Carlton AFLW coach Daniel Harford and skipper Kerryn Harrington are confident they have the depth in their young squad to cover the departures of several experienced players.
After a lacklustre season in AFLW season 5, the Blues list was shaken up by the departures of, most notably Tayla Harris who left to Melbourne, Chloe Dalton who moved up to Sydney for family reasons and to be closer to the Rugby 7s program and, most surprisingly, Jess Hosking who requested a last-minute trade to join twin sister Sarah at Richmond.
Veterans Katie Loynes and Alison Downie also found their way to new clubs as delisted free agents to GWS and Collingwood respectively.
It means for Harford that a new season dawns with a new, raw, and largely untapped squad. Boosted by the experience and star power of Darcy Vescio, Nicola Stevens, Madison Prespakis, Elise O’Dea, and Harrington herself, The Blues will enter the 2022 season significantly younger and more inexperienced than what they have in seasons gone past.
“20 percent of our list is new” Harford said at Ikon Park on Wednesday.
“So, we’ve got to integrate new players in, work out what didn’t work for us and why last year. I’m pretty confident we’ve done that”
“You get to start 0-0, we’re undefeated at the moment like every other team and this is the period where we get to integrate that from a coaching perspective back into the players which is how we change our plan… Which we’re going to do but also integrate new talent into the team that is already established”
A new season with spots available in the team presents several opportunities for many of Carlton’s emerging young players who will be looking to make thier mark in this year’s competition.
“We’re seeing the emergence of Maddy Guerin, Charlotte Hammans, they’ll get good opportunities on the back of this, players who have played three or four games with us in the past few years,” Harford said.
“Then we bring in our draftees – Annie Lee will get a good chance, Keeley Sherar will get a chance, Brookey Vickers, Imogen Milford, Jess Good is a really good story, from South Australia, one of Kez’s (Kerryn Harrington) basketball mates and she’s made a huge impact on our program.
“We’ve got Jess Dal Pos (from GWS), Lauren Brazzale still has a lot to give, she’s been around for five years. We’d love to see more from Nat Plane and Gab Pound, some of our more experienced players. Charlotte Wilson is still emerging, Brooke Vernon, there’s players left, right, and centre we want to get into this team.
“I don’t think the emergence of talent or the level of talent is a problem, it’s just a matter of putting it all together and seeing what it looks like.”
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The Blues are also hopeful that first-round draftee from last year Mimi Hill is on track with her recovery from an ACL injury and will play a meaningful part in the season.
The speedster Hill injured her ACL last year in Round 6 against Geelong at Ikon Park but is impressing on the training track and taking steps in her recovery.
“She’s on track, is the feedback I keep getting from the medicos and doctors,” Harford said.
“They’re pleased with Mim. She’s doing a power of work, she’s really driven. She is as focused as anyone I’ve ever seen and wants to get back out on the track as soon as possible.
“There’s no timeline on it, she’ll be ready when she’s ready, but she’s doing all the things they expect at this stage of her recovery.”
It has been another interrupted off-season and pre-season for all AFLW players with the lockdown and COVID restrictions preventing a proper runway into the season yet again.
Harrington says that the lessons the club has taken from the last pre-season have made for a much smoother transition for players this time round.
“I don’t necessarily think it was easier, it was just something we’ve been through before, so we were much more prepared for it,” skipper Harrington said.
“The season prior was a little bit of trial and error as to what worked well and what needed to work better.
“Second time around, although we certainly didn’t want to be in that position, it certainly was better than it was in the first year, and that’s put us in better shape coming in (to pre-season).”
Carlton also confirmed that all of thier players and women’s football department members have all received at least one COVID-19 vaccination in line with the Victorian government’s regulations.
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