Tag: Carlton

Six sides race for last VFL Women’s spot

THERE are just five rounds remaining in the 2021 VFL Women’s season, and the ladder has well and truly taken shape. With the top five teams having seemingly created enough separation – three wins or 12 points and a percentage difference that will never be matched – from teams in the bottom six, it is fair to say that Essendon and Casey Demons’ 6-3 records and 165 per cent-plus will be enough for them to join the unbeaten Collingwood, and top three sides Port Melbourne (8-1) and Geelong (7-2) in the finals series. This leaves one spot for a side to grab hold of and we look at those in the running.

SOUTHERN SAINTS:

Position: 6th
Wins: 4
Losses: 5
Percentage: 104.8

As the saying goes, sixth spot is the Saints’ to lose. A recent defeat at the hands of the Western Bulldogs would have hurt the Saints, but they bounced back with an important win over Hawthorn last round. They have a superior percentage to the teams below them – 30.7 per cent higher than the next best side – which means they would need to fall in a heap to drop outside on percentage. Effectively they are a game and a half ahead of other sides with that extra percentage, so one would think that two wins in the final five matches should do it, and three wins certainly will do it – as long as the two losses are not severe.

Opponents: Port Melbourne, Geelong, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Carlton

That is one stiff draw for the Saints, coming up against two of the genuine title contenders in the next two rounds means they could slip outside the six from Round 11 if they drop them both. Whilst the final three are a little bit easier, they lost to the Bulldogs a fortnight ago, and the trio of sides are all the next in line to take their spot. Talk about pressure and making them earn it, none are guaranteed, though they should pick up a couple of wins. Will it be enough? Only time will tell.

NORTH MELBOURNE:

Position: 7th
Wins: 3
Losses: 6
Percentage: 74.1

For a side that has been heavily favouring VFL Women’s listed players compared to many of its AFLW-aligned counterparts, North Melbourne should be pretty happy with where it sits in the scheme of things. If Southern Saints do indeed lose their next two games, then the Roos could pounce with some favourable results. Ticking over an important win two starts ago against Carlton was unfortunately cancelled out by the heavy loss to Casey in Round 9, but they were helped by the fact their nearest rivals – Western Bulldogs and Carlton – both had huge defeats to reduce their percentages further.

Opponents: Collingwood, Hawthorn, Essendon, Southern Saints, Port Melbourne

An even harder draw than the Saints, North Melbourne face three of the top four sides, as well as the Saints in what could ultimately be a do-or-die clash. The game against bottom three side Hawthorn is a must-win for the Roos, as that appears to be the best chance for a win, though if they do load up on some AFL Women’s talent, then they have enough talent on the list to worry most sides. The Hawks are no easy beats either with the list they are assembling, so again, no easy games here.

WESTERN BULLDOGS:

Position: 8th
Wins: 3
Losses: 6
Percentage: 69.6

One step forward, three steps back is probably apt for the Western Bulldogs at the moment, with some great strides made in the past few weeks undone at the hands of a ruthless Geelong outfit last week. On paper the Bulldogs had the talent to match the Cats, but were blown off the park, and will be hungry to make up for it this week. This issue is, now the Bulldogs have copped a huge percentage blow, and will have to earn a finals spot via wins rather than percentage, which will mean they will need a minimum of three wins, and hope the Saints do not grab their two victories. Realistically though, the Dogs probably need to win four out of five to be a chance.

Opponents: Carlton, Essendon, Southern Saints, Casey Demons, Collingwood

Needing four wins to get in – and even then probably needing results to go their way, the Bulldogs simply must beat Carlton to be a chance, especially with four top six teams to round out their year. The Saints are a side they beat, and the only AFLW-aligned side they have managed to defeat this year. They might get two to three wins, but the last fortnight – with Casey and Collingwood not mucking around when it comes to AFLW talent – the Bulldogs need to head into those games with three consecutive wins under their belt.

CARLTON:

Position: 9th
Wins: 3
Losses: 6
Percentage: 71.8

The biggest outsider of the possibilities, the Blues have really struggled to score when they have lost, but have shown patches of brilliance, such as their hard-fought loss to Port Melbourne a couple of weeks back. Had they snatched that one, the Blues would be in prime position for sixth spot, but instead, they have the lowest percentage of the teams jostling to force their way back in the top six, and will be needing a miracle to not only notch up the required likely four of five wins, but hope results go their way as well, much like the Western Bulldogs with a sub-70 per cent.

