13/04/2024

Can Darcy Vescio lead the Blues back up into the finals after a disappointing slide last season? (Photo: Carlton FC)

After a shock slide down the ladder in 2021, and a horror off-season that saw several established stars leave Ikon Park, can Carlton bounce back up into finals contention with a fresh young squad in season 2022?

After a shock slide down the ladder in 2021, and a horror off-season that saw several established stars leave Ikon Park, can Carlton bounce back up into finals contention with a fresh young squad in season 2022?

Last season:

Seventh (5-0-4)

2021 was inconsistent and underwhelming for Carlton. One of the early season premiership favourites, the Blues were on the back foot early with early-season losses to both Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs and were always chasing the rest of the pack.

One of the highest-scoring teams in the competition, the Blues’ inability to play out four quarters, along with an untimely suspension to superstar Madison Prespakis mid-season ultimately cost them a spot in the finals.

What to look forward to:

It’s young talent time at the Blues. The off-season departures forced the club’s hand to go back to the draft and find the next generation of ‘Game Changers’. While there is plenty of experience still on the list, the Blues have loaded up on exciting youth ahead of AFLW season 6.

The big departure of Tayla Harris in the off-season will also see Carlton line-up with a re-structured forward line. Nicola Stevens’ move forward in recent years has paid dividends and Darcy Vescio returned to their potent, goalkicking best.

With those two as the focal points in 2022, and with smalls like Georgia Gee, Brooke Walker, and new recruit Poppy Schaap at their feet, expect a more dynamic forward five for Carlton this year.

Biggest unanswered question:

At the start of 2021, Carlton appeared on the cusp of breaking through for the maiden Premiership that had alluded it when the 2020 season was brought to a grinding halt with no premier awarded. At the end of 2021, Carlton finds itself in a mini rebuild with a heap of experience exiting Ikon Park at the conclusion of the 2021 season.

Experience in positions that now leave the Blues thin with age and experience. Katie Loynes and Jess Hosking both leave holes in the midfield.

Chloe Dalton, while missing last year with her speed and dash on the wing, leaves big shoes to fill. Particularly with Mimi Hill, the young gun who played the role so well in the early part of last year, missing the early rounds as she completes her recovery from an ACL injury.

While Carlton has replenished through the draft and brought in exciting young talent, will it be enough to cover all the experience that has departed the club in what was a tumultuous off-season?

It’s a big year for…

While the Blues have lost plenty of experience all over the ground, new opportunities are created. It’s an opportunity that Lucy McEvoy should look to grab with both hands in the absence of Jess Hosking and Katie Loynes.

After a late start to season 2021, McEvoy finished the season in the midfield after biding her time across half-forward in her first season and a bit at AFLW level.

Entering her third year, McEvoy will partner with the likes of Maddy Prespakis, Grace Egan, Abbie McKay, Annie Lee, Maddy Guerin, and Mimi Hill when she returns from her ACL to form the young nucleus and engine room for the Blues on-ball brigade.

Embed from Getty Images

Fixture highlights:

The Blues face a stern test with tough early-season matches against four out of last year’s six finalists in the opening five rounds.

An opening-round blockbuster against Collingwood at Ikon Park is an early-season highlight, with the Blues looking to get one back on their fierce rivals.

The Pride Game against the Western Bulldogs in Round 3 has been a staple on the AFLW fixture for years now and has grown this year to encompass all the clubs in Pride Round again.

R1: vs. Collingwood, Jan 9 (Ikon Park)

R2: vs. Brisbane, Jan 15 (Maroochydore)

R3: vs. Western Bulldogs, Jan 23 (Whitten Oval)

R4: vs. North Melbourne, Jan 30 (Ikon Park)

R5: vs. Adelaide, Feb 6 (Ikon Park)

R6: vs. Fremantle, Feb 12 (Fremantle Oval)

R7: vs. St. Kilda, Feb 19 (Ikon Park)

R8: vs. GWS, Feb 25 (Manuka Oval)

R9: TBC vs Gold Coast

R10 TBC vs Melbourne

Ins/outs:

Ins: Jess Dal Pos (GWS), Jess Good (Sturt), Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons), Imogen Milford (Casey Demons), Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons), Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges), Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Outs: Chloe Dalton (GWS), Tayla Harris (Melbourne), Jess Hosking (Richmond), Katie Loynes (GWS), Jess Edwards, Winnie Laing, Alison Downie (delisted, then drafted by Collingwood)

Inactive: Serena Gibbs (mental health/personal break)

Round 1 line-up:

Ladder range:

Sixth-Eighth

With a lot of turnover to the list and a lot of experienced players exiting, it is hard to really get a gauge on where Carlton will finish this season.

After a disappointing 2021, the club will be looking to climb back up the ladder and become a more threatening opponent for their opposition.

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