New-look North set for “fresh voice” in 2024

A NEW-LOOK coaching group and a number of fresh faces is set to provide a different element to North Adelaide in 2024 as incoming head coach Jason Fairall hopes to guide the Roosters back up the SANFL Women’s ladder.

Taking over from three-time premiership coach Krissie Steen, Fairall still has the foundations of the 2022 SANFL Women’s premiership side, and while plenty of talent has moved on since that day, the new mentor is excited by what he has seen on the track.

“It’s been good coming in and they’ve obviously had talent leave the program over the last 12/24 months but we’ve brought in a lot of young kids which has been great this off-season because there wasn’t a lot in the program the year before,” Fairall said.

“We’ve also got a fairly experienced group. The top-end is really elite, and now it’s just a matter of bringing some of my flair into their program.”

Fairall spent time with the South Australian Under 16s boys side last season after stepping down from his head coach role at Glenelg at the end of the 2022 season. A premiership coach himself, Fairall concedes he was “pretty cooked” and though he was not going to feature again at the level, but the coaching “bug” came for a bite.

Admitting North Adelaide was one of the few clubs he might consider applying for, when the job position became available, Fairall decided to dip his toes back in the water.

“They’re a well resourced club, they prioritise their women’s program higher than most, and definitely the support they’ve got around there I don’t feel I’ll burn out in this role,” Fairall said. “Certainly not as quickly anyway so from that point of view, that was my decision making process around that.”

As for what the experienced coach can add to the club, he said his “fresh voice” would be the starting point. Fairall also said the coaching staff had enabled the leaders to take control of the club’s culture for themselves.

“I guide them, but they are actually driving the culture and the standards,” Fairall said. “That’s something I believe in, so that’s how we’ve set up the program this year. I’m also a believer of not being reliant on talent to play at a high level, so we won’t be a talent-based program either, we’ll be more about playing roles, understanding the gameplan and executing.”

Boasting a lot of bottom-age and double bottom-age talents, the Roosters have a couple of top-age State Academy members in Laela Ebert and recruit Jemma Charity who crossed from the Eagles over the off-season. Both players are versatile types and Fairall is ensuring that will be a key focus of the 2024 Roosters’ outfit.

“Those that know me as a coach know I like to create versatile players,” Fairall said. “I’m not pidgeonholing them for any particular spot. Where there’s a need, and where we think they can play their best footy is where they’ll play any given week and preface that by saying they’ve trained in all areas of the ground all preseason so it’s not like we’ll spring it on them and make it hard for them, they’re actually in a very good position to know what it’s like to play in every area of the ground.”

Fairall named bottom-ager Jayde Visser and top-ager Amalie Innes as a couple of players to watch for the 2024 season, while from a mature-age perspective, premiership winger Julia Clark, and Laura Niejalke – who played the one League game last season – as others to keep an eye on.

South Australian representative Laela Ebert is one to watch this season. Image credit: Rookie Me Central

Fairall said in terms of how the Roosters were placed, it was “really hard to know” given the high volume of new coaches and players to the club in 2024.

“I’m certainly not put a ceiling on, but I expect we’ll get better as the season progresses,” Fairall said. “But I also think that our best will be able to contend with anyone’s. It will just be a matter of how quickly we can adapt to what we want to do that’s new and how consistent we will perform that.”

North Adelaide takes on Glenelg in the opening round of the SANFL Women’s season, and while externally the clash between the Roosters and Fairall’s former club is a tantalising prospect straight out of a movie script, the North head coach said he would prefer it to fly under the radar.

“I hoped it would be buried in the middle of the fixture to be honest but anyhow it’s there,” Fairall said. “It has been on my mind a little bit but I’ve got a lot of great friends there so to actually plan to go into battle against them feels a little bit weird. It is what it is.

“In some ways getting it out of the way early might be a good thing anyway, but at the end of the day it’s not about me, and it’s certainly not about any relationships I had there. This is about the players, it’s a players game, so certainly there will be nothing from me leading up to that game that will indicate to our players that there’s any more on the line than any other week, it’s just another game that we need to win.”

As for the full season, Fairall said the expectations for the Roosters was going to be more about the process than the results, with the latter to come once the former had been taken care of consistently.

“It’s going to sound very generic, but there’s a way we want to play and I would just like to think we can become very consistent at that,” Fairall said.

“At the moment we’ve shown some patches in our trial games of executing it exceptionally well, but we just want to be able to do that for a longer period of time. If there’s something I want us to be known for, it is to be hard to play against, and to be consistent with what we’re doing.”

North Adelaide tackles Glenelg at Thebarton Oval in Saturday, March 2 from 7pm.

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