Opponents: Western Bulldogs, Casey Demons, Geelong, Williamstown, Southern Saints

The fortnight of Casey Demons and Geelong will be a painful one based on recent results, but if the Blues can cause an upset there, then it is game on. The other three matches are winnable, but certainly not guarantees by any stretch. A loss to the Western Bulldogs this week would effectively put a line through the Blues finals chances, as it means they would need to beat both Casey and Geelong, which is asking a fair bit given what those sides have been able to achieve.

HAWTHORN:

Position: 10th
Wins: 2
Losses: 7
Percentage: 72.3

Hawthorn seem like the side that might not make finals, but they could certainly ruin some chances and play the role of party pooper along the way. They are not completely out of the running despite just winning the two games, but they need a near-perfect run from here, pretty much winning all five games to lock themselves in, or four and hope for the best with results. The one plus is they have the second highest percentage of teams in the bottom six, though that is still too far away from the sixth placed Saints.

Opponents: Darebin, North Melbourne, Williamstown, Port Melbourne, Geelong

What makes Hawthorn intriguing is the fact that they face the two bottom sides, as well as the inconsistent North Melbourne, in the next three weeks. If the Hawks can pull off three wins – one would expect they at least claim two of those – then it would give the other sides competing for a finals spot something to think about. One would suggest they probably fall short with Port Melbourne and Geelong in the final fortnight, but expect them to give it a red hot crack to the line.

WILLIAMSTOWN:

Position: 11th
Wins: 2
Losses: 7
Percentage: 50.1

Definitely into the mathematical chances now, with the Seagulls having had just the two wins this season and have a really low percentage with some heavy losses. They would need to be in a similar boat to Hawthorn, winning just about all of them, or hoping to win four and have results go their way.

Opponents: Casey Demons, Darebin, Hawthorn, Carlton, Essendon

Admittedly it is not the worst draw for the Seagulls, but they are bottom two for a reason, though they could really cause some headaches for the top sides. They have been competitive for the most part at times, and just blown away here or there to really impact their percentage, but with games against the other bottom four sides, Williamstown on a good day could come away with three wins. It would not be enough for finals though, with Casey and Essendon both having that extra class with AFLW talent.

The ‘Vescio Show’ takes over the Sunshine State

CARLTON star forward Darcy Vescio put on an absolute clinic at Metricon Stadium to lead the Blues to a dominant 60-point win over Gold Coast. Vescio collected 15 disposals and kicked a personal-best five goals in the performance, becoming the first AFLW player to boot 40 career goals in the process. If not for her unselfishness in the second half, Vescio could well have finished with seven or eight majors.

Vescio was well supported by speedster Georgia Gee (13 disposals, two marks), Breann Moody (16 disposals, six marks, one goal) and Grace Egan (19 disposals, four tackles). For the Suns, Alison Drennan (19 disposals, nine tackles) and Lauren Ahrens (18 disposals, four marks, five tackles) worked hard until the final siren.

With a score of 13.9 (87), the Blues broke the AFLW all-time scoring record of 12.14 (86) set by the Western Bulldogs during their premiership-winning 2018 season. This was a must-win clash for Carlton to stay in the finals hunt, and a healthy percentage boost was always going to help their cause. The match marked the first time that Carlton has played outside Victoria this season, so it was going to be interesting to see how they came out of the blocks.

To the shock of many, it was Gold Coast who got off to a flyer. The hosts got the ball out the back of Carlton’s defence very easily in the opening minutes. Firstly, Samantha Virgo got out the back and dribbled through a clever goal on the outside of her boot, and then Maddison Levi sprinted onto the end of a kick over the top to put through the Suns’ second. Carlton’s defence was slow and shaky at the outset, while Gold Coast were getting first hands on the ball in the middle. After Drennan kicked the Suns’ third, Carlton lifted their intensity and were able shift the momentum. Gee produced some brilliant play down the wing to allow Vescio to kick the Blues’ first. Soon after, reigning AFLW Best and Fairest Maddy Prespakis missed a golden opportunity to kick the Blues’ second, so the Suns took a 12-point advantage into quarter time.

Vescio looked more dangerous up forward in the second, kicking two consecutive left foot snaps out of congestion to give the Blues the lead. While the Suns got multiple inside 50s, they were ineffective with their ball use going forward and Carlton’s defence put up much greater resistance. After Vescio missed a chance at her fourth from straight in front, first-year Sun Lucy Single made her pay by using her pace through the middle of the ground and kicking an incredible Goal of the Year contender. Despite this, Natalie Plane kicked a nice goal straight from the next centre clearance to give Carlton back the lead going into the main break.

