2021 saw the North Melbourne compete in the VFLW for the first time, and while the side experienced the growing pains expected of a new program, the focus is firmly to the future.
After her recent appointment as North’s new VFLW coach, Steph Binder has been trusted with the task of not only creating and overseeing the success expected from a North side, but building a young team from almost the ground up.
After a successful playing career with Southern Saints in VFLW, the coaching experience Binder has gained across programs including Dandenong Stingrays, Vic Country and St Kilda leaves her in a strong position for an immediate impact at Arden Street.
“I’ve been really lucky with all the coaches I’ve played under and worked with, I’ve got a really wide knowledge from all of them, and I’ve taken parts from all of them,” Binder told North Media.
“Playing under Peta Searle, she was amazing. Her knowledge was spectacular, so I took a lot from her.
“Working with Dave Carden at the Stingrays, he had some similar ideas which carried through, and even more recently working with the likes of Mel Hickey and Emma Grant at Vic Country, that was a great coaching group to be a part of.
“I also spent time doing a traineeship with Collingwood’s AFLW program and I found some great insights there … it was a very natural progression for me to go into coaching, and I’ve taken every opportunity I’ve been given.”
Compared to much of the competition, North’s VFLW program is still in its infancy.
With five wins from 14 games, North finished the home and away season in tenth, just two games outside the finals places.
The success of the team saw star players Airlie Runnalls and Meagan Kiely get drafted to Fremantle and Richmond respectively, while Perri King and Ella Maurer were drafted into North’s AFLW program.
Binder says the success of not only those players, but also North’s AFLW side, will provide motivation for her group.
“The North AFLW program is really strong, and the VFLW program has to catch up to that,” she said.
“We want to take one step further, you’re always playing to make finals and be successful. I think the most important part of that, especially in a young program, is setting a really strong culture.
“Good culture is a really good base for success both on and off the field. From day one of pre-season that’s going to be a big focus of the group.
“Hopefully (players being drafted) can be a really good motivation for the players coming through, that if they work hard and put the effort in there is definitely a pathway there.
“I think this is going to be a really high-performance environment with a lot of support around it ... if everyone is pushing to get better then we should be able to put a strong team together.”