Riddell

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look at number 11 in our count, a midfielder whose 2019 season was curtailed by injury but made up for it in a big way in 2020.

#11 ASH RIDDELL

7 GAMES AVE: 21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles, 3.9 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds, 1 goal

Having finally earned her chance after spending time in the VFL Women’s program with Melbourne University, Riddell has played some impressive football in her first nine games at AFL Women’s level. Picked up by North Melbourne in 2019 and making her debut, Riddell burst onto the scene quickly for one of the league’s newest sides.

Unfortunately that dream debut would only last another week, as Riddell would suffer a long-term injury to rule her out of the rest of the 2019 AFL Women’s season. With a strong VFL Women’s season behind her where she averaged 27.6 disposals, 4.2 marks, 5.8 tackles and booted six goals in 10 games, Riddell would enter 2020 fully fit and raring to go.

It showed in her performances as she not only came back where she left off in 2019, but went to another level. Alongside unbelievable talents in Emma Kearney, Jasmine Garner and Jenna Bruton, Riddell held her own and more as one of the side’s premier ball winners all year. After only playing less than two full games in 2019, Riddell featured in all seven of the Kangaroos’ matches to average 21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles and 3.9 inside 50s working hard in the midfield.

Her season earned her a spot on the 2020 AFL Women’s All-Australian team bench, and she finished third in North Melbourne’s best and fairest award – just five and four votes off Garner and Kearney respectively. Her lowest disposal count for the season was 18 against the GIANTS in Round 2, and finished each game with remarkable consistency, including averaging 23 disposals, 4.8 marks and 6.2 tackles in the final three games of the season.

At 24-years-old, Riddell has plenty of improvement left in her, and while the youth coming through are some of the best talent in the league, it shows that before the pathway system were fully developed, there were still plenty of stars biding their time in the state leagues.

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW Players: #18 – Jamie Stanton

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look number 18 in our count, a Gold Coast Suns star who returned to the Sunshine State to play for her third club in the competition.

#18 Jamie Stanton

7 GAMES AVE: 17.1 disposals, 2.9 marks, 3.7 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s, 2.1 rebounds, 2 goals

The 24-year-old returned to Queensland over the off-season to play for a remarkable third inaugural club. Having been a part of Brisbane’s inaugural side in 2017, North Melbourne’s inaugural side last year and now the Suns’ inaugural side in 2020, it is fair to say there is no more experienced person to help a side from the ground up.

What separated Stanton’s 2020 season from her others was her ability to get forward of the ball and hit the scoreboard. Stanton booted a couple of goals and career-high inside 50s and kicks. Coming off a strong seven-game season with Darebin Falcons in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition where she played a similar role, the talented creator was able to continue that momentum into 2020.

While unlucky not to get a place in the final AFL Women’s All-Australian side, Stanton was one of just three Suns to make the 40-player squad. She was honoured with her first club best and fairest this year, taking out the Gold Coast Suns award. It indicated her importance to the coaching staff and the group, and what she is capable of doing both on and off the field.

Stanton’s best game this season came in Round 5 against Geelong where she collected 23 disposals, two marks, three inside 50s, two rebounds, laid five tackles and booted 1.2 in a 20-point loss. Coming into 2021, Stanton is approaching what would typically be the prime of her career so it will be exciting to see if she can take the next step in her career.