22/05/2024

Lucy McEvoy will miss the early part of AFLW season seven. (Photo: Carlton FC)

Promising young talent Lucy McEvoy will miss more AFLW game time through injury; who's stepping up to carry the load in Carlton's midfield?

Carlton’s AFLW midfield group was already set for a big shake-up in season seven. The loss of Lucy McEvoy until the middle of the season only makes it harder.

The