Despite falling from seventh to ninth on the rebel VFLW ladder, North Melbourne won one more game than in 2022 as it continued to build towards a maiden finals berth.
By the numbers
W-L-D (%): 7-7 (96.0%)
Players used: 40
AFLW players used: 5
Played every match: 6 – Jess Jones, Marli Klaumanns-Moller, Jess Mourney, Emily Paterno, Audrey Rhodes and Annabel Scott
Debutants: 10 – Georgia Clark, Zara Flanigan, Tunisha Kikoak, Jessica Nursey, Kayla Peake, Robyn Randell, Mackie Sutcliffe, Jasmyn Thompson, Genevieve Walsh and Grace White
Best and Fairest: =1st: Audrey Rhodes, 2nd: Ciara Fitzgerald, 3rd: Annabel Scott, 4th: Jess Jones, 5th: Emily Paterno
Lambert-Pearce Medal votes: Jess Jones (10), Annabel Scott (9), Jennifer Guy (4), Audrey Rhodes (4)
Coaches MVP votes: Audrey Rhodes (47), Ciara Fitzgerald (28), Marli Klaumanns-Moller (18)
VFLW Team of the Year representatives: Ciara Fitzgerald and Audrey Rhodes
Goalkickers: Emily Paterno (9), Audrey Rhodes (8), Zara Flanigan (5), Jess Mourney (5)
(Averages – Minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Annabel Scott (18.6), Audrey Rhodes (17.2), Ciara Fitzgerald (15.0)
Kicks: Ciara Fitzgerald (10.8), Annabel Scott (9.7), Audrey Rhodes (9.3)
Handballs: Annabel Scott (8.9), Audrey Rhodes (7.9), Marli Klaumanns-Moller (6.3)
Marks: Ciara Fitzgerald (2.5), Annabel Scott (2.2), Teagan Bradley (2.1)
Tackles: Audrey Rhodes (7.3), Marli Klaumanns-Moller (6.3), Zara Flanigan (6.1)
Hitouts: Jess Jones (21.9), Zara Flanigan (7.8), Ellie McDonald (0.4)
Clearances: Audrey Rhodes (4.8), Annabel Scott (4.0), Marli Klaumanns-Moller (2.8)
Inside 50s: Marli Klaumanns-Moller (2.2), Georgia Nicholas (2.2), Jess Jones (2.1)
Rebound 50s: Ciara Fitzgerald (3.2), Teagan Bradley (2.8), Jess Jones (2.1)
Sheer determination by Georgia Nicholas to give @NMFCWomens the lead.— VFL / VFLW (@VFL) May 27, 2023
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What went right
The season started very well with impressive victories away to Geelong and at home to a Williamstown team that ended up surging into the finals. New recruit Marianna Anthony was on fire in the opening two victories, resulting in her being drafted by Carlton in the AFLW Season Eight Supplementary Draft in April. The remainer of the season was dotted with quality wins, which included the goalless triumph over eventual premier Port Melbourne in pouring rain under lights at ETU Stadium and rolling last year's grand finalists Essendon and Southern Saints in consecutive weeks. Audrey Rhodes had a best-and-fairest-winning breakout season while runner-up Ciara Fitzgerald joined Anthony in Carlton's AFLW team. Both made the rebel VFLW Team of the Year.
What went wrong
The Kangaroos will be ruing the Round 3 and 4 shockers straight after Anthony's departure that broke the Western Bulldogs' 16-match losing streak and cost them a finals berth against eventual sixth-place finisher Carlton. They lost six of their eight matches between Round 3-10, ultimately cruelling their season. No player was able to reach double figures in goals as Emily Paterno (9) topped the list, with their highest score of the year being 8.9 (57) against Darebin twice. That needs to be a focus for 2024.
On face value, a fall from seventh to ninth looks like a disappointing result but they did win one more game than in 2022 which is where the focus should be. The Kangaroos will still be disappointed to miss the finals after an up-and-down campaign that mixed terrific wins with ordinary defeats. But with the momentum being built at AFLW level they will feel finals are well within reach next year, especially in a competition where the smallest of form shifts can make all the difference.