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Not long now...

Mitchell Jones  March 13, 2018 5:17 PM

With North’s Round 1 clash against Gold Coast edging closer and closer, the passion and excitement among fans is beginning to grow.

From seeing the development of emerging youngsters, to the formation of the Roos’ inaugural AFLW squad, there are plenty of reasons to be enthusiastic about what this year has in store for North.

Emergence of youngsters

North has heavily invested in the draft in recent years, and with some quality pre-seasons under their belts, we can expect to see some stars emerge from our crop of young talent.

Since 2014, the club has recruited the likes of Sam Durdin, Braydon Preuss, Ben McKay and Ryan Clarke, as well as Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke who went picks 13 and four respectively in the past two drafts.

In 2017, North debuted ten players, the most in the competition, with a young group sure to keep improving with more senior football.

The constant competition for spots will give new or inexperienced players the chance to make a mark on the side, and find their feet at the top level.

Return from injury

2017 was tough year on the injury-front for North, with nine of North’s best players either sidelined or playing through injury for much of the year.

After a conscious decision by coach Brad Scott and the dedicated medical staff to manage training loads this summer to ensure as many players are ready for Round 1 as possible, expect to see some familiar faces return.

Midfielder Ben Jacobs looks set to feature this year having not played a game since Round 8 in 2016, while Paul Ahern will look to make his AFL debut following a horror run with knee injuries after being selected by GWS with pick seven in the 2014 draft.

Marley Williams, Jack Ziebell, Jamie Macmillan, Mitchell Hibberd, Jarrad Waite and Marley Williams have all played in both JLT Community Series matches this pre-season, which is a positive sign after having interrupted seasons last year.

Expect to also see Sam Wright and Mason Wood back on the field in 2018.

Blockbuster games

For the second year running, North has the honour of playing in the ‘Kick for the Kids’ match against St Kilda on Good Friday.

With the match dedicated to supporting the Good Friday Appeal, $5 of every ticket sold will be donated directly to the appeal to help the Royal Children’s Hospital.

It is the club’s only Friday night match for the year, and one North supporters won’t want to miss.

Two weeks after the ‘Kick for the Kids’, North will travel to Hobart to take on Carlton in the first of three home games at Blundstone Arena.

The match to be held on Saturday, April 14 is the sure to be a nail biter, with North currently holding the bragging rights after narrowly defeating the Blues in Round 10 last year.

It will be the first time a night game has been held at Blundstone Arena since 2016, when North defeated Richmond in Round 11.

VFL team

For the first time in the club’s history, North’s own VFL team will enter the competition, having previously been aligned with Werribee.

The team, to be coached by David Loader, will kick its season off on Sunday, April 15 against Northern Blues and will give North greater control over the development and use of its players.

From the leadership group setup to the style of the play, the VFL team will closely mirror the processes of the AFL team, which will help with a player’s transition from either side and ensure the move is as seamless as possible.

North’s VFL team will play in four curtain-raisers before the AFL side this season, which will give fans a good opportunity to see the side in action.

Members are able to access all North VFL home games for free.

AFLW development

Plenty of behind-the-scenes work has already gone into North’s AFLW team despite the side’s debut being a year away and players still to be signed.

All the hard work of coaches, recruiters and other football staff will soon come to fruition however, with stars being available to sign as early as April.

The list managers of the North Melbourne Tasmania Kangaroos continue to scout the current AFLW competition and identify players of interest, with talent searches in Tasmania bringing a variety of talent to their attention, including some athletes from other codes.

The club will automatically be granted exclusive access to Tasmanian players who nominate for the draft, which will give the side quite a strong Tasmanian feel.

The women’s pre-season will kick off in November, with the season running across February and March in 2019.

A fixture will be announced later this year. 

Arden Street development

In what is a strong measure of the club’s growth, North is preparing to undergo a re-development of its Arden Street facilities.

Construction is set to get underway in April this year, and ensure the area is a match-ready venue ahead of the club’s entry into the AFLW in 2019.

The redevelopment will include two team change rooms, umpire change rooms, expanded warm-up areas, coach’s boxes, media boxes, medical facilities and additional office space for the club’s new AFLW and VFL staff.