North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos coach Darren Crocker says he’s proud of the way his team reacted to a week of COVID-induced turmoil.
The Roos overcame a three-quarter time deficit to defeat Geelong by eight points in a tight tussle at Arden St. That was despite missing a number of key personnel due to COVID health and safety protocols, including skipper Emma Kearney and regular starters Ellie Gavalas and Sophie Abbatangelo.
The Roos at one stage trailed by eight points in a low-scoring affair, but a Daisy Bateman goal late in the third term placed the Kangaroos within striking distance at the last change.
A strong fourth quarter showing, featuring goals from Mia King and Kaitlyn Ashmore, saw the Kangaroos triumph over a much-improved Geelong outfit.
“It’s been an interesting build-up before the game … it hasn’t been without it’s challenges,” Crocker said. “We had probably about seven players that had issues around health and safety protocols.
“The biggest challenges have probably come in the last week and a half for us, [and] I think every club is probably going to go through that at different stages.
“All the players who are missing at the moment with COVID-related situations, their health and wellbeing is our number one priority. We won’t be rushing anyone back.
“I’m really proud of the way the players have managed to navigate through those challenges and find a way to win today.”
Entering the game missing some key on-field personnel, some of North’s stars were walking wounded through the clash, with Jenna Bruton and Kaitlyn Ashmore both requiring treatment to injuries suffered during the game.
Both played key roles in the victory, as Ashmore finished with 18 disposals while kicking the final goal of the day, and Bruton collected with 24 touches and kicked a goal of her own.
Impressing on her Kangaroos debut, Kim Rennie suffered a head injury in the final minute of the game, slamming her head on the turf after attempting a big grab.
While Crocker says the injuries Ashmore and Bruton appear only minor, Kim Rennie’s availability for next week’s trip to Adelaide is certainly not set in stone.
“Kim will go through the concussion protocols, so we’re not sure what will happen with her. We’ll just be diligent … [and] do what we need to do,” he said. “(Ashmore and Bruton) just had ankle rolls. They had to come off and get assessed, but they’ll be fine for next week.”
The Roos have entered this season with a new look forward line, with Rennie and former defender Tahlia Randall adding some extra height in the front third of the ground.
While Rennie and stand-in captain Emma King rotated through ruck and forward duties, Randall looks to have found a new home as the team’s full forward, consistently providing an aerial target for her midfielders.
After a breakout 2021 season in which she was named in the competition’s 22Under22 side as a key defender, Crocker says he’s been eying Randall as a forward for some time.
“‘Tahls’ has always impressed the coaches with her ability to attack the contest and fly at the ball in the air,” he said.
“I thought it was really evident when she was able to attack the ball and provide a contest and spillage which then brought in our ground level players. We probably didn’t benefit from it as much as we would have liked, [but] we feel we need a little bit more potency and a taller, more dynamic player up forward.
“We also brought in Jas Ferguson as a key defender and I thought she did really well in her first game of AFLW. I thought the backline held up really well."