Vescio opened the third with her fourth goal, and the Suns were immediately on the back foot. This is where Carlton opened up the margin, as they held the Suns goalless in the third term and kicked five goals of their own. Although Gold Coast could get the ball inside 50, Carlton repeatedly had numbers back and counterattacked with force. They went coast-to-coast and Lucy McEvoy steadied to kick her first, then Nicola Stevens took a strong contested mark and kicked truly. When Vescio set up Brooke Walker for another major, Carlton had kicked eight of the last nine goals for the game. Lauren Brazzale extended the Blues’ lead to an unrecoverable margin for Gold Coast at three-quarter time.

The ‘Vescio Show’ continued in the final term, as she took a classic high mark in the goal square and drilled her fifth. She then unselfishly set up ex-Demon Elise O’Dea for a goal with a handball over the top, and Plane kicked her second to bring the Blues to within striking distance of the AFLW scoring record. With under a minute remaining in the contest, Moody became the player to officially break the record by taking a contested mark and kicking truly from a set shot.

For Carlton’s finals hopes to remain alive, they must win their clash against GWS at Blacktown next Sunday and hope for other results to go their way. Meanwhile, Gold Coast will aim to end their difficult season on a high when they take on the bottom-placed Geelong at Metricon on Saturday.

GOLD COAST 3.1 | 4.2 | 4.2 | 4.3 (27)
CARLTON 1.1 | 4.4 | 9.5 | 13.9 (87)

GOALS:
Gold Coast: L. Single, S. Virgo, M. Levi, A. Drennan 1.
Carlton: D. Vescio 5, N. Plane 2, B. Walker, L. McEvoy, B. Moody, N. Stevens, L. Brazzale, E. O’Dea 1.

DC BEST:
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, L. Ahrens, L. Single, K. Howarth, K. Surman.
Carlton: D. Vescio, G. Gee, B. Moody, V. Laloifi, G. Egan.

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

 

For more AFLW news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

2021 VFLW season preview: Carlton

CARLTON has hit “the reset button” on its VFLW program and is looking towards long-term development in 2021 and beyond, according to new head coach Luke O’Shannessy. With vast experience in the talent pathways system, most notably at the Oakleigh Chargers, O’Shannessy says he is excited to see how the group progresses across his first season at the helm.

“It’s been a really interesting preseason for us,” O’Shannessy said. “We’ve had a significant list turnover for the last two years, so there’s a lot of new faces. “During summer and preseason there has been a big focus on squad bonding and that real connection between the playing group, and we’re starting to see that come to fruition. It’s great to see a group gel so quickly over a short preseason.

“I was really pleased with how the group came back after having 2020 put on pause from a structured and formal training sense, requiring players to drive their own training – whether that’s from a fitness or skills perspective. “When I came on board in late-October/early-November our first month was still online and I was really nervous I suppose, but I was very pleased that clearly they’d been putting in the hard yards over the Covid break and came back in really good shape.”

The long-term approach Carlton has adopted towards its VFLW program as a potential feeder to its AFLW squad has also pleased O’Shannessy. As an aligned club, the Blues will have access to AFLW-listed players who miss out on senior selection throughout the top flight season. O’Shannessy said the perks running concurrent competitions makes for a “win-win” for both programs.

“It can only benefit the program, he said. “We had nearly seven players go up and spend two weeks training with the AFLW program (during preseason). “It was invaluable for their development, the chance to go up and see how the AFLW program works, mingle and work with no-doubt their role models in the AFLW program and work under ‘Harf’ (Daniel Harford) and his crew.

“When they came back they were able to share some of their learnings, both positive and maybe some areas they needed to lift moving forward – whether it was their running capacity, the speed and intensity of training and match sim, the physicality – all those sorts of things that they learned.

“From the other side of things, over the last couple of practice matches, we’ve had the luxury of having between five and six AFLW-listed players spend a game with us and five of the six have been the same in both game, so we got a chance to get to know them from a staff point of view and the players have gotten to know them as well.

“They really slotted in seamlessly and we acknowledge that they’ve got aspirations to crack the senior side and we want to get them there through being able to perform with us, but at the same time we want to learn from them. “It’s only going to make us stronger and role model the sorts of match play and professional behaviours that we know they bring from an AFLW point of view.”

At the core of a fresh and young-looking squad are a couple of returning leaders who will head Carlton’s cause in 2021. Ally Bild was voted in as captain and will be supported by vice-captain Jen Lew, along with three others in a five-player leadership group. O’Shannessy identified his two official leaders as benchmark players for the side, while some promising recruits are also primed to make a splash.

