The Northern Bulldogs: Why the Kennel will feel like home for Fitzgerald

THERE are so many familiar faces for draftee Jess Fitzgerald at her new club, it may as well be renamed "the Northern Bulldogs". 

Fitzgerald is the fourth player from the Northern Knights to be drafted to the Western Bulldogs in two years, joining Gabby Newton, Nell Morris-Dalton and Britney Gutknecht.

The midfielder, selected with pick No.2 in the NAB AFLW Draft, said it was reassuring to walk through the VU Whitten Oval doors and see a few friendly faces.

YOUR CLUB'S DRAFT All you need to know about the 57 new faces

"It's time to change the name," Fitzgerald told womens.afl with a laugh.

"The girls didn't really pass on any tips, but I've been put in a (training) group of 10 with Nell, and she told me 'just make sure you bring a towel for the shower'. Thank God she did." 

Draft Prospect: Jess Fitzgerald

00:39 Sep 2. 2020. 2:34 PM

Northern Knights midfielder one to watch

The Knights – who won the NAB League Grand Final last year, with Fitzgerald best on ground – produced the top three Victorian picks this year.

"It was pretty amazing, with Ellie (McKenzie, Richmond) and 'Lyss' (Alyssa Bannan, Melbourne), but it's a credit to the club," she said.

"The culture there is awesome and the coaches want to get the best out of you as a player, but also as a person as well. I think that's what the clubs interested throughout the interview process, the Knights girls are stellar people as well." 

INS, OUTS, TRADES, DRAFTEES, ROOKIES Every club's complete list for 2021

The laid-back Fitzgerald watched the draft livestream on the couch in her pyjamas, celebrating with "a few pieces of chocolate and a Milo".

She's close friends with Newton, having played basketball at Diamond Valley and footy at the Knights together. 

In a moment of pure happiness, Fitzgerald was caught by a photographer celebrating the debut of last year's No.1 pick. 

"That was her first game in the League, so I had to get around her. She had a whole bunch of family and friends there, we were just a massive group in the middle of Moorabbin," Fitzgerald said. 

"I just felt like getting around her. I'm always her hype woman, so I had the big poster. I was screaming, and I didn't think she was going to see me, but she turned at the last minute and got really pumped. 

"I can't remember what the poster said, it was something about Gabby being the GOAT. It was something quite stupid, but I hope she appreciated it."

The introduction of the AFLW in 2017 gave the then-15-year-old Fitzgerald something concrete to aim for. Barracking for Collingwood in the AFL, but "her friends" in the AFLW, she enjoyed watching the likes of hard-nosed midfielders Jaimee Lambert and Kirsty Lamb.

AFLW Draft wrap: Biggest winners and surprises

03:59 Oct 6. 2020. 9:22 PM

Nat Edwards, Mel Hickey and Sarah Black wrap up the 2020 NAB AFLW Draft

"I've heard Kirsty likes country music, which I also like and cop some crap for as well, so that'll be good. Strength in numbers," she said with a grin. 

Fitzgerald has also previously worked with coach Nathan Burke at Vic Metro in 2019, a team she very nearly didn't make. 

RECAP Who went where? Every pick as it happened in historic draft

"I came into the squad late. I didn't initially get picked, which I was quite shattered about, and I got the call up which was pretty exciting," she said.

"He came up to me in the first training session and just said, 'you've been overlooked, and we've got you here for a reason now, so just do your thing. We know what you can do, so just back yourself,' which has stuck with me since then."