THE Blues did not see much success last season, finishing on the bottom of the ladder for the first time in their AFLW history. However, this result gave them some high-end picks in the draft, and they recruited quite well to fix the gaps of players lost. With new coach, Daniel Harford at the helm, Carlton is set for a big year, testing out its new-look line-up and coaching panel.
Last season: 8th – two wins, five losses.
In: Amelia Mullane (nee Barden), Madison Prespakis, Abbie McKay, Jayde Van Dyk, Charlotte Wilson, Emerson Woods, Rhiannon Watt, Jess Edwards, Kirby Bentley, Brooke Walker, Chloe Dalton
Out: Maddison Gay, Lauren Arnell, Danielle Hardiman, Kate Gillespie-Jones, Maddy Keryk, Sarah Last, Laura Attard, Kate Shierlaw, Tiahna Cochrane, Katie Jayne-Grieve
Carlton’s defence was dealt a big blow with experienced trio, Lauren Arnell, Danielle Hardiman and Kate Gillespie-Jones all departing the Blues. They also made the interesting decision to let go of talented midfielder, Madeline Keryk, which could come back to bite them. Inaugural Best First Year player, Maddison Gay has also left a hole in the midfield with her departure to Melbourne. But Carlton has seemed to sew up those gaps in its midfield, picking up Vic Metro gun duo, Madison Prespakis and Abbie McKay. Prespakis was the equal winner of the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships Most Valuable Player (MVP) and TAC Cup Girls’ Best and Fairest, while McKay was pre-selected by the Blues due to a interest from other clubs. In defence, Charlotte Wilson and Jayde Van Dyk help fill the void of Gillespie-Jones, Hardiman and Arnell. Wilson was the co-captain of the Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup Girls competition while Van Dyk won the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Rising Star award and Hawthorn’s Best and Fairest after a stellar 2018 campaign.
Area of strength: Midfield
Carlton’s midfield depth is quite threatening, as at any given time, it could contain the likes of Prespakis, McKay, Amelia Mullane, Sarah Hosking, Jess Hosking, Katie Loynes, Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Georgia Gee, Shae Audley and Natalie Plane. Not only does it contain plenty of talent, but the Blues have also managed to combine its experience and youth quite well. Coming across from Collingwood, Mullane should be a great addition as she has already worked under Daniel Harford, and adds valuable experience. Loynes will be raring to go after her Best and Fairest year last year, while Jess Hosking and Lucas-Rodd both enjoyed some key minutes in the Blues’ VFLW midfield.
Area of weakness: Forward line
It is hard to imagine that a forward line containing Darcy Vescio and Tayla Harris could be an area of weakness for the Blues, but it certainly was last season. Carlton finished miles below any other team in percentage, racking up just 54.1 per cent, with the next worst being Fremantle with 89.8. While Vescio and Harris are dangerous, they will require more support in the 2019 season if Carlton is to surge up the ladder. Emerson Woods is one player who could provide assistance, as she floated up forward and through the midfield for both the Eastern Ranges and the Hawks in the VFLW season. Being a member of the AFLW Academy, Woods has had plenty of experience at a high level, and is also an athletic machine. Carlton may also utilise Alison Downie up forward, as she can take a big mark and is an accurate kick. Thanks to the ruck support of Breann Moody and Rhiannon Watt, she may not be required in the middle as much, and can make herself a target inside 50.
Players to watch:
If players were not able to select which region they wanted to go to, Prespakis would have seriously contended Nina Morrison for the number one pick. Prespakis led the Calder Cannons this year and also had a stint captaining Vic Metro in its rotating captaincy during the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. She is a fantastic on-field leader, as she demonstrates ferocity and a desire to win the ball. Prespakis has one of the most damaging kicks from the Under-18 draftees and is a genuine ball magnet. Carlton supporters should be excited to see her in the navy blue.
Jayde Van Dyk
Van Dyk had an outstanding year for Hawthorn in 2018. Not only did she take out Hawthorn’s Best and Fairest and the VFLW Rising Star award, she was also named in the VFLW Team of the Year and played in the Hawks’ historic premiership. She was a mainstay in the Hawks’ backline, often taking the most dangerous opposition forward. Her run and carry is something to be excited by and her football smarts are second to none. Strong in the air and on foot, Van Dyk should provide some serious presence in the Blues’ defensive 50.
A player who has gone under the radar in the last two seasons, Plane is a pretty consistent player and can play a team role when required. She had a solid year for Carlton in the 2018 VFLW season, coming fourth in Carlton’s Best and Fairest. Plane achieved this feat on the back of just eight games out of a possible 14. She averaged 13.4 disposals and six tackles from those games, demonstrating her ability to make an impact in the middle of the ground.
2019 prediction: 4th in Conference B
Improving from last to a finals berth in a year is a hard feat for any team, and it is hard to see Carlton storm into the finals in its conference, considering only the top two teams go through. The Blues will certainly improve with a potent midfield and defence, but their forward line will continue to come into question if Vescio and Harris are left to do all the work inside 50. It will be interesting to see the Blues in Round 1, as they face the Kangaroos, who seem to have one of the most dangerous line-ups in the competition. If they can get the win over in Hobart, they could be set for a big turnaround from 2018. But if they don’t get the win that game, they could be in for a losing streak to start their season, with their next three games coming against Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney (GWS) and Geelong. A good start will be crucial if Carlton is any chance to surge up the ladder in 2019.
2019 AFLW Carlton Fixture