“(Bild and Lew) are really setting the tone for the playing group and becoming real benchmarks for levels of professionalism on and off the field,” he said, “They’re ticking all the boxes and really role-modelling the sorts of behaviours that you’d like to see at VFLW level and beyond… there’s a reason they’ve been voted in as captain and vice-captain.

“We’ve got some players who have relocated down from Cairns in Jasmine Ware and Akayla Peterson. “Jasmine Ware is a small-medium defender, has really slotted in nicely and had her best showing in the weekend’s practice match. Akayla is a running outside player who can play tall but also run end-to-end. We see her being able to feature on the wing at times or as a half-forward hit-up target.

“Then we’ve got a lot of good young talent coming through as well… we’ve got Amber Micallef who’s a 19-year-old straight out of the NAB League, she’s going to feature strongly in the midfield. “They’re just a few names to keep an eye out for… I’m really keen to see each and every player in the squad because it’s my first year working with each of them, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they go this year.”

Carlton will also have access to 18 and 19-year-old NAB League-listed prospects, most significantly through its alignment to the Northern Knights talent region. AFLW Academy member Maykaylah Appleby has already spent some time training with the Blues, while 19-year-old Maeve Chaplin has had experience on the track with their AFLW program. Teleah Smart is also poised to join the squad, and was coached by O’Shannessy in the 2019 Vic Metro Under 16 squad alongside Appleby.

The Blues enjoyed two practice matches against the Western Bulldogs, going 1-1 in the games held at Princes Park and Whitten Oval. O’Shannessy said the repeat fixture ended up being “a blessing in disguise”, providing some valuable insight as his side prepares for season proper.

“We were able to benchmark ourselves against the same club twice to see what was the same, to compare and contrast our performance and that of the opposition,” he said. “From our point of view results ultimately don’t really matter, it’s all about what you see from game one to game two over a two-week period… we were really pleased to see that the girls put a really strong showing in game two.

“We liked a lot of game one, we saw some glimpses, but then we saw a really rounded performance in game two. “You could argue it was a real good three and a half quarters of really strong football that fills us as a squad with great confidence going into Round 1.

“We saw increased scoring from our point of view and an increased hunger for the contest, which is something we’re trying to build into the squad as two key pillars. “High-scoring and stronger around the contest with some good run-and-carry on the outside.”

Looking towards Round 1, the Blues are booked to take on Casey Demons at Princes Park on Saturday afternoon. O’Shannessy said the squad is about “90 per cent” good to go, with some returning players set to make team selection a difficult one come Thursday.

“We’re ready to rock and roll and I couldn’t ask to be in a better spot at this time of the year,” he said.

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) @carltonfc_w via Twitter

Dogs bite late to overrun Blues

AFTER a heartbreaking Round 1 loss to St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs have bounced back to take a huge scalp by defeating title contenders Carlton in a massive Pride Round win. The Bulldogs looked down and out through parts of the match, particularly at the final break, but the inspirational effort from captain Ellie Blackburn saw the skipper drag her team over the line and win 6.6 (42) to 5.6 (36).

When the young Dogs needed a hero, Blackburn stepped up, kicking two majors in the final term, as Carlton had a lot of possession in the front half of the ground but could not muster up a score. They had looked good after leading at every break prior to the final term, with a three-point quarter time lead, five-point half-time lead and 10-point three quarter time lead.

Despite the Melbourne weather threatening to cause all sorts of havoc on the game, it was fitting that in Pride Round a rainbow emerged from behind the clouds, and provided hope for a Dogs side that just found a way to get off the canvas and muster a win. The home team also had to overcome an early injury to Bailey Hunt who went down with a calf injury and forced coach Nathan Burke to reshuffle the magnets.

There were no shortage of memorable moments in the match, such as Jess Fitzgerald‘s remarkable first goal after great work, and then a Kirsten McLeod running special into an open goal. Despite Tayla Harris finding her range – including a long-bomb, Carlton could not step up when it counted, and once again lost a game by a narrow margin.

Blackburn was easily best-on for her 22 disposals, five marks, three tackles and two gaols, while Madison Prespakis could hardly be faulted in a herculean effort. The reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) won 24 touches, took two marks and laid six tackles, well aided by Georgia Gee (17 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) and first-year talent Mimi Hill (19 disposals).

For the Dogs, Fitzgerald showed why the club had faith to use pick two on her with a 15-disposals, four-mark, four-tackle and maiden goal game. Gabby Newton (14 disposals, two marks and six tackles) and Kirsty Lamb (16 disposals, two marks and eight tackles) were also impressive, while McLeod made the most of her eight touches with two goals.

