With the AFLW sign and trade period firmly in the rear-view mirror and the draft fast approaching, the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos’ list for its next premiership tilt is firmly taking shape.
While North was relatively quiet in terms of bringing new players in over the sign and trade period, that was not the club’s primary goal.
List and Performance Manager Rhys Harwood says he believes player retention is the key to North maintaining competitiveness at the top end of the table.
“I think we’ve been pretty open and honest around retention being our primary objective over the last couple of years,” Harwood told the Credit to the Girls podcast.
“Then outside of that we’ve looked at opportunities, whether it’s bringing in player we think could help our system, or conversely looking to manoeuvre our way through the draft.
“I think the teams that have been able to retain the core of their group have really been, for the most part, the ones who have been able to have success.
“To be able to retain that core group of particular 24 to 28 year olds, I think was what we wanted to do and were aiming to do.”
With two draft selections in Victoria’s top 12 picks, North is in the rare position of holding a strong draft position, while simultaneously competing for the game’s highest honour.
While there are still needs to be filled on the current list, Harwood says age and the culture fit are important components to consider when draft night rolls around.
“The players who left our system, the average age was I think 27.5. I suspect the players that find their way in that’ll be in the teens or low 20’s,” he said.
“We’ll just pick the players that we think best fit our system going forward, and that’s not just on-field but off-field too. They need to be the right fit.
“If you stay the same you probably go backwards, so we’re always looking at ways to improve and change is pretty necessary for us to move forward.”
Having fallen to Collingwood by six points in last year’s preliminary finals, North is keen to go one step further in season 2021/22, hoping to find its way to the Grand Final and obtain premiership glory.
Despite the game being one of the most exciting in AFLW history, the disappointment around the club surrounding the finals exit was palpable.
Harwood says an intensive review of last season has North primed and ready to compete in the upcoming season.
“It’s been a really productive off-season for us. We had a pretty thorough review process and analysis of the season just gone. Of the four times we’ve played the eventual prelim finalists, we lost all of the games,” he said.
“I think it was an eye-opening season in a sense, but it gave us a really clear picture of where we’re at and what we need to improve.
“We’d be concerned if we walked away after the season thinking we were unlucky and not knowing what we needed to fix.
“There were a lot of things we were happy with and we’d built on in terms of the way we played and the wider program, and then obviously a number of things we’re looking to build on going forward.”