No Mo: Roos coach reveals why Hope was delisted

IT WAS a delisting that raised eyebrows among footy fans.

On paper, Moana Hope was a former Collingwood marquee forward, who had crossed to North Melbourne and performed adequately without setting the world on fire, kicking eight goals from seven matches.

But Kangaroos coach Scott Gowans has spoken about exactly why Hope wasn't offered a contract for the 2020 season, and it's all down to defence.

Gowans said the virtual elimination final loss to Fremantle in the final round of the 2019 NAB AFLW season – which relegated the Roos to third place in Conference A – led to a shift in mindset from the North Melbourne brains trust.

"Mo is a loss, there's absolutely no doubt about that. I've spoken about this a bit. Mo kicked eight goals, she was involved in a lot of scoring chains, she did her job," Gowans told womens.afl

"But if you're going to play a team defence – which wasn't one of Mo's strongest assets – I feel you have to either go with it (entirely) or not at all.

That was pretty much what we made the decision based on.

Scott Gowans

The Fremantle loss was noticeable for the way the Kangaroos – who were a competition pace-setter early in the season – struggled to repel wave after wave of attacking play.

"Part of the next step is to do with team defence and introducing a way to play football when you're behind the footy, to do with the scoreboard," Gowans said.

"Everything we do is based off the scoreboard. There'll be times when we're one v one, there'll be times when we're plus-one, there'll be times when we have a different way to move the ball. That is team defence, for me, not just a particular shape. 

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"The focus has been on education for the players about recognising the match conditions and changing the way we play accordingly."

As to Hope's replacement up forward, All Australian Emma King looks a likely option, given the addition of Launceston ruck Abbey Green through the draft.

Emma King could be a good option up forward. Picture: AFL Photos

King spent some time during matches up forward in 2019, splitting ruck duties with Kate Gillespie-Jones and kicking eight majors for the season.

Her 187-centimetre frame is very difficult to stop coming out of the square, and she is a strong contested mark.

"Someone has to replace those eight goals (Hope kicked), and Kingy's the one, I think," Gowans said.

"I reckon the younger players – Daisy Bateman, Elisha King, people like that – they've been really good over the summer, so they're going to step up too.

"Sophie Abbatangelo only kicked two goals last year, so again, there's more goals in her football. I reckon we can replace Mo, but you do lose that bit of experience offensively."

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The Roos are one of the sides expected to seriously challenge Adelaide's claim to the AFLW throne, but one on-field headache Gowans has to solve is the loss of All Australian defender Jess Duffin.

They've been allowed to replace the pregnant Duffin with a player – Melbourne Uni's Vivien Saad – but as a key forward, Saad is not a like-for-like, meaning someone else will have to fill Duffin's intercept role.

"I don't know, I've thought about this so much. I truly believe if we were playing like we were last year, the answer would be it's a huge loss for us, and it still is a really big loss," he said.

"But I think with the way we're going to defend this year, it isn't as big a loss, if that makes sense? From a ball movement perspective, Jess is the best in the team. From a defensive position, she wasn't the best in the team – she was good, but not the best. 

"In hindsight, bringing (draftee) Tahni Nestor on board was a great move, because we're able to replace and be more defensive than we were last year."

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