Unfortunately, the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos’ season is over, falling to a strong Collingwood side by six points in the qualifying final last weekend.
In a season full of ups and downs, North finished sixth after the home and away season with a 6-3 record, falling to Melbourne, Collingwood and Brisbane before its finals exit.
Despite the sixth-placed finish, there is a strong argument to be made that North had the most dominant midfield in the competition.
North averaged the third most disposals per game out of any team with 230.5, led in large part by Ash Riddell’s 21.8 per game, Emma Kearney’s 20.8 and Jas Garner’s 20.6, with Riddell breaking the club record for possessions in a game as she collected 33 in round nine against Fremantle.
Emma King’s ruck work was crucial in allowing her midfielders first use of the football as she averaged a staggering 19.4 hit-outs a game, more than double her 9.4 a game in 2020, while North averaged the second most hit-outs a game in the competition with 26.5, as Viv Saad ably chipped in with 6.8 per game of her own.
North’s killer instinct in the forward 50 was on full show all season as it averaged 6.1 goals per game, the third-highest in the competition, as Garner and Sophie Abbatangelo led all comers with 9 majors each. Round 6 Rising Star nominee Daisy Bateman contributed with 8 goals of her own, while Daria Bannister rewarded the faith shown in her with 6.
Garner’s game somehow went to another level in 2021, as she finished third in the AFLCA Champion Player of the Year vote, as well and earning herself yet another All-Australian nomination.
Spending more time in the midfield this season, Garner led the team in contested possessions (11.9), clearances (5.5), marks (4.5), tackles (5.4) and score involvements (4.1), as well as setting a new record for clearances in a game with 13 in North’s round seven victory over the Western Bulldogs.
However, it wasn’t just the established names like King and Garner who impressed this season.
In their second seasons in the competition, Ellie Gavalas and Aileen Gilroy really stepped their games up in 2021, with the pair now threatening to break into the top tier of players in 2022.
After crossing from Ireland for 2020, Gilroy impressed with her speed, kicking and toughness in her first season, but in 2021 she proved she belongs in AFLW.
This season, Gilroy averaged 12.2 disposals (up from 9.7), 303 metres gained (up from 191.2), 2.8 tackles (up from 1.1) and 5.2 intercept possessions (up from 4.7).
Being drafted with the tenth pick in the 2019 draft, Ellie Gavalas slotted seamlessly into a superstar midfield containing All-Australians Garner, Riddell, Kearney and Jenna Bruton.
She impressed fans with her willingness and ability in the contest in 2020, averaging 13.3 disposals, 5.7 contested possessions and 2.1 clearances, while also kicking 1 goal for the season.
This season Gavalas’ comfort in the contest and ability to impact the scoreboard jumped up a notch, as she eclipsed all those key statistics. In 2021 she averaged 15.2 disposals, 6.7 contested possessions, 2.6 clearances and kicked 4 goals.