North Melbourne's Emma Kearney says extra AFLW game 'a step in the right direction'

HAVING A BLAST: North Melbourne midfielder Emma Kearney is preparing for the 2021 AFLW season. It comes after COVID-19 cut last season short. Picture: Getty Images

HAVING A BLAST: North Melbourne midfielder Emma Kearney is preparing for the 2021 AFLW season. It comes after COVID-19 cut last season short. Picture: Getty Images

FORMER AFLW best and fairest winner Emma Kearney says adding an extra round to the fixture is a step in the right direction.

The North Melbourne midfielder told The Standard a decision to expand the 2021 home-and-away season from eight matches to nine was a positive for the 14-team competition.

"To have that extra game is moving in the right direction," the Cavendish-raised Kearney said.

"Obviously we'd love to be playing every single team at least once.

"It's a slow process but we'll eventually get to that stage where we're playing every team."

Kearney, 31, also backed a move to scrap the controversial conference system.

The top-six will contest the final series, to be run across three weeks.

"I think the one ladder is really good. I think most of the players didn't particularly like the conference system too much," she said.

"There is always that conjecture, one conference being stronger than the other."

The former Western Bulldogs midfielder, who won a premiership as a Bulldog in 2018, said the AFLW standard would be elevated in 2021.

She said the emergence of female programs, such as Victoria's NAB League, meant players were enjoying uninterrupted junior careers.

"These young girls coming through I am quite envious of the opportunities they were able to get," Kearney said.

"They are naturals, clean below their knees and their skills are up there with some of the best.

"In the next three, four or five years, the competition is going to explode with talent and it's going to be really exciting to watch."

The COVID-19 pandemic, which hit Australian shores in March, forced the 2020 AFLW season to be cancelled prematurely.

Kearney, who lives in a Melbourne apartment, spent time in lockdown during the city's second wave.

"I was fortunate I was still able to work (for The Huddle) albeit at home. I delivered a lot of my programs via Zoom," she said.

"Like us all we've got a bit of Zoom fatigue but I was in a position I was still able to work and engage with young people so that got me through lockdown."

North Melbourne, entering its third season, has appointed Darren Crocker as senior coach.

Kearney is excited to see what the Kangaroos can produce under their new mentor and on the back of an unusual off-season.

"Before we know it we'll be back into games again which will be really exciting," she said of the Roos' season-opener against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday, January 31.

"Having that really long break was good for me, I could mentally freshen up and give my body a bit of a rest.

"I have constantly been playing sport my entire life so it is probably the longest period I've had off since I was a young kid.

The ball magnet has been working on her stoppage and clearance craft and on "how I can pressure and tackle the opposition a bit more efficiently".

Kearney was North Melbourne captain last season. She said the players voted for their 2021 leader on Tuesday and the results to be unveiled at training on Saturday.

The AFLW season kicks off on January 28 with traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood to go head-to-head.

This story AFLW star backs extra round as 'move in right direction' first appeared on The Standard.