The parallels that run between North Melbourne's history in AFLW and the rapidly accelerating career of star on-baller Ash Riddell are evident to all who have followed the team since its inception ahead of the 2019 campaign.

The Kangaroos were overlooked as participants in the first two seasons of AFLW, only chosen to come into the competition as an expansion side. Riddell was overlooked in the first two AFLW drafts and was finally presented her opportunity upon North Melbourne's inclusion.

In its first season the Kangaroos were solid if unspectacular. They narrowly missed out on finals, finishing behind strong Adelaide and Fremantle sides in the old conference model.

In her debut campaign Riddell showed flashes of her burgeoning quality, playing two games and earning her status as Shinboner number 19 before injury cut her season short.

Since that maiden season, both North's women's program and Riddell have gone to new strengths. The Kangaroos are now a consistent finals contender, while Riddell is coming off a record-breaking season where she won her first club best and fairest.

Despite well-documented interest from incoming expansion teams, namely the Sydney side headed by former North Melbourne coach Scott Gowans, Riddell turned her back on the competition to continue her relationship with the Kangaroos. She says it was a simple decision.

"I've been really fortunate that North Melbourne has looked after me from the beginning when I missed out on those couple of drafts in a row and they've put a lot of faith in me. It was an easy decision to return the favour and stick with the club," Riddell told North Media.

"There's enormous growth in our playing list and we've got a lot of young talent coming through so it's very much exciting times ahead. There's an infectious energy in the group, especially with the draft just around the corner.

"Arden Street feels like home, and I'm looking forward to continuing to grow and develop with some of the really talented players we have on board here."

North's list is going through something of a retooling ahead of this upcoming season. The departures of Kaitlyn Ashmore, Jess Duffin, Daria Bannister, Daisy Bateman, Elisha King and Britt Gibson mean that Riddell is now one of just a handful of players who remain from the club's inaugural playing list. 

Those departures coupled with the Kangaroos' current draft hand mean that there is certainly going to be a large block of young talent coming through the doors at Arden Street in the near future.

The Kangaroos currently hold state draft selections 14, 22, 28, 29, 30, 48 and 50, and have already announced the signings of exciting Irish duo Vikki Wall and Erika O'Shea.

Riddell says she's looking forward to the potentially new-look side building on the foundations set by Darren Crocker over the last two seasons.

"We were obviously a very solid side last year and we made finals, but we were still a little bit away from that top end. There are definitely a few growth areas we're looking at to help us make that leap," she said.

"We've certainly put foundations in place now that 'Crock' has been with us a couple of seasons. A lot of what we want to do comes down to consolidating the areas we improved on last year, and touching up some of those areas we were weaker in to make us a better side.

"We've got a few players who I think can step up and play bigger roles and help us improve again this year. I know Sarah Wright is one that's just so reliable and a strong, consistent and persistent role player, and so is Jas Ferguson now having been in the system for a season.

"It's the likes of those two who we trust and we have so much faith in, and we know they can take it to the next level. It's exciting times for our group."

With Round 1 still over two months away though, there's just one immediate thought on the minds of players all around the competition, and that's pre-season.

The August start date of the upcoming campaign brings with it some chilly winter training sessions.

Given the historical summer calendar in which AFLW has been played over the last few years, Riddell says the season might take some getting used to, but she's just happy to be back.

"I don't mind the running that comes with pre-season, but I don't know how I'll go with this cold weather though. I much prefer the sun and daylight savings," she said.

"It is a little bit colder than we're used to, this weather, but I'm sure we'll get used to it.

"For the moment it's just so nice to be back around the group again and start building that banter and camaraderie."


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