'We're in it to win it': Flag or bust for high-flying Roos

NORTH Melbourne is unashamedly planning to win this year's AFLW premiership.

Any team that performed as well as the Kangaroos did last season should be thinking that way, but they not only want to climb the mountain – their whole strategy is designed to do exactly that.

North's inaugural campaign in 2019 ended in disappointing fashion, with coach Scott Gowans saying, in hindsight, his players were "cooked" by then.

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A deeper analysis of the club's training and matches uncovered just that, even though it wasn't obvious at the time.

Losing gun onballer Ash Riddell, a leader at then-VFL affiliate Melbourne University, to a season-ending ankle injury didn't help either, Gowans said.

The second of two big defeats in three rounds – after a 4-0 start – came in a virtual elimination final against Fremantle in Perth, and meant the Dockers, not the Roos, progressed to a preliminary final.

The first loss was to eventual premier Adelaide, the all-conquering side which preoccupied much of Gowans and co.'s thinking in the past 12 months.

"We're happy to say we're in it to win it this year – absolutely happy to say it – because we are," Gowans told womens.afl.

"We spoke about that and how we conduct ourselves. It's not about being arrogant and it's not about being disrespectful to the opposition.

"But, if you think you're in the space to win it, then you need to eat, breathe and sleep it … If you fall short, you fall short. I don't see the point in beating around the bush."

Gowans highlighted the Crows and the Dockers as the best sides his team faced, along with the Demons, who he thought were "really stiff" not to beat his Roos, too.

The common thread? Their big-bodied midfield brigades, with Adelaide especially impressive because of its slick ball use on top.

North Melbourne didn't quite stack up in that area, so the club's list management crew, led by Gowans and Rhys Harwood, devised a plan centred on the belief it is a flag contender.

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The Roos bypassed the best kids in the draft, besides tough Tasmanian teenager Mia King, in preference of mature talent.

They selected Ellie Gavalas (23 years old) with a top-10 pick, then added Sarah Wright (25), King (18), Tahni Nestor (28) and Abbey Green (23).

Even North's Irish recruits, Aileen Gilroy (26) and Mairead Seoighe (27), fitted the bill.

"The kids that come into the system, unless they're special, are not equipped, body size-wise, to do that stuff," Gowans said.

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"We didn't necessarily go for bash and crash (types) but we went for mature bodies that are not so much used to the contest but are physically used to being buffeted around in a sport, if that makes sense.

"In that case, it's the Irish Gaelic game, such as Aileen and Mairead.

"Plus, the mature players probably think to themselves, 'This is my last opportunity to make AFLW', so they really want it … (and) they've got a bit of physicality and aggression about their game."

The Crows are the team everyone else is chasing, something Gowans acknowledges.

But he's confident the Kangaroos are at least the equal of Matthew Clarke's playing group once the Sherrin is away from a stoppage situation, as they plot to make inroads on the inside.

A new-found dedication to numbers, coinciding with former Champion Data guru Glenn Luff's increased influence at Arden St, is also set to play a role in North's planned ascension.

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"If I was speaking to you 12 months ago, I would have said I just coach on instinct and watching the game, which I still will, but my approach has evolved," Gowans said.

"Glenn Luff is a genius – I'm convinced. He will tell you, if you speak to him, he hates stats, but his thing is the stats that matter are just as important as what you see on the ground.

"If it's five stats that are key to you winning or if it's 25, it doesn't matter. But they've got to correlate to your style and the personnel you've got."