The following is a letter from North Melbourne Kangaroos President, Ben Buckley.

As we look forward to celebrating the Christmas and New Year period, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the year past and to look to where we hope 2022 will take us. 

Before I get to that, I of course want to thank all North Melbourne Kangaroos fans and supporters for their limitless loyalty and commitment to our club. Incredibly, we are coming off a record membership total in 2021 and already this year we have sailed past our pre-Christmas membership record in securing 36,702 AFL members. This exceeds our previous record by more than 6500. We’ve also signed more than 2000 AFLW members, another record.

When you consider the times in which we’re living, with limited access to games and people’s personal circumstances affected in various ways by the ongoing COVID crisis, it’s an incredible show of faith. We can’t thank you enough. 

On the field, we’ve had a while now to mull over our AFLW and AFL results from last year and although the collective outcome was not where we had aspired to be there is enough to be optimistic about for both programs. 

Our women’s team’s gut-wrenching loss to Collingwood in the first week of the finals has been a driver for every pre-season session this year and our men’s team has returned to training with a determined mindset to build on the encouraging gains made in the second half of the year. 

Without wanting to dwell too much on those results, I’ll borrow a line from David Noble in saying the focus for both teams will be on becoming ‘better than we were yesterday’. There is great optimism about what both of our elite teams can achieve in 2022 but we know there is a lot of hard work to be done.

Senior Roo Todd Goldstein embraces coach David Noble after the breakthrough win against the Hawks in 2021

The first AFLW game at Arden St is a little over two weeks away and coach Darren Crocker, skipper Emma Kearney and our talented group have had a great pre-season, rounded off with a big win over the Western Bulldogs in a practice match hit-out last weekend. We’d love to see our Arden St home turned into a blue and white fortress for that round-one match against Geelong on Saturday, 8 January.

The AFL team has had another off-season of change, with a number of new off-field appointees giving Nobes and the coaching staff a real shot of energy upon the return to training. New General Manager of Football Performance Daniel McPherson, our new Head of Performance Kevin White and Rehab and Academy boss Daniel Cross have come from successful programs and have each made a big impact early in their tenure. 

In terms of our playing stocks, we’re really excited by the recruitment of big man Callum Coleman-Jones. He’s been complemented by a great draft crop headed by No.1 draft pick Jason Horne-Francis. And we were thrilled with the list management team’s ability to think quickly in nabbing Hugh Greenwood as a free agent last month.

The building blocks are falling into place, but with the second-youngest list in the competition, we’re very much aware that 2022 represents another challenge as we continue on the course we have set.

Off the field, next month we will embark on our new $7 million building works. The plans include community and female-friendly changerooms, umpires changerooms, multi-media facilities, an expanded medical space, a commercial kitchen, and a re-design of the club’s community arm, The Huddle.

And while this is going ahead, Ben Amarfio will continue to lead talks with State and local governments and the Victorian Planning Authority to solidify our plans for the Arden Urban Renewal project. This is a transformative opportunity for the North Melbourne community and our footy club and we look forward to sharing our plans with you.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our board – those who remain, those who have departed, and our incoming members. To Paul Dwyer, Harry Unglik and Sonja Hood, thanks for your wise counsel and tireless efforts in another most challenging 12 months. 

To our new directors, Suzana Ristevski and Anthony Stevens, both of whom joined the board in August and were confirmed at our AGM earlier this month, we’ve already benefitted from having your passion and expertise at this critical time for our club. 

And to our retiring board members, Glenn Archer and Brady Scanlon. Glenn’s passion for and dedication to the club is legendary and his work in helping chart the course for a restructured football department has set us up for a bright future.  

Brady (who served his maximum nine-year term) the club owes you and your family an enormous debt of gratitude. Brady has had his fingerprints on a lot of the big picture projects at the club over the past decade. In particular, his vision and energy in relation to the Arden Precinct will help the club bear fruit for many years to come. 

Thanks also to Ben Amarfio and his executive team and staff, Cam McLeod and his hard-working staff in The Huddle, and all the volunteers attached to our great club. I’m enormously proud of the service we provide for our supporters, fans and communities in the greater North Melbourne area, Wyndham and Tasmania, and it’s down to your hard work and dedication.

Thanks also to our loyal partners Mazda, Spirit of Tasmania, Hello Solar, all of our corporate partners and coterie members. Your generous contributions help keep our club ticking and we couldn’t do it without your unflinching and generous support. 

Finally, in a small change of pace, on behalf of everyone connected to North Melbourne, I would like to pay tribute to the frontline workers among us – to our doctors, nurses, hospital staff, the emergency services, police and all first responders. It’s been an incredibly difficult two years so my heartfelt thanks goes out to those who help keep us safe and healthy. 

Wherever you are in the world, and however you are celebrate the festive season, I wish you a safe, healthy and happy Christmas and New Year.

Go Roos!

Ben Buckley