Closing the curtains on a season of football is often a tough task, especially when it involves bowing out of finals.
That's the scenario Darren Crocker’s North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos' side must digest, as it begins the process of re-tooling for another shot at the premiership in 2022.
After leading last weekend’s qualifying final by 14-points at three quarter time, North couldn’t hold back a fast-finishing Collingwood side, with the Magpies going on to win by just six points.
Crocker says his team are already preparing themselves for next year, and can’t wait for the opportunity to put some demons to bed.
“For AFLW the layoff is a pretty long period from the end of the season to when pre-season begins again, so we’ve got a bit of time to digest it and plan,” the Roos' AFLW coach told North Media.
“We worked so hard to put ourselves in a really strong position at three quarter time and then to be overrun, that’s disappointing.
“I said to the girls that now is time for a bit of self-reflection. Self-reflect on your game, what the season looked like, what you’re happy with and what you need to work on to grow and get better.
“If we get some growth individually from everyone, hopefully collectively that will translate into the team getting better as well.”
This was Crocker’s first full season at the helm of a senior AFL level side, having taken the reigns as an interim coach of North’s men’s program on multiple occasions.
Despite the offer coming somewhat out of the blue for the North Melbourne legend, he says the attitude and professionalism of the playing group has made the whole experience and enjoyable one.
“I’ve loved working with the girls, they’ve been so receptive with everything we’ve thrown at them ... different concepts we’ve been trying to teach and coach,” he said.
“The girls have embraced the type of environment we’ve been trying to develop, one that’s a little bit more high performing for that part-time athlete.
“I think we’ll be better with another pre-season under our belts and continue to build on what we’ve developed.”
With some of the competition’s best players at his disposal, Crocker says the ability and development of some of North’s outer players impressed him, as every player fulfilled their role to help the team to make finals.
Nicole Bresnehan, Daria Bannister, Bella Eddey and Ellie Gavalas were at the centre of the coach’s praise.
“Bresnehan went from maybe playing the odd game to pretty much every game [after she] had a really good pre-season,” he said.
“[To] have injury problems like Daria had, to be able to come in and play pretty much every game was a real bonus.
“Gavalas … continued to become an important member of our midfield.
“It was good for Bella (Eddey) … to come in and play every game as our high draft pick … she still has a lot to learn and grow in her game, but I think she showed glimpses of the type of player she can be.”
Looking forward to next season, Crocker says the combination of young players coming through the ranks and key players reaching their prime should be a daunting prospect for opposition teams.
“I think the future looks pretty bright for us … our best football is going to be pretty strong going forward,” he said.
“We’ve got a pretty good list from a middle tier … Jas Garner [is 26], Emma King [is] 26, Jenna Bruton [is] 25.
“We’ve still got some young girls to come in and impact … Mia King, Bella Eddey, Alice O’Loughlin, Brooke Brown.
“I’m excited to see what we can do next year.”