Emma Kearney speaks to the players during the qualifying final between Melbourne and North Melbourne at Ikon Park on November 12, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

NORTH Melbourne captain Emma Kearney, the only player to feature in every AFLW All-Australian team, says a second premiership at the Kangaroos would be even sweeter than her first.

The Kangaroos upended the narrative around this finals series when they mauled reigning premier Melbourne on Sunday in the qualifying final, restricting the Demons to their second-lowest score.

North has been a step below the league's big three - Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane - but Sunday's 100 tackles and the commanding 41-point win have put the Kangaroos firmly in premiership contention.

Kearney was a key member of the Western Bulldogs team that won the second AFLW flag in 2018 and moved to North when it joined the league the next year.

The Bulldogs are the only other AFLW premiership team, along with Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, but Kearney said on Tuesday that going all the way this season would be a step up again.

"I was lucky enough to win one at the Bulldogs, but for me when (we) won one ... we'd only been in the competition for two years," she said.

"You don't get that really deep connection - I've been at the club now for six years and the connection, the changes in our list, we've really developed this nice culture.

"That's going to make it more special ... yes, we want to aspire to win the premiership, but we need to get the (preliminary final) job done first."

North has the weekend off before it hosts Adelaide or Sydney in a preliminary final.

Kearney called Sunday's win the best of her storied AFLW career and said they would not change much for the preliminary final.

"It would be definitely up there. It probably is the best win I've had," she said.

"Whoever we play, we want to try to replicate how we played against Melbourne - it was a good finals brand.

"We have to embrace the chaotic nature of the game, particularly in finals. It's not perfect."


The win also showed North had learned its lesson from losses to the Demons and Crows before the finals - especially being unable to handle Melbourne's pressure.

"So much of sport is between the ears and at times, whether we said it or not, the battle of that mental side of things got us," she said.

"We've slowly plugged away through the season and grown our belief."

Kearney, 34, is also working in North's AFL program as a development coach and is negotiating with the club to extend her playing contract.

"I'm loving my footy. I'm still feeling really mentally fresh," the league's 2018 best and fairest winner said.

"I've enjoyed the mix of working in the men's program, learning plenty from that, and then being able to translate that into my own footy.

"I still have enough good footy left in me. I am getting on ... I'm going to enjoy this next week, my old body.

"I love the energy our young players bring to the team, which keeps me young."