North Melbourne young gun George Wardlaw beaming after first AFL win in 19th game

North Melbourne young gun George Wardlaw beaming after first AFL win in 19th game
  • PublishedJune 12, 2024

It took 19 games across two seasons for North Melbourne young gun George Wardlaw to experience his first AFL win and he hopes last weekend’s stirring victory over West Coast could be a “turning point” for the club.

Wardlaw, the new favourite for the Rising Star award after suspensions ruled out both Harley Reid and Sam Darcy, is also adamant the continued midfield exposure of the raft of young stars at the Kangaroos can fast-track their development without the need to go shopping for experienced players in the off-season.

Sydney veteran Luke Parker’s name has been raised as someone North could go after, with the 31-year-old unable to break in to the ladder-leader’s side so far this season, while Port Adelaide’s Ollie Wines is another with links to the club through football boss Todd Viney.

But Wardlaw, the No.4 pick in the 2022 draft who turned 20 on Tuesday, said he and young teammates, including last year’s rising star winner Harry Sheezel and Colby McKercher, should be given the chance to take the club into the future.

“We like that it’s an opportunity for the youth to get in there, give us some experiences, expose us to the tough days and the good days, and that will only fast-track our development,” he said on Tuesday while he waited for a birthday cake at the club.

Given increased midfield time this season after injuries limited Wardlaw to just eight games in 2023, he said he was starting to feel like he belonged in there.

“It’s starting to get to that point,” he said.

“It’s not a straight and narrow, easy journey, but with the consistency and continuity of playing with those bigger bodies, spending more time on the guys, it’s going to help me in the long run.”

The Kangaroos only won three games in Wardlaw’s rookie season, and he didn’t play in any of them. Instead, he had to wait 388 days from his debut in round 10, 2023, to taste victory.

And even though it took 12 matches to break through in 2024, he said the momentum could take them to more in the coming weeks, including against reigning premiers Collingwood on Sunday.

“It means a lot to me but it means a lot to the whole football club. Every part of the football club earnt that win, so we’ve come in today pretty proud,” he said.

“My junior football club struggled a little bit but one thing I have learned is when you do win, having been down for a little bit, it tastes that much sweeter. Hopefully, this can be a turning point in our season.

“We understand we’ve won one game this season. There’s a bit to celebrate but we also have a lot of work to do.”


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