Collingwood know better than anyone in the AFLW that a slow start is disastrous.
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Arguably the AFLW’s most recognisable face Moana Hope will be playing for North Melbourne in 2019 after news broke on Friday morning that she had walked out on Collingwood to join the expansion club.
Hope has been one of the biggest-profile faces in the AFLW since before the competition began thanks to eye-catching performances in the exhibition games staged between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs in the lead up to the inaugural 2017 season.
However she has never quite fulfilled the heavy expectations that were placed on her in her two seasons at Collingwood, and was even dropped at one point in the 2018 season – though she finished the year in solid form.
30-year-old Hope will no doubt be thinking that she could find a way to take her game to the next level at what is looking like a star-studded North Melbourne roster for 2019.
In addition to Hope the ‘Roos have signed talent in all areas of the ground – in particular, they look likely to have the A-grade midfield talent needed to give Hope plenty of opportunity to kick goals.
North recruited reigning AFLW best-and-fairest winner Emma Kearney on the opening day of the signing period and has also brought in the likes of Jamie Stanton, Jenna Bruton, Brittany Gibson, Daria Bannister, Ash Riddell, Maddison Smith and former Hockeyroo Georgia Nanscawen to support her in the middle of the ground.
Tahlia Randall, Danielle Hardiman and Kate Gillespie-Jones look set to form the core of North Melbourne’s defensive unit, while Hope will be supported up forward by fellow former Pie Jasmine Garner (who kicked the first ever AFLW goal) and Kaitlyn Ashmore.
There is potentially one more big signing to come for the Roos who have also reportedly targeted Collingwood ruckman Emma King, but it’s not clear yet whether or not she’ll join the club.
The Kangaroos are yet to formally announce the signings of Hope or Ashmore, and if they’re not officially signed to the club before the deadline of next Monday then North may instead need to trade for them.
The AFL does hold the right to veto any attempted signings by expansion clubs and instead force teams to trade for the players in question, and might consider doing so with Hope or Ashmore given that both Collingwood and Brisbane appear to be losing a large amount of talent.
This year’s draft order is yet to be confirmed, but it’s believed that compensation picks for existing clubs who have lost players could be included, and it’s not clear where new expansion clubs North Melbourne and Geelong will sit in the pecking order of the draft.
The draft order will be formally released on Tuesday before a two-week trade period where all 10 AFLW clubs will have the chance to exchange players and draft picks, and this will be followed by a brief free agency window before lists are required to be lodged on June 8.
The draft itself will likely be held in October as it has been the past two years, after the various state-level competitions have concluded.