MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 03: Jenna Bruton of the Kangaroos runs out with team mates during the AFLW Finals Series match between the Collingwood Magpies and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Victoria Park on April 03, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

After another finals appearance in 2021, North Melbourne are heading into this AFLW season with expectations planted firmly on their shoulders.

With a fixture that sees them face just four finals teams from 2021, North are primed to take it one step further this season if the side can overcome their inconsistency against top teams which led to their eventual downfall last season.

2021 recap

North stormed into the finals in 2021 with a final-round win securing 6th place on the ladder. With six wins and three losses, the Kangaroos proved themselves worthy of a finals appearance, but unfortunately made an early exit, losing to Collingwood by six points in the elimination final.

Jasmine Garner continued her excellent form to claim the club's best and fairest award for the second year in a row, while teammate and captain Emma Kearney joined her side as the only two Kangaroos selected in the All Australian team.

The Kangaroos capitalised on their midfield depth and star-power throughout 2021, with two strong opening rounds limiting their opposition, Geelong and St Kilda, to just nine and 10 points respectively. As the season progressed, the Kangaroos faltered against top teams, beating just one side (Fremantle) of the eventual top six.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 20: Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney of the Kangaroos pose with their AFLW All Australian award during the 2021 W Awards at Crown Palladium on April 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Off-season moves

The Roos were quiet during the AFLW trade period, bringing no fresh faces into the fold. Draft night was a success though, with six new young players, including pick no.13 Tess Craven, joining the side.

North remain fortunate on the injury side of things, with just Elisha King on the inactive list heading into the season after suffering an ACL tear in November.

With no recruits through trade, North will be looking at their six new draftees, including former premiership Bulldog Kim Rennie, to provide them with depth throughout the season.

Recruits: Nil

Draftees: Tess Craven, Jasmine Ferguson, Perri King, Ella Maurer, Kim Rennie, Tara Slender

Inactive: Elisha King (ACL)

Out: Vivien Saad (Gold Coast), Jasmine Grierson (GWS), Katelyn Cox, Kate Gillespie-Jones, Georgia Hammond, Beth Lynch, Tahni Nestor (delisted)

Strengths and weaknesses

Throughout 2021 North clearly displayed the depth of their side, only improved through the draft heading into 2022. With the ability to kick high scores against lower-ranked oppositions, the Kangaroos have few issues up forward, nor in the midfield. With All-Australian talent running through the team, North are well equipped to make a climb up the ladder and push deeper into finals.

However, North seem to falter when it matters against strong oppositions. The Kangaroos lost in their first finals match-up against the Pies, while the side failed to win a game against the top four in 2021, excluding Adelaide - who they never faced.

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While the Kangaroos seem to have solid talent in the team, particularly in the midfield, in 2021 this didn't help them overcome the top teams. With no drastic recruiting, it seems as if this could be the Kangaroos' biggest weakness heading into 2022 too.

Season summary

Geelong (H), Adelaide (A), GWS (H), Carlton (A), Fremantle (H), Richmond (A), Collingwood (H), Melbourne (A)

Defining period

The final four weeks of the season will see the Kangaroos face, with the exception of Richmond in Round 8, finals teams from 2021. Fremantle and Collingwood - who knocked North out of finals in 2021 - at home, followed by Melbourne away, will be the decisive month of the season for the Kangaroos.

Should they finally stamp their authority on the competition and make their mark against top six teams, the Kangaroos will be well on their way to a consecutive finals appearance.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 03: Emma Kearney (c) of the Kangaroos and Grace Campbell of the Kangaroos celebrate during the AFLW Finals Series match between the Collingwood Magpies and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Victoria Park on April 03, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Predictions

The Kangaroos will be a good side in 2022, but finals are never guaranteed. After a sixth-place finish last season, North Melbourne will be aiming for improvement and a shot to redeem themselves after an early finals exit.

Facing just four 2021 finals teams in their 2022 home and away fixture gives North an early advantage heading into the season and they should be primed to secure a top-six spot.

But in an increasingly competitive competition, should the Kangaroos fail to make the most of chances against the top teams, they could find themselves watching the late finals action from the sidelines once again.

Cameron Grimes: 3rd
Danielle Sorati: 7th
Ed Carmine: 2nd
Jake Benoiton: 6th
Michael Georgiou: 3rd
Mitch Keating: 3rd
Niesha Happell: 8th