The result means the Bulldogs move to 1-1 for the season, while the Blues ponder how they can capitalise when it counts. The year they made the AFLW Grand Final the Blues were 0-2 and found a way to get there, and Daniel Harford will need to pull out something special again in the nine-round season.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.3 | 2.4 | 3.6 | 6.6 (42)
CARLTON
1.0 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs:
 Blackburn 2, McLeod 2, Huntington, Fitzgerald
Carlton: Harris 2, O’Dea, Loynes, Gee

BEST 
Western Bulldogs:
 Blackburn, Fitzgerald, Lamb, Newton, McLeod
Carlton: Prespakis, Gee, Hill, Harris, Hosking

Picture credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

2021 AFLW Preview: Carlton Blues

CARLTON proved its rise from wooden spooner to grand finalist was no flash in the pan, establishing itself as one of the competition’s powerhouses with another strong campaign in 2020. This year, the Blues are primed for another premiership tilt under much-loved coach Daniel Harford, starting with a season-opening blockbuster against traditional rival, Collingwood at Princes Park.

2020 RECAP

2020 ended as a ‘what if’ season for each preliminary finalist, but the Blues looked like a side daring to dream after their surprise grand final appearance the year before. Having finished second in Conference B at 5-1, Carlton fended off a pesky Brisbane outfit in the first week of finals to cap a five-game win streak at the ideal time.

A first-ever loss to fierce rival, Collingwood in Round 2 came as a shock but only seemed to click the Blues into gear thereafter as they answered every challenge with aplomb. Harford’s Blues became known for their fighting spirit, stringent yet dynamic structures, and the ability to take over games when it mattered.

Madison Prespakis was among those to enjoy stellar individual seasons, taking out the AFLW best and fairest award in just her second campaign. Spearhead Tayla Harris and co-captain Kerryn Harrington earned All Australian honours alongside the star midfielder, showcasing Carlton’s strength through the spine and just why the Blues remain bonafide premiership contenders.

NEW FACES

The acquisition of Elise O’Dea, one of the competition’s premier midfielders, headlined a bumper trade and draft period for the Blues. Their squad depth, particularly through midfield is among the best in the league and O’Dea will work to take a load off Prepakis in the engine room.

Another former Demon in Maddy Guerin looks to be past her injury troubles having come through a preseason hitout unscathed, with her pace something the Blues valued before she landed at Princes Park. Charlotte Hammans, formerly of the Gold Coast was the third in-league signing, again bringing some dash and dare on the outer and up forward. Those kind of traits were clearly ones the Blues targeted heavily at the trade and draft tables.

Carlton welcomed a trio of Victorian guns through the draft too, adding to the already fearsome dynamism and versatility of its midfield group. Mimi Hill is already one of the coach’s favourites credit to her work ethic and adaptability, making her a chance to feature in the senior side early on. Daisy Walker has also taken well to senior level and fellow Sandringham Dragons graduate Winnie Laing is an exciting runner who, like Hill, captained her NAB League team.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Carlton players and staff alike have lauded the condition Abbie McKay has returned in for season 2021, with the league’s maiden father-daughter selection set to take on some added responsibility in her third senior campaign. Expect to see even more of her through the Blues’ star-studded midfield; with her work-rate, conditioning, and hardness at the ball all traits which bode well for dominance at the contest.

Darcy Vescio is an established name but could take the competition by storm as she spends more time in the engine room, and livewire Georgia Gee is another who is looking to do the same. Inaugural Blue Jess Hosking will take on a new role as well having trained with the forwards during preseason.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Blues have become renowned for their ability to adjust to different gameplans under Harford, who has such a dynamic squad at his disposal. The versatility of Carlton’s crop makes it a scary proposition for all opposition coaches and players, able to flick a switch on gameday and play to a range of styles. In the midfield mix alone, the ball winning prowess of Prespakis, O’Dea, and Grace Egan will be complimented with the x-factor of Vescio and Gee, with a heap of moving parts able to impact at the coalface. While other teams excel in one style, the Blues can triumph in a range of ways and that is exactly why they can win it.

QUESTION MARK

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? The Blues are so strong through midfield and have a raft of options who can move through there when needed, but it raises the potential problem of overchoice. While versatility and adaptability are key strengths of this Carlton side, it could be a factor which works in the opposite way at the selection table or in crunch moments. Premiership teams are typically steady and know the exact structure which yields a winning formula, so does that leave Carlton with too many makeups? We may find out in 2021, especially with some of the added depth.

