With Saturday's AFLW fixture update, the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos finally know who and what they’ll need to overcome in 2022 to build on their promising past two campaigns.
Ahead of the Kangaroos' season opener against Geelong at Arden St on Saturday, January 8, here is a look ahead to the club's 2022 AFLW season.
2021 season recap
Record: 6W, 3L, 142.5%
Ladder position: 6th
Best and fairest winner: Jasmine Garner
Leading goalkickers: Jasmine Garner and Sophie Abbatangelo (9)
After locking in a finals spot in the last week of the season, North took on Collingwood in the first week of finals, with the game becoming the latest chapter in one of the most intense emerging AFLW rivalries.
Suffering elimination after falling by just six points to the Magpies, the Kangaroos showed flashes of brilliance during the campaign, and will be hoping to build on what senior coach Darren Crocker could implement in his first season at the helm.
There are five new Kangaroos in the mob heading into the 2022 season, with all five players being selected in the NAB AFLW Draft.
Tess Craven slid down in the draft to North’s first selection, pick 13, after being touted as high as a potential top-five selection in some phantom drafts. A tough inside midfielder with good skills, Craven has been handed the task of breaking into one of the most established midfields in the competition in 2022.
With the 19th pick in the draft, North selected versatile tall Tara Slender. Slender has the ability to play across all lines, and while she excelled as a ruck and dominated as a forward at youth level, she’s developed well in the back half of the ground in pre-season, where she will potentially fill the void left by the departure of Jas Grierson.
A premiership player with the Western Bulldogs, Kim Rennie was walked through to the draft after North failed to agree a trade with the Bulldogs for her services. A competitive ruck/forward who possesses strong ground skills, Rennie is expected to work in tandem with Emma King, with the pair alternating between centre ruck and key forward roles.
North added some grit to its midfield stocks with the recruitment of Perri King, the Tasmanian native who ranked first for tackles in the NAB League during her draft year. After gaining some experience of high-level, open-age football with North’s VFLW side last season, King comes onto the list with some level of knowledge about what’s needed to play senior football.
An intercept defender by trade, Jas Ferguson was recruited to North after putting together a strong and consistent VFLW campaign with Collingwood. Named in the competition’s team of the year and finishing third in Collingwood’s VFLW best and fairest, Ferguson offers versatility in the back half of the ground with her ability to play tall or small.
With its final pick in the draft, North selected another midifelder in the form of Ella Maurer. With the power and speed to break out of the contest, Maurer’s skills and attributes offer a different dynamic in North’s midfield.
Players to watch
Kaitlyn Ashmore: One of the most experienced and consistent players in the competition, Ashmore could become the first person to play 50 AFLW games this season. Initially a half forward flanker, she spent more time on the wing last season to great effect, and was even, on occasion, running off half-back. While becoming the first player to play 50 games would be an achievement, it remains to be seen in which position she might bring up the milestone.
Ash Riddell: With every passing game the fact Riddell remained undrafted at the beginning of her footballing career is looking more and more questionable. Named in the extended All-Australian squad and finishing third in North’s best and fairest last season, she has evolved her game to become one of the competition's great accumulators. If she can take her game to the next level in 2022, North’s midfield could become an unstoppable force when firing on all cylinders.
Jas Garner: After starting her career as a forward, Garner has increased her aerobic capacity to become a bona fide midfield threat over the past two seasons. The recipient of the past two club best and fairest medals, she’s consistently stamped her name as one of the top players in the competition. As AFLW continues to evolve and improve, will she be able to maintain her place at the top table?
Daria Bannister: 2021 was Bannister’s first season of consistent football in her young AFLW career, with injuries causing her to miss the better part of three consecutive seasons. She’s proven herself to be a serious goal threat in the forward 50, with opposition defences often struggling to contain her rare combination of power and speed, and should she remain fully fit this season, the only way is up for this young forward.
Nicole Bresnehan: Bresnehan, or ‘Flash’ as she’s known, locked down a place in North’s defence across the 2021 season, impressing with her attack on the contest and ability to win the 50/50 ball. Elected into the leadership group, Bresnehan now holds more responsibility than just her own game, and while that can cause added stresses, she has the type of mentality to survive and thrive under the pressures leadership undoubtedly brings.
Four big games
Round 1 - Kangaroos v Geelong Cats at Arden Street (VIC)
Saturday January 8, 5.10pm* (Foxtel)
The club's campaign kicks off with what promises to be a high-octane 2022 season opener in front of the Kangaroos faithful at Arden St. The twilight clash pits the Roos against Geelong in a rematch of the sides' opening-round fixture last season. The Kangaroos leapt out of the blocks in that match before running out 62-point winners, led by three goals by ruck Emma King and a dominating midfield performance from Jas Garner. Start the season in similar fashion here, and the campaign will be up and away.
Round 5 - Kangaroos v Fremantle at North Hobart Oval (TAS)
Sunday February 6, 1.10pm (Foxtel)
Tasmania was a happy hunting ground for the club in 2021, and the Dockers' visit will mark the Kangaroos' first game this season in their second home. Carlton came to grief at the University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston last season, before the Roos added the prized scalp of the Western Bulldogs in round seven in Hobart. The club's last meeting with the Dockers came at Arden St, ending in a nail-biting one-point victory thanks to a match-winning goal in the final quarter from Roos forward Daisy Bateman.
Round 7 - Kangaroos v Collingwood at University of Tasmania Stadium, Launceston (TAS)
Friday February 18, 7.10pm (Foxtel)
It was the Magpies who ended the Kangaroos' 2021 premiership hopes in a qualifying final thriller at Victoria Park. Leading by 14 points at three-quarter time, the Roos conceded three goals without reply in the final term to crash to a heartbreaking six-point loss. Avenging that defeat will be very much front of mind when the Roos host Collingwood in Launceston. The Kangaroos will be hoping less for a rerun of 2021's clashes, which also included a round-four defeat in which the Roos were held goalless, and more to replicate the form shown in their elimination final victory over the Pies in 2020.
Round 9 - Brisbane Lions v Kangaroos at Maroochydore Multi Sports Complex (QLD)
Date and time TBC
If the Kangaroos are in premiership contention by this stage of the season, this is where their credentials are likely to be seriously tested. The Lions are reigning premiers, having edged Collingwood in the 2021 preliminary finals before sweeping away Adelaide to claim the flag. The Roos' last visit to Queensland came on a wet day in March, and it didn't end well; the Lions making the best of the conditions to eke out a 15-point win. Should the Kangaroos manage an upset on the road here, it might just be time for fans to set their eyes on the finals.
All times are local
Get excited by ...
The evolving forward group. Young pair Daisy Bateman and Daria Bannister will be looking to build on the partnership they formed last year, while the addition of Kim Rennie will add an exceptionally strong marking target in the forward 50. Sophie Abbatangelo has never struggled to find the goals, and 2022 should be no different, while Emma Kearney and Jas Garner will add some much desired goals from the middle of the ground.