Should The AFLW Be Afraid Of North Melbourne In 2019?



Over the past week, both of the latest additions to the AFLW, North Melbourne and Geelong have been on the prowl for established AFLW players. Whilst the Cats have acquired talents such as Mel Hickey and Aasta O’Connor, it has been the Kangaroos’ massive recruiting drive that has had the AFLW community talking throughout the past seven days.


Of the 17 players that have already committed to North for the 2019 AFLW season, 13 of them played in the AFLW this year. Of that baker’s dozen of players, include a league best and fairest, five players that played in an AFLW Grand Final, a couple of All-Australians and many that have the potential to become an All-Australian down the line.


Will it be enough to be considered a force in 2019? Only time is going to tell, but until then, let me tell you about what these recruits are capable of, in case you needed a reminder.


It all started with the poaching of this year’s league best and fairest, Emma Kearney from the Western Bulldogs. It was always going to happen, as talks of her possibly defecting from the 2018 AFLW premiers became serious three weeks before the conclusion of the home and away season, and there were no signs of her putting these rumours to bed during the season, which has long been the sign from a spectator’s point of view that she was as good as gone.


It didn’t her affect her football the slightest though, which was one of the critical component’s to the Bulldogs’ premiership success. She averaged 19 disposals per game, as well as five clearances, five tackles and 3.4 marks per game, with her ability to run with the ball in her hand a huge highlight. She finished the 2018 AFLW best and fairest count five votes clear of the trio of Fremantle’s Dana Hooker, GWS’ Courtney Gum and Collingwood’s Rising Star Chloe Molloy, yet only polled the maximum three votes in only two of the seven games.


It must also be pointed out that North Melbourne has an affiliation with the VFLW team Melbourne University, who have had a number of AFLW players play for them over the years. Among these include Kearney, who cited that, along with a job at North Melbourne as the key reasons to her departure from Whitten Oval – it wouldn’t surprise me either if a great leadership role such as captaincy was offered as well, as she was captain of Melbourne Uni as well at one point.


She’s not the only Mugar to make her way to North Melbourne either. Brisbane speedster Kaitlyn Ashmore, team mate Tahlia Randall and Collingwood goal kicker Moana Hope have all played at least one game for Melbourne Uni over the past couple of seasons.


Ashmore has long been a servant of the Mugars, and with her pace and football smarts, she as dangerous of a player as they come and an integral part of a Brisbane team that had made both AFLW Grand Finals. It will be exciting to see her and Hope team up forward. It’s easy to forget that Hope kicked 100 goals in a season less than two years ago, but after two years of what I will describe as underwhelming, she has the chance to start again here. Her best is great to watch, but we need to see more of it here consistently.


Also to expect up forward is Hope’s old friend from Collingwood Jasmine Garner. She will be forever known as the first woman who kicked a goal in the AFLW, but she has steadily emerged as a player that will become a force up forward in due time. She split her time in 2018 playing both in defence and up forward, and with some of the best marking hands in women’s football right now (fourth in the AFLW in marks this year), she will become something to watch in the future.


She has kicked 10 goals in her past two years at Collingwood, and even kicked a bag of five for Victoria in the state of origin game last year – so the promise is and always has been there – it’s just a matter of when she will break out as one of the game’s best forwards.


Randall, who was a defender in 2017, played mostly as Brisbane’s number one ruck this year and earned a Rising Star nomination in round six this season. She has been terrific playing as the ruckwoman, ranked third in the competition for hitouts – averaging 17.5 per game this year, behind Carlton best and fairest winner Breann Moody and All-Australian ruck Erin McKinnon. However, it is highly unlikely that she will be North’s number one ruck in 2019.


This mantle will most likely go to Emma King, who was one of two Collingwood’s marquee before the start of the inaugural 2017 season. King asserted herself as the number one ruck in the league last year, being named in the ruck for the All-Australian team. Her form dipped a little this year due to the Pies’ coaching staff opting to play her more forward, which in hindsight, looked more of an incompetent coaching decision than one likely to reap rewards.


It will be interesting to see what North do here with her as King is very smart with her hitouts and the thought of palming it down to the likes of Kearney and Ashmore along with recruits such as Jenna Bruton and Jamie Stanton, both of them remarkably tough players and have no issues finding the footy, is simply going to be a mouth-watering proposition when the 2019 AFLW season comes along – this midfield has the makings to be amongst the league’s elite.


Let’s not forget North Melbourne’s association with the state of Tasmania. Their men’s side play a few of their home games down at Blundstone Arena in Hobart, and it is expected that North Melbourne’s women’s team will play most of their games there next year. Unsurprisingly, they’ve recruited a few home-town players as well.


