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AFLW: How Cats, Kangas have built their lists

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THE INCLUSION of Geelong and North Melbourne in the NAB AFL Women's competition next year provides an opportunity to look at the different ways clubs can build a list from scratch.

The two sides have seemingly taken polar opposite approaches when signing players. 

North Melbourne has built the majority of its list around players from other AFLW teams, while Geelong has, on the whole, backed its own VFL Women's players to take the step up to the top level.

The two sides can continue to sign open-aged players who did not play AFLW in 2018 until they reach a list of 23. 

Geelong

Geelong has had the benefit of fielding a team in the VFLW competition since 2017, meaning it could start moulding the side it wanted to take into its first AFLW season ahead of time. 

Paul Hood has been the coach throughout and will lead the team in the AFLW competition next season, providing continuity for the program. 

Hood has been at Geelong since 2015, coaching the VFL side and working in player development, so is very familiar with the club's inner workings. His experience and knowledge will help him integrate a new side into the club.

The Cats have a number of girls from TAC Cup side Geelong Falcons feeding into their VFLW team this year once their under-18 commitments (TAC Cup and NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships) are finished.

Although these players will go into the general draft pool in October (meaning Geelong does not have exclusive access to them), coaches have had the opportunity to work closely with those they may wish to draft. 

The Cats have generally gone for tried and tested talent from their own backyard when constructing their AFLW side.

Recruited directly from their VFLW squad are full-back Rebecca Goring (captain), inside midfielder Renee Garing, speedy forward Danielle Orr (sister of North Melbourne's Shaun Higgins), midfielder Cassie Blakeway, versatile forward/midfielder Jordan Ivey (who's recovering from a knee reconstruction) and key forward Kate Darby. 

Of that group, only Darby and Ivey have played at AFLW level before. They each played two games for Carlton in 2017, with Ivey only signed by the Blues halfway through the season as an injury-replacement player.

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Most of their signings from other AFLW teams are also locals. Former Demon Richelle Cranston may hail from Ballarat, but has called Geelong home for at least five years now. Anna Teague (also from Melbourne) captained Geelong in the South East Australian Basketball League, while Erin Hoare (Melbourne) and Maddie Boyd (Greater Western Sydney), have returned home.

And one of the outliers, Melissa Hickey, may be from Mildura but her family ties to the Cats are strong, with her grandfather's cousin Reg a club icon. Hickey was previously Demons vice-captain. 

Melbourne midfielder Lily Mithen may be the one that got away. 

Having grown up in Geelong and now enjoying living and studying in Melbourne, she turned down a contract offer from Geelong to remain with the Dees. Returning to her home town may be on the cards in the future.

Former Melbourne teammates Lily Mithen (front) and Richelle Cranston collide in the VFL Women's. Picture: AFL Photos
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Western Bulldogs premiership ruck Aasta O'Connor will provide support for the relatively inexperienced Hoare and can also play at either end of the ground. 

With the addition of Giants pair Phoebe McWilliams and Boyd, Geelong is building an attack made up of strong-bodied, leading forwards.

The VFLW Cats like to run and carry the ball through the midfield, before hitting up leading forwards.

They are undefeated with a percentage of 188 after six games, with the second-highest points for total in the competition.

Geelong has a nice balance of attack and defence, with AFLW recruit Teague holding VFLW leading goalkicker Hannah Mouncey goalless in the Cats' latest clash, against the Darebin Falcons last weekend. 

If Geelong's AFLW side plays anything like its VFLW side, it will probably most closely resemble Melbourne – happy to run the ball through the middle by hand before hitting up targets such as McWilliams, Boyd and Darby.

As of mid-June, the Cats had a much smaller list than the Kangaroos and have a very healthy hand going into October's draft, including five picks inside the top 20. 

Forwards
Maddie Boyd
Kate Darby
Phoebe McWilliams
Danielle Orr 

Midfielders
Cassie Blakeway
Richelle Cranston
Renee Garing
Jordan Ivey 

Defenders
Rebecca Goring
Melissa Hickey
Anna Teague 

Rucks
Erin Hoare
Aasta O'Connor 

Draft picks
1, 2, 7, 14, 20, 24, 35, 46, 56, 61, 66, 70, 73, 76, 78

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North Melbourne 

North Melbourne has an alliance with VFLW side Melbourne University dating back to 2010, and that relationship has proven to be a drawcard for some recruits. 

'Uni' has trained at North Melbourne's base at Arden Street for several years, and club president (and former player) Laura Kane is the Kangaroos' football operations manager.

The biggest name in AFLW this year, Emma Kearney, is one who joined because of the connection.

In 2018, Kearney helped lead the Bulldogs to a premiership, won the competition's best and fairest award and was the AFL Coaches Association player of the year (alongside Adelaide's Chelsea Randall).

Less than two weeks after the Grand Final, she announced she was going to make the move to North Melbourne.

Classy Brisbane midfielder Kaitlyn Ashmore is another who has returned to her VFLW roots to join Kearney at the Roos. 

Kaitlyn Ashmore made her AFLW name with the Lions before joining North. Picture: AFL Photos
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Other Melbourne Uni signings include VFLW captain Ashleigh Riddell and dangerous small forward Sophie Abbatangelo, both considered unlucky not to be drafted last year.

There's also another layer of complexity in regard to the Kangaroos' list build. Officially known as the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos, the club has a commitment to listing Tasmanian players and assisting in the development of the game in the state. 

To that end, the club signed Brisbane's Brittany Gibson, Western Bulldog Daria Bannister, Melbourne's Emma Humphries and Maddison Smith, who is from Clarence (in the state's south) and hasn't played AFLW before.

The Roos are aiming to have a third of their list (10 players) from Tasmania in their first season and have already signed four.

The Tasmanian contingent will train in its home state, in a similar set-up to Adelaide's dual training camps in Adelaide and Darwin.

Other than that, North Melbourne has been extremely targeted in its approach, making offers to high-quality players from a variety of clubs who play a mix of positions.

The brains trust of the club's AFLW program chose to develop a game plan they believe will be successful in the competition, and target players who suit that, rather than going after the best talent available and creating a game plan later. 

Recruiting the likes of Collingwood forwards Jasmine Garner, Moana Hope and Jess Duffin indicates they are planning on a fast-running game with mobile forwards who can easily cover the ground, rather than relying on a big key forward who can out-muscle opponents.

Having one of the premier rucks in the competition in ex-Magpie Emma King tapping it down to Kearney, with Ashmore lurking on the wing, will give opposition teams headaches. 

North also signed highly talented young defenders Danielle Hardiman (Carlton), Tahlia Randall (Brisbane) and Jasmine Grierson (Melbourne), with a clear eye to the future. 

The Kangaroos' strong recruiting has resulted in a comparatively weaker draft hand than the Cats, with their first pick at 25.

Forwards
Sophie Abbatangelo
Daria Bannister
Jess Duffin
Jasmine Garner
Moana Hope
Maddison Smith 

Midfielders
Kaitlyn Ashmore
Jenna Bruton
Brittany Gibson
Emma Humphries
Emma Kearney
Elisha King
Georgia Nanscawen
Jamie Stanton
Ashleigh Riddell 

Defenders
Kate Gillespie-Jones
Jasmine Grierson
Danielle Hardiman
Tahlia Randall 

Rucks
Emma King

Draft picks
25, 36, 53, 57, 62, 67, 71, 74, 77