2022 AFLW Season Review: North Melbourne

It was another very competitive year for North in 2022. (Photo: North Melbourne/ Design: Will Cuckson)

After securing a top-four finish, North Melbourne fell short in the first elimination final against Fremantle, bringing to an end a strong season.

Finishing Position: 4th (Seven wins, three losses).

Having built a strong side across several seasons and coming close to gaining the ultimate success in the past, 2022 was tipped to be a strong year for the Kangaroos.

What Worked?

Ability to generate high scores

Coming into the season, questions were asked about the Kangaroos’ ability to produce high scores. They put these questions to bed with ease.

While it was a relatively slow start for the Roos, they were still able to produce scores of 26 and 24 against eventual premier Adelaide. However, the Kangaroos got their mojo back in round three and never looked back.

From there, North produced scores of 54, 51, 37, 38 and 59. This led the Kangaroos to an overall points difference of +97, as their strong forward line led by superstar Jasmine Garner provided problems for opposition sides.

Emma Kearney to the backline

In one of the biggest positional change shocks of the season, experienced midfielder Emma Kearney made a move to defence.

The move immediately came into question, as many wondered whether it would impact North’s midfield without their inspirational leader. However, Kearney took it in her stride, playing some of the best football of her career.

Kearney flourished as the football world admired her elite foot skills, speed and overall leadership in the defensive half, improving each week. As a result, she would be rewarded with another All Australian selection.

What Didn’t Work?

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Kangaroos’ season was their inconsistent form throughout the entire season. The Kangaroos’ season ebbed and flowed as they would win very well one week and then back it up with a disappointing defeat.

Examples of this included their form at the midway point of the season. North had strong wins over the Dockers, Tigers and Magpies and looked to assert themselves as genuine premiership contenders.

However, it was short-lived as they would follow it up with defeats against fellow premiership contenders in Melbourne and Brisbane.

This made it increasingly challenging to gauge where the Kangaroos’ season was at and whether to take them seriously in the finals.

Ultimately this would lead to North’s downfall as they would be defeated by Fremantle in the first week of finals, bringing their season to a close.

Who Impressed?

In a stellar season, Ash Riddell gained so many of her deserved plaudits. Riddell transformed her game from a midfield accumulator to one of the most damaging players in the competition. Riddell’s record-breaking season began in round ten, amassing the most individual disposals in a game with 42. However, she didn’t stop there, gaining 299 disposals for the season, the most in AFLW history. In addition, Riddell would average 29 disposals, five clearances, and more than three score involvements per game.

Riddell was rewarded at the AFLW Best and Fairest evening, finishing fourth overall in the count with 17 votes.

On the back of a relatively slow start to the season, Jasmine Garner got the Kangaroos going in the middle of the year with a standout game against the Pies. With the Roos desperate for a win, Garner lifted with 26 disposals, six marks and three goals in one of the most dominant performances of the year.

It was in this game that Garner showed her ability to play forward and through the midfield, allowing her yet another dominant season.

Highs & Lows

The Highs

The Roos came into the clash with the Dockers holding a 3-1 record but were not playing overly convincing football. Questions were also raised about whether the Roos could match it with the best following a poor loss to Adelaide in round two. On the other hand, Fremantle began the season on fire, undefeated ahead of the match.

With the margin at just four points at the final change, North Melbourne received immense support from their Tasmanian supporter base, kicking the sealer in the last quarter. The Kangaroos’ defence, led by Emma Kearney, stood up in the final term, holding Fremantle scoreless.

The win sent a message to the rest of the competition, with the Roos showing why they deserved to be taken seriously in the 2022 season.

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North found themselves with another monumental challenge just two weeks later, this time taking on Collingwood.

With both sides posing lots of talent and in a finals rematch, the clubs were beginning to form a genuine rivalry within the AFLW. The clash also had further implications, with the winner taking themselves a step closer to the finals in 2022.

North began the game well and never looked back following stellar displays from Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney, securing a 23-point win for North.

The Lows

In the penultimate round of the season, North would take on Brisbane in what was a massive opportunity to assert themselves as a genuine premiership contender.

North began the game well, booting the opening goal before Brisbane slammed on the following three majors and never looked back. The Lions would claim a 36-point victory, as North’s confidence took a big hit in what was a very disappointing defeat.

Ash Riddell fought hard in the loss, continuing her brilliant season with 28 disposals and six tackles in the defeat.

With North securing a home final, they had a massive opportunity to advance to a preliminary final when they took on Fremantle in the elimination final.

Having defeated the Dockers during the home and away season, North knew they had the quality to beat Fremantle. However, it all quickly came crashing down.

With the Roos holding a slight quarter-time advantage, Freo dominated from there on in. The Dockers kicked ten goals to three after the opening break, winning by 38 points. Fremantle’s emphatic win meant they advanced to play Adelaide, while North’s season came to a close.

Who’s on the move?

It has been a relatively quiet off-season so far in terms of player movement for the Kangaroos. Superstar midfielder Ash Riddell has been offered a move to Sydney, but it seems as though she will be likely to stay. With the expansion clubs looking to sign marquee players, North’s talent pool could be raided ahead of the upcoming season.

Where to next?

For North, the upcoming seasons will focus on taking the next step toward going deeper come finals time. The Roos played some outstanding football so far this year, and the focus will be on consistency.

One of the reasons North struggled to be so consistent was because of their forward line setup. However, with North looking to retain the majority of their side, they can focus on recruitment.

If the Kangaroos can recruit a quality key forward, they will be tough to defend and will give opposition coaches headaches in the coming seasons.

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