It’s fair to say 2018 did not go to plan for Carlton’s AFLW side.
The Blues won the wooden spoon, finishing with a percentage of 54.1 and only managing 21 goals across the seven games.
They were last in scoring and first in points against, struggled to win the footy and ended up losing five of seven games.
New coach Daniel Harford, however, comes into 2019 with a renewed energy and sense of direction for the club.
“The group themselves are fantastic,” Harford told SEN.
“They’re a really tight bunch and given what happened last year, you can be forgiven for thinking they might be pretty fractured or tired or drained, but they’ve got boundless energy at this stage.”
Harford comes in with a fresh set of eyes and believes the biggest issues from last season have been identified, while the playing group is hungry to prove 2018 was simply an aberration.
“I think we’ve got a really talented squad. We’ve added to that in some areas we needed to improve on through the draft and trade period,” Harford said.
“I don’t think it’s going to be too hard to get the girls to give us everything they’ve got. They want to show people what happened last year was not a true reflection of their capabilities.
“It was a difficult year for the girls and we’ve just got to start fresh and we’re building the foundations again, layer by layer.
“I’ve been very transparent on that with the girls and the footy club with my plans.”
Carlton struggled to get their hands on the footy last year, averaging 159.6 possessions per game, well below the competition average of 187.9.
The Blues’ midfield was pushed around by opposition teams, but Harford believes they’ve added to their depth through that area of the ground which can turn things around.
He’s especially bullish about their first-round pick, Calder Cannons star Maddy Prespakis.
“We’ve certainly strengthened (our midfield) through the draft. We’ve got, I think, the best young talent in the country in Maddy Prespakis as our number one pick,” Harford said.
“All the vision I’ve seen of (Maddy) and the game’s I’ve seen live, she’s the best talent in the country as far as I’m concerned, so I’m glad we were able to get access to her.
“We’ve also got Abbie McKay who is a terrific player through the middle of the ground, we’ve got Jess Edwards who’s captain of Collingwood’s VFLW team, Amelia Barden came across from Collingwood too.
“So before you even think about what was on the list and what you can develop, you’ve got four new players that can come through the middle.
“It’s an area we identified and certainly drafted for, so I think we’ve got exactly what we wanted through that area of the ground.”
The turning point of Carlton’s season was likely the moment captain Brianna Davey went down with an ACL tear during the Round 2 win over GWS.
The Blues would go on to lose their five remaining games as injuries piled up and the club struggled to find any sort of momentum.
Thankfully, Davey seems as though she’ll be ready to go for the 2019 season.
“(Bri’s) on track. She’s been working pretty hard through the off-season and she was part of our VFLW coaching panel, so she was around the club. She’s back running now and she’s doing whatever she needs to be doing,” Harford said.
“She’s on track and is really bubbly and it’s good to have her energy around the place.”
From a strategic standpoint, Harford hopes to add some energy and speed back into the Blues.
“We’re going to be really positive with our game, we’re going to try and take the game on a bit, use our foot skills as they’ve got as players that I don’t think perhaps were able to be showcased last year for many and varied reasons,” Harford said.
“We’ve got to get this group playing really consistent footy, that’s what we want to do.
“We want to get them to show everyone they’re capable of more than what they showed last year.”
It appears 2019 will be about redemption for Carlton as they attempt to climb to the top of Conference B.