FINAL WORD

Carlton is arguably one of the top three premiership contenders in 2021 and will fancy itself to book in another finals appearance, with a postseason win the marker of a successful campaign. Given the lofty standards set, the Blues will hope to go even better than that mark and gun for the ultimate prize, something well within their reach.

Featured Image: Madison Prespakis breaks with ball in hand | Credit: Michael Klein

2020 AFL Draft recap: Carlton Blues

CARLTON is a side pushing hard to become a finals threat once again having proven one of the competition’s sleeping giants for far too long. The Blues finished 11th in David Teague‘s first full season at the helm and attacked trade period hard, addressing their need for speed by bringing in Adam Saad and Zac Williams. Such quality came at a cost as Carlton’s first pick slid down to 37, but as the resultant haul shows, there was still plenty of quality available in the second round. Having gained some long-term small forward depth and one of the great sliders of this year’s intake, the Blues are well poised to have another crack at the top eight in 2021.

CARLTON

National Draft:
#37 Corey Durdin (Central District/South Australia)
#41 Jack Carroll (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

Rookies:
Luke Parks (Glenelg)

With two second rounders in the bank and decent live trading record, the Blues were in a good spot to potentially move up the order. Having held their hand, they can ultimately be happy with the result.

Corey Durdin became the first new Blue at Pick 37 and has long been one of the most highly-touted juniors out of South Australia. He was the Under 16 Division 1 MVP in 2018 and went on to feature at senior SANFL level over the next two years. Repeat hamstring injuries hampered him towards the end of 2020, but his turn of speed, tackling pressure, and dominance at ground level are exactly what Carlton would have wanted in a small forward selection. He should challenge for a debut in year one and while he looms as a long-term Eddie Betts replacement, could also play more of a Dayne Zorko role given his midfield acumen as a junior.

With Pick 41, the Blues snared an absolute bargain as Jack Carroll remained on the board. The classy West Australian midfielder may not have been in Carlton’s plans leading into the event, but proved too good to pass up at that range – especially given he was said to have first round suitors. After cutting his teeth on a wing and off half-back, the 188cm prospect transitioned to the inside this season and became a terrific contested ball winner. His clean hands, agility, and class on the ball point towards great upside and he should have plenty of development left being a December birth.

19-year-old Luke Parks was the Blues’ sole rookie selection and a great one at that. The Sydney Swans Academy graduate moved over to the SANFL with Glenelg after being overlooked last year and was superb across a full League season. Intercept marking is his great strength and he should provide solid depth down back given Carlton is running a touch thin in that department, at least as far as talls go. With one list spot left to fill, the Blues may look to bolster that even further with former Saint Jonathan Marsh said to be among those in contention, while the recently delisted Callum Moore is also back training with the club in search of another chance.

Featured Image: New Carlton draftee Corey Durdin in action for Central District | Credit: David Wolverton/SANFL

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Club AFL Draft previews (Part 1)

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Special guest Tom Cheesman joined Chief Editor Peter Williams and AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to breakdown how the this year’s draft may pan out for each club.

The clubs featured in part one are Carlton, Gold Coast, Geelong, Richmond, West Coast and Western Bulldogs – all teams which may not feature too heavily among action at the pointy end as it stands. The Tigers, Eagles, and Cats would consider themselves well within the premiership window and thus may not have any pressing list needs to cover at the draft, making them muted players this year. Geelong and West Coast will hope to find a gem with their respective picks 51 and 62.

The Bulldogs’ picks may be wiped off the board if Academy gun Jamarra Ugle-Hagan yields a bid with pick one, leaving little for their recruiters to work with down the line. Meanwhile, Carlton has only just gained another pick in the second round and may only make two selections overall. Gold Coast is again set to be called up in the top five, but it could prove the Suns’ only pick given Academy members Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey will be automatically placed on their senior list.

Nonetheless, there could be some interesting plays to unfold and some exciting prospects taken with later picks by these clubs, much of which formed the basis of their previews. To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020
>> Power Rankings: November Update

Past Episodes:

Potential cult heroes
An early top 10 look
The best AFL Draft hands
Best readymade prospects
Best players under 175cm
Best midfielders over 190cm
Logan McDonald vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Best academy and father-son hauls
Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone
Key defenders kicking comparison
Offence from defence
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
The top non-aligned midfielders

