Ash Riddell’s quality has never been in doubt.

After consecutive third-place finishes in the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos' best and fairest, an All-Australian selection in 2020, and an All-Australian nomination in 2021, Riddell’s natural midfield ability is rivalled by only a few players across the entirety of AFLW.

She took her game to a new level in Saturday’s clash with Geelong though, finishing the clash with 22 contested possessions, 7 clearances, 7 tackles, and tied the AFLW record for disposals in a game with 35.

Consistently amongst the best ball-winners in the competition - she averaged 21.8 disposals per game in 2021, North’s ability to kick goals and win games is often drastically influenced by Riddell’s ability to utilise the ball well, because she rarely has trouble finding it.

As the game’s best performer in what was a tight and difficult win, the number 7 says the contributions of her teammates are to thank for her career-best performance.

“To be honest I was just trying to stay focused and in the game. I was very lucky I had my teammates around me to support me,” Riddell told North Media.

“If they weren’t there to lay a few blocks to I could get open and get the ball, especially around the clearances, I’d probably have been sitting there like a bit of a headless chook.

“Everyone who ran through the midfield helped me out a lot, and a lot of the credit has to go to Kim (Rennie) and ‘Kingy’ (Emma King) in the ruck.

“They both rucked really well all game, and gave us midfielders a bit of silver service.”

A North midfield containing Riddell alongside Jenna Bruton, Jasmine Garner, Mia King, Emma Kearney and Ellie Gavalas has become common-place in recent times, with the midfield group building a level of chemistry amongst themselves that only comes through consistently playing together.

With Kearney and Gavalas both absent for the victory, North’s midfield entered the clash with a slightly fresher look, with the likes of draftee Tess Craven and forward Daria Bannister supplementing its ranks.

The pair of key omissions meant other players had to step up in potentially unfamiliar roles, and Riddell is proud of how they contributed to the win. 

“We were certainly really challenged in the midfield, we obviously didn’t have ‘Kearns’ or ‘Gav’ out there, so we had to look at different players to play different roles,” she said.

“Daria came in a little bit more and gave us that burst of speed out of traffic which I probably don’t have, Tess helped us chain it through the forward line, and ‘Smitty’ (Amy Smith) was busting her gut up and down that wing which really motivated us.

“It was really good to see Mia King’s game. Her last quarter was sensational and her goal was epic. She’s really an example of just coming into the side and playing a role as well as you can.”

00:52 Mins
Published on

AFLW: Mia King's Rising Star performance (Round 1, 2022)

Midfield gun Mia King had an incredible start to the season against the Cats, with a late goal and a dominant final term helping her to a Round 1 Rising Star nomination.

Published on

When North took on the Cats in Round 1 last season the final margin was 62 points, however Saturday’s clash provided a far tougher and more competitive fixture for the Arden Street side.

After just one practice game in the lead up to the start of the season proper, both teams took some time to stamp their authority on the contest, however the display of tackling and midfield pressure from both sides was immense.

Riddell says complications and uncertainty surrounding Covid created a different type of challenge for the Kangaroos ahead of the game.

“We had a really tricky week and missed probably three training sessions in the week or so prior to the game. There were certainly a few signs of rust,” she said.

“It was a bit challenging for us coming into this game, so we knew we had to grind this one out.

“Geelong was always going to be a really competitive and energetic since they’re a pretty young side, so we’ll take a lot out of that game.

“It was a really tough contest and I think it will hold us in good stead going forward. We know the pressure we’re under, and we know we have Adelaide next week who are really going to compete again."