Sophie Abbatangelo: Photo: North Melbourne Media

Sophie Abbatangelo: Photo: North Melbourne Media

She started in ice hockey, but now she's one of North Melbourne's vital cogs. Sophie Abbatangelo talks through her path to the AFLW.

Sophie Abbatangelo has been at North Melbourne since its inception in the AFLW, and although she may not be household name just yet, she’s an integral part to the club’s set-up.

Abbatangelo’s story started like many girls, crossing over from another sport before finding AFLW.

“I played a lot ice hockey and I represented Australia a few times so I travelled for that,” she told The Inner Sanctum.

“I had the kids at 23 and 24 so they are a year apart. I was kind of stopping and starting with hockey and I was new to footy, so I didn’t play.

“A couple of my girlfriends played at Diamond Creek and they were like come down for a kick just for fun so I did that and one thing led to another I was playing VFL.  

“Then the following year that’s when AFL Women’s started so I just put down my name for that and went from there.”

Although it was evident that Abbatangelo was talented,  her opening to get to AFLW wasn’t as quick as she would have hoped, after missing out on the draft in 2017, the year before North Melbourne was starting to assemble its team to join the competition for the 2019 season.

“So, I played at Diamond Creek with Scotty Gowans, he was my first coach for VFL and then when it all started, he went to North Melbourne and I followed him along,” she said.

“So, the Melbourne Uni Girls (The Muggers) were their affiliation and then I nominated for the draft that year or the year prior and I missed out.

“When I moved to North Melbourne/Melbourne Uni (VFLW) there were a few things that I had to work on in my game and then yeah, Scotty pulled me aside one night before training and told me I earnt my spot.”

Abbatangelo made her AFLW debut in Round 1 in 2019 against Carlton, North’s first AFLW game.

All her hard work and all the challenges she faced over the previous year had finally paid off.

“It was amazing…a dream come true,” he said.

North Melbourne dominated its first season of AFLW, winning five out of the seven games throughout the season.  

Due to the introduction of the conference system where only the top two teams from each conference were able to go through to the finals, North Melbourne missed out after losing its final match against Fremantle.

“I thought with the conference system we kind of all knew what we were getting ourselves in for, so we can’t really blame that as such,” Abbatangelo said.

“We had a pretty good season trying to gel together and I thought we did that well. We’ve got a really a young squad and yeah didn’t take much from it I guess, just a bit bummed, we tried our best next season.”

In 2020, North Melbourne made the finals for the first time and won its semi-final against Collingwood by two points at Ikon Park.

Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia, the season was cut short.

“I think there’s a bit of pressure maybe, but I mean we are trying not to go out there with that mentality,” Abbatangelo said.

“I think now we have that fire in our belly, like we do want to win but we’ll see how we go.”  

For this upcoming season, North Melbourne has appointment Darren Crocker as its coach, replacing Scott Gowans who is now an assistant coach at Collingwood.

This pre-season at Arden Street was focusing on adapting to Crocker’s coaching style.

“It’s a bit different, we have a new coach (Darren Crocker), and his style of coaching is very different, not one style, not better than the other. but just different,” Abbatangelo said.

“We are trying to adapt to that new coaching and implement everything into our game, we obviously had our first hit out against the Pies and took a lot of learnings from that game, just really excited for Round 1.”

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