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Carlton Blues

WITH the 2020 trade period done and dusted, it is now time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the draft. Between now and draft day (December 9), clubs will have the opportunity to exchange picks until the final order is formed a couple of days out. While the chaos ensues, Draft Central takes a look at how each club may approach the upcoming intake opportunities with the hand they formed at the close of trade period. Obviously they are subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Next under the microscope is Carlton, a side on the up after finishing 11th in 2020 and bringing in some high-end talent during trade period. Having featured at the pointy end of many a draft over the last 20 years, the Blues are only set to enter this year’s event towards the end of round two. It is a signal of their finals intent after elongated rebuilds and a new lease on life under coach, David Teague. As has often been the case for Carlton, academy and father-son options are scarce, despite four prospects being eligible under the latter rule this year. With the Blues only set to use two or three picks, it is difficult to see them making much of an impression on this year’s proceedings, though some late gems may be in the offing with their current hand.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 38, 48, 78
* – denotes as of November 21

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

ELIGIBLE ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Charlie McKay, Mackenzie Hogg, Tom Silvagni, Tom Gleeson (all father-son)

>> Podcast: The best academy/father-son hauls

LIST NEEDS:

Ruck depth
Midfield points of difference
Long-term key defensive depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 38)

There are a few areas Carlton could look to consolidate with this year’s intake having already covered the need for speed during trade period. The retirement of Matthew Kreuzer leaves the Blues with only two genuine ruck options, while recent delistings sees their long-term key defensive stocks looking quite thin. In the former category, ruckman Henry Walsh, the 203cm brother of Sam already has links to the club having also trained there during preseason, potentially making for a good story and easy transition. He’s a competitive tap ruckman who is working on his running capacity and impact around the ground. Other ruckmen likely to feature in that range include Shannon Neale, Kalin Lane, and Max Heath.

There is not too much in the way of key defenders who would be viable to Carlton in the second round, and perhaps the Blues could further relay their intentions by targeting a mature-age prospect. Tom Highmore fits the bill as a tall defender who seems ready to make the next step after an outstanding maiden SANFL campaign. The 22-year-old former GWS Academy member made the move to South Adelaide this year and was a rare mature-age invitee to the national draft combine. Along similar lines, 21-year-old Woodville-West Torrens goalsneak James Rowe is a name which has been hot on the lips of Carlton fans, who are yearning for a genuine small forward to take over from Eddie Betts in 2022.

If the Blues look towards midfield depth, Zavier Maher could be the explosive type they are after on the inside, and Sam Berry is a hard-working accumulator who remains active going both ways. Should they take the two birds, one stone approach, the likes of Corey Durdin and Charlie Lazzaro may slide far enough to be snapped up as zippy smalls who are likely to begin their careers up forward. However, Carlton has spent first round picks on Paddy Dow, Lochie O’Brien, Liam Stocker, Sam Philp, and Brodie Kemp in recent years, not to mention Sam Walsh and traded-in players like Matthew Kennedy and Will Setterfield, so should back their current stocks to develop over another preseason.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

With the third-lowest total draft points value of all clubs as it stands, the Blues may not have much leverage to work with in terms of live trade options. Should a player they are really keen on slide within the second round, they could package a couple of their picks to move up the order and come away with just two selections. Alternatively, their 2021 picks may be put on the table to extract maximum value out of a deal, though next year’s crop is said to be much stronger than this year’s.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will Carlton take on any mature-age players?

Will Carlton work to move up the order?

Will Carlton back its current midfield crop, or look to add depth?

Will Carlton take a punt on their father-son choices?

Featured Image: Carlton Media

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Carlton & Collingwood

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two sides from Victoria, in powerhouse clubs Carlton and Collingwood.

Carlton Blues – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 12 (7), 28 (20), 36 (25)

Off-season summary:

Carlton was involved in a couple of major trade deals during the off-season, with inaugural Blue Sarah Hosking‘s move to Richmond one of the most notable exchanges of the trade period. It was the first confirmed deal made, and would allow the Blues to then land Melbourne gun Elise O’Dea and fellow former-Demon Maddy Guerin, offloading the pick 15 they received for Hosking. The Blues moved up the draft order ahead of a bumper crop, as defender Jayde van Dyk and pick 46 were swapped for pick 36. Add former Gold Coast youngster Charlotte Hammans to the mix, and Carlton remains one of the big winners out of a busy off-season as it enters the premiership window. Four players – Joanne Doonan, Katie Harrison, Sharnie Whiting, and Emerson Woods – were delisted.

A draft look:

While the O’Dea coup will undoubtedly bolster Carlton’s already elite midfield group, Hosking’s departure arguably leaves room for a fast, outside midfielder to enter the fold. With their first selection back at pick 12, the Blues will have access to the seventh Victorian pick.

