NORTH Melbourne has shifted its Tasmanian-based players to Melbourne for the 2021 pre-season.
The Roos have four of their squad of 30 hailing from the southern state, but Nicole Bresnehan, Mia King, Daria Bannister and Brooke Brown have now made the move north, having previously had a separate training base.
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Ellie Gavalas and Britt Gibson are also from Tasmania but have been living in Melbourne in recent years.
"We're really keen to have a full-squad mentality, especially with the season building out a bit (to nine home and away rounds), so it's going to be really important to rely on all 30 girls," coach Darren Crocker told womens.afl.
"I've been catching up with them individually over the last few weeks, and there was a bit of apprehension and tension from the Tassie girls initially, but now they're up here, they can't believe it's taken them this long to get here.
"I'm pleased, because a few of the meetings in 2020 where the girls were zooming in from Tassie, it was pretty difficult. They weren't getting the actual education and individual development they needed to grow their games, which they're hopefully getting now."
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Crocker was appointed to the role in June, after the contract of popular coach Scott Gowans was not renewed in response to the financial impact of COVID-19.
He also works in talent identification in the club's AFL program, but has had years of coaching experience (including acting senior coach for the AFL side), and revealed a pre-existing connection to the AFLW team.
"Last year, I got asked to come and help with the stoppage work, so I was helping 'LJ' (Lauren Morecroft) with some of the set-ups, things I'd seen and if there was anything we could change up," Crocker said.
"I'd be watching games and texting (list manager and performance analyst) Rhys Harwood to 'tell the girls to get in a bit tighter' or 'get the ball on the outside'."
Crocker played 165 games for North Melbourne from 1985-98, and is consequently well-versed in the difficulties of juggling top-flight football with external work and study commitments.
"I've found it quite inspiring and it has taken me back to when I was playing footy. I've got three nurses, three teachers, three mums, two policewomen, and they've all got their challenges on their hands," he said.
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"Jas (Garner) and Jenna (Bruton) come from up Trentham way, we've got Grace Campbell from Bendigo, 'Hyph' (Kate Gillespie-Jones) is working in Dandenong, Dani Hardiman is down in Casey, they're coming from everywhere.
"I've got a philosophy that you don't treat everyone the same, you treat them fairly.
"There's going to be girls who miss training because they have to do overtime, or they've had a tough day, or something's happened at work, or they've been caught in traffic because they're coming from an hour and a half away.
"Just turn around and go home, go for a kick or a run around your area and we'll see you at the next session."
2020 draft haul
"Rhys Harwood does a terrific job as our list manager, so I just came in on the backend of his and others' thoughts. We don't actually just see them all – especially Bella Eddey, Alice O'Loughlin and Amy Smith – as forwards, we think all in time can graduate through the midfield.
"Alice has a great tank and nice skills, Bella has got really beautiful skills and Amy, as far as tanks are concerned, she came straight in and won our yo-yo, so she can run. We can see her playing at both ends and maybe on a wing.
"Brooke Brown can play ruck, down back or forward, so we didn't actually see it as just going for forwards."
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Getting to know players during lockdown
"I reckon just before the second lockdown, I went for walks and coffee with three of the girls, then we went into lockdown, and I had another 22 (pre-draft) to go.
"It was a lot of zooms. I set up a self-evaluation task for the girls, getting them to reflect on themselves, a little around their football and also around them as people.
"It set up a really good starting point for the conversation, and gave me an opportunity to learn more about them and for them to learn a bit more about me."