As a Bulldogs’ supporter, I cannot wait to see what Launceston’s own Daria Bannister can produce after a heartbreaking ACL injury in the first round of this year ended her 2018 campaign. She spent her pre-season and most of her game against the Dockers as a half-forward flanker, who has the capacity to push up the ground and become another midfielder who can thrive as either an inside midfielder or an outside midfielder. It is expected she will be fit and ready to go for the Roos come round one next year.


Another Tassie girl with AFLW experience is Brisbane’s Brittany Gibson. Originally from Burnie, Gibson has been a key member of Brisbane’s team over the past two seasons, with her physicality and competitiveness key attributes in her game. Her versatility across the ground will also be a welcome addition going forward as she has proven to play a number of roles across the ground across her 16 games at the Lions.


We haven’t mentioned the back-line yet, and it shouldn’t be underestimated either. I expect Randall to play down in defence more often next year, but she’ll get ample help. Jess Duffin starred in Collingwood’s defensive six this year, leading the competition in marks per game, and was in the top 10 in rebound 50s per game and kicks per game. Her elite athleticism and football smarts make her the perfect intercept-marking defender – crucial in both forms of the game today.


In addition to that, the inclusions of Carlton pair Danielle Hardiman and Kate Gillespie-Jones are going to be fascinating to watch and see after the pair were part of a Carlton defence that were decimated in the final five rounds of the AFLW season this year. Hardiman returned to the Carlton team after suffering an ankle injury that required some time on the sidelines, and was in the top three players in rebound 50s per game, whilst Gillespie-Jones is described by North as someone with elite training standards and habits, whilst having the athleticism to be used as a key forward as well as a key defender.


Not much is known about their four open-age signings right now, but North Melbourne believe they’ve plucked some beauties. Ash Riddell, who captains Melbourne Uni in the VFLW right now had a terrific year last year, was rewarded with a spot in the league’s team of the year and perhaps in the eyes of some, was considered very unlucky to be drafted by a club last year. Kangaroo supporters should look forward to see what she brings to the league in 2019.


18-year old North Cairns native Elisha King was named an All-Australian as a 16-year old and even spent time at Brisbane this year as a training squad member. Her pace will be a welcome asset at half-back or even on the wing. 25-year old Georgia Nanscawen has been a tremendous hockey player, representing the Hockeyroos nearly 200 times and even with minimal football history, North were still wowed by her athleticism and leadership and could become a real find in time. Whilst Maddison Smith was uncovered through North’s talent search this year and has the strength, the ball use and the quickness to be a serious player in the future.


Whilst the Kangaroos have not finalised their list right now, the number of players they have acquired has been tremendous and as it currently stands, they are looking like a legitimate force after their recruiting drive.


But as someone once said: ‘A champion team will always beat a team of champions’. Time will only tell if North Melbourne’s recruiting strategy has paid its dividends.


From My Blog Site – Bulldogs Centre

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About Alex Docherty

Alex is a diehard footy nut. He loves his Western Bulldogs and loves writing about them every week as much he loves running out and playing footy himself.


  1. David Henricus says

    The roos have jumped the starter’s gun and recruited well. All legally despite Brisbane’s rhetoric.

    This recruiting campaign is indicative of what the AFL clubs have learnt from the years where expansion clubs have entered the league. It simply isn’t good enough to give new teams a raft of the best talent in the country through the annual draft (GWS and GC). Hawthorn cleverly recruited many developed players for their three-peat years while other clubs relied on draft picks. North Melbourne seem to have recognised this strategy and will now have the next luxury of topping up with draft picks.
    They will certainly be a force in 2019.

    The road travel will be a factor and whether the train as well as play in Tasmania. Combining such distances and players was not a problem for the crows in 2017.

    Team morale and bonding will be interesting but the roos have a leg in by recruiting many of their loyal muggar players who know Arden St very well.

    Unless Brisbane and Collingwood can follow suit and pick up ready made talent, the drain on their current playing list will hurt them considerably next season.

    If North Melbourne are to pushed down the order in the premiership betting, then it will be by the Crows. Somehow they have sneaked into the VFLW under the guise of the NT Thunder team. The nucleus of this Territory team is made up of the AFLW crows players who will undoubtably benefit by playing in the second best women’s league in the country. This improvement in skill, strategy and bonding will transfer over to the real crows team … probably after they have pick pocketed a VFL premiership flag.
    Only North, Carlton and Melbourne look to contest the crows for 2019 honours.

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