There are a bunch of high-end hopefuls in the mix; Northern Knights co-captain Jess Fitzgerald would provide a like-for-like Hosking replacement, able to bring speed on the outside and good balance with her inside toughness, while Alyssa Bannan could be a shrewd pick to develop under her idol, Tayla Harris – though the Blues are well stocked in the key forward department. Carlton has a great relationship with the Northern region, and could continue the trend with their latest crop.

The likes of Winnie Laing, Abbey Jordan, and the silky Bella Eddey could all be in the mix for a share in those later two picks. Laing is a leader at the Sandringham Dragons and is a terrific runner, Jordan fits the bill for outside run, while Eddey is a terrific user of the ball who can rotate through the midfield from up forward.

Collingwood Magpies – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 19 (12), 25 (17), 26 (18), 31 (21), 33 (22)

Off-season summary:

With an incoming father-daughter selection and a forwardline to bolster, the Pies had a mixed off-season. Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan were packaged up to Richmond in exchange for picks in the later rounds, with Katie Lynch also headed to the Bulldogs. It leaves Collingwood a touch lacking in that forward department, with D’Arcy and Lynch doubling as tall depth lost. Abbey Green was nabbed from North Melbourne to support Sharni Layton in the ruck, while exciting Melbourne forward Aliesha Newman is another good get. With four retirees – Emma Grant, Kalia Bentvelzen, Eliza Hynes, and Machaelia Roberts – only one player (Georgia Gourlay) was delisted, with a decent turnover rate meaning the Magpies will have to gel quickly in order to continue their steep rise. It was hardly the big-name signing period Collingwood had last time out, but should set the club up well in future and for the upcoming draft.

A draft look:

Parting with their first round pick means the Pies will likely only have to pay a second round price for gun father-daughter selection, Tarni Brown. She is daughter of 254-game former captain, Gavin and sister of current players Callum and Tyler. The Eastern Ranges product has long been on the elite level radar, and is clearly cut from the same cloth as her brothers with terrific footy smarts and agility through midfield.

Elsewhere, Collingwood may look to re-stock its forwardline with whatever picks remain. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) utility Renee Saulitis would be a handy fit to replace Dargan with some x-factor, while Rebels teammate Isabella Simmons may also be a good fit at 185cm. Incidentally, both are Magpies fans. Another GWV tall, Maggie Caris could also be the developing ruck type Collingwood is after, while Mimi Hill is a classy midfield option should the Pies look to continue their Oakleigh link. Norwood’s Matilda Zander could prove a smokey having played under Steve Symonds in South Australia. She was poised to play for Collingwood’s VFLW side this year.

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW Players: #2 Madison Prespakis

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we reveal the played ranked second for their efforts this year, a youngster who has already reached the highest heights in terms of individual honours despite completing just her second year in the competition.

Any guesses as to who will be number one?

#2 MADISON PRESPAKIS

7 GAMES AVE: 21.3 disposals*, 2.7 marks, 3.0 tackles, 4.3 clearances*, 3.3 inside 50s*, 1.3 rebound 50s, 0.4 goals (3)

*Denotes club-best

This year’s AFL Women’s best and fairest comes in second on out list of the top 50 players, but there will undoubtedly be plenty of opportunity in future for her to take out the top spot. At this point – only two years into her career at the elite level – Prespakis has everything bar a premiership medal in her trophy cabinet as the leader of a new generation which seems to be in an unstoppable hurry.

The tough, diminutive midfielder is already as decorated a player as they come, earning back-to-back All Australian and club best and fairest honours, the 2019 Rising Star award, and now the ultimate league-wide recognition. She is a player who can turn games, carry her side on her back through sheer determination and the will to win.

It was evident as early as in Round 1 this season, as the young gun picked up right from where she left off in 2019. Against Richmond, Prespakis ripped the game apart in with a memorable third term to set the tone for the remainder of her campaign, combining her unmatched ability to find the ball with scoreboard impact. Prespakis loves a goal, if her celebrations did not make that abundantly clear enough.

The 19-year-old, who has taken tips off Carlton men’s star Patrick Cripps for dealing with opposition attention, continued to find plenty of the ball in 2020, leading her side in that department. She dipped below 20 disposals just twice, and racked up a high of 26 against St Kilda in Round 5.

Capping off her brilliant year, Prespakis would also finish top of the tree among her Blues teammates for contested possessions, clearances, inside 50s, and metres gained, showcasing the true damage she can inflict from the middle of the ground. Everything about Prespakis’ game is about getting her side going forward on the front foot, and she does it better than most.

Plenty of records will shatter and be made unattainable by this young champion of the game, who is just getting started. It will be scary to see the accolades she finishes up with should she continue on her projected path, and if she is not already the competition’s most valuable player, she is certainly Carlton’s.