Slotting into an established side is one of the most difficult parts of coming to a new team. There’s a new environment, new game plan and new ideas. However, one of the more difficult, unseen parts of the process is integrating with a whole group of new teammates.

With North Melbourne currently in the midst of a ‘pre-pre-season’, draftees Tess Craven, Tara Slender and Jasmine Ferguson have already begun that process of integration, quickly forming bonds with some of the most iconic players in AFLW.

With the current North group priding itself on authenticity and acceptance, the players have had no issues welcoming the new additions, along with former Bulldog Kim Rennie, into the group, quickly forming a bond with their new teammates.

Darren Crocker says this authentic environment is something the club has worked hard to cultivate.

“The girls are so good at creating a really welcoming environment, and we’ve really tried to produce an environment where everyone can come and just be themselves,” Crocker told North Media.

“All our new players are taking the process of getting to know everyone in their stride really, and there’s definitely credit due to the likes of Emma Kearney, Ash Riddell and Jas Garner for helping make it as easy as possible for them.

“Nobody has to put on any airs and graces, and nobody has to try to be someone they’re not. It’s a group full of genuine people.

“It doesn’t matter who they are, where they’ve come from or how long they’ve been at the club. All our players can just come and be themselves and know they’ll be accepted by the group.”

Aside from the culture and bonding aspect, these sessions are giving the chance for North’s newest members to get on the same wavelength as their teammates as soon as possible, and start to learn what it means to play for the club.

The North coaching staff has had its first, in the flesh look at some of the new players, and how their playing styles may complement the existing group of players.

Crocker says the early signs are positive, and he can’t wait to get the whole team back together.

“The number of girls that have been popping in to take part has been great, and it’s been a great chance for the new girls to get to know some of their teammates,” he said.

“We’re really excited about what each of them will bring. Kim Rennie is going to be great support for Emma King, and we’ll be able to use her in the middle or forward in tandem with Emma.

“Tess (Craven) is a really skilful midfielder who can play inside or outside, and we know Jas Ferguson is a really solid defender out of Collingwood’s VFLW program.

“Tara (Slender) will be trained up as a key position player who can play at either end of the ground, and we already know she has great intercept marking capabilities.

“We haven’t seen much of Perri (King) or Ella (Maurer) yet because all the Tassie girls are still over there, but hopefully we’ll be able to see them soon.”

The concept of this ‘pre-pre-season’ came about mainly due to the forced delay of the beginning of the next AFLW season. While initially locked in to start in December, the current Covid situation means it’s been pushed back until the new year.

With sport in Melbourne sidelined for the foreseeable future, Crocker says he knows how lucky his players are to be able to take part in these sessions.

“The girls know they’re in a very privileged position to be able to come in and do some training,” he said.

“The ability to come into a fully equipped gym, do some work on the oval and have access to the recovery facilities is crucial.”