Having reached the finals in the past two seasons, the jury will be out on whether North Melbourne can repeat the feat again in 2022.
Though the Kangaroos retained the bulk of the squad from last season, the club moved on experienced players and were quiet during the trade period, opting to utilise the draft rather than trading and acquiring players during the offseason, perhaps an indication the Kangaroos will be blooding the youngsters and rebuilding in 2022.
Darren Crocker would have a relatively successful inaugural season as head coach, with his side making the finals.
Winning six games for the season, the Roos made up the final spot of the top six, finishing just a game behind the ladder leaders in the top four.
Having reached the semi-final in 2020, North was unable to go deeper in 2021, falling just short to Collingwood in qualifying final by six points.
Mid-forward Jasmine Garner was again the standout player for the Kangaroos, taking out back-to-back best and fairest awards, earning her third All-Australian selection and finishing the season as the team’s joint leading goalkicker with Sophie Abbatangelo.
What to look forward to:
With the Kangaroos expected to field a younger looking team in 2022, there’s plenty of optimism surrounding the draftees that have arrived to Arden Street via the draft.
A slider in this year’s draft, tough inside midfielder Tess Craven was a top-five prospect but landed to North with pick 13. Gifted with good skills, a strong work rate and a dangerous presence in stoppages, Craven could have an immediate and exciting impact in her first season of AFLW football.
She’ll have a spot to try and make her own in the midfield as Elisha King sits out another season with an ACL tear.
With both Jas Grierson and Vivien Saad departing the club during the offseason, the Roos will be hopeful its second selection from this year’s draft Tara Slender could bolster the tall stocks and fill a void.
A versatile player, Slender has the ability to play across all lines, which she showed both with the Bendigo Pioneers in the NAB League and Essendon in the VFLW.
Biggest unanswered question:
Heading into the 2022, the biggest question surrounding North will be does this team have enough depth to reach the finals?
It’s encouraging that the side was able to retain back-to-back best and fairest Jasmine Garner in addition to Kaitlyn Ashmore, Jenna Bruton, Aileen Gilroy, Emma Kearney, and Ash Riddell, all of whom were key players for the Kangaroos last season.
However, with experienced head Jasmine Grierson departing for GWS, and Kate Gillespie-Jones, Georgia Hammond and Tahni Nestor being delisted, the biggest issue for the Roos will be whether they have the experience and the depth to make finals again.
It’s a big year for:
Having declined a contract extension with the Western Bulldogs, whom she won a premiership with, ruck Kim Rennie will be keen to prove herself in Kangaroo colours, having been picked up via the draft.
Rennie has yet to put in a prolific goal scoring season, and 2022 could see her breakout as she will be expected to be a regular in the side’s best 21.
An agile athletic tall who’s strong in the air and at ground level, Rennie has been brought in to bolster the squad and should be a strong tandem partner with Emma King, rotating through the ruck and chopping out as a key forward.
North Melbourne has lacked a truly potent key forward, with both Garner and King spending equal time in the centre bounce as up forward. Having Rennie to take the ruck duties will give King much more license to play to her strengths inside 50.
The Kangaroos’ Round 7 fixture against Collingwood at UTAS Stadium in Launceston will be a highly anticipated fixture, with a rivalry between the two slowly emerging following two close encounters during finals series.
After edging out the Magpies by two-points in 2020, they returned the favour last season, coming back from 14 points down at three-quarter time to win by six-points.
With Collingwood currently having bragging rights, North Melbourne will be keen to get a leg up on the growing rivalry in 2022. Adding to this is the recruitment of Jasmine Ferguson, who was a mainstay of Collingwood’s undefeated VFLW backline in 2021.
Other exciting games will be its season opener against Geelong. Having defeated the Cats by 62 points in their season opener last year, the Roos will be hoping to start the season in similar fashion.
North Melbourne’s Round 5 clash against the Fremantle Dockers at North Hobart Oval will also be a highlight, after defeating them by a point in the fixture at Arden Street last year. Yet to lose a game in the Apple Isle, the Kangaroos will hope their first clash in Tasmania in 2022 will bring more of the same.
R1: vs Geelong, Jan 8 (Arden Street Oval)
R2: vs Adelaide, Jan 16 (Norwood Oval
R3: vs GWS, Jan 23 (Arden Street Oval)
R4: vs Carlton, Jan 30 (Ikon Park)
R5: vs Fremantle, Feb 5 (North Hobart Oval)
R6: vs Richmond, Feb 12 (Swinburne Centre)
R7: vs Collingwood, Feb 18 (UTAS Stadium)
R8: vs Melbourne, Feb 26 (Casey Fields)
R9: vs Brisbane, 4-6 Mar (Maroochydore Multi Sports Complex)
R10: vs West Coast, 11-13 Mar (Arden Street Oval)
Ins: Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons), Jasmine Ferguson (Collingwood VFLW), Perri King (Glenorchy), Ella Maurer (North Launceston), Kim Rennie (Western Bulldogs), Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers), Lexi Hamilton (injury replacement)
Outs: Vivien Saad (Gold Coast), Jasmine Grierson (GWS), Katelyn Cox, Kate Gillespie-Jones, Georgia Hammond, Beth Lynch, Tahni Nestor (delisted)
Inactive: Elisha King (injured)
Round 1 line-up:
While the Kangaroos have lost some experience and weren’t able to recruit anyone to the club during the offseason, the side have retained the bulk of the playing squad from last season that made the finals.
However, whether due to injuries or filling voids from the players that departed, there will be some fresh faces that will be taking the field next season, hence depth and inexperience could prevent them from making a finals berth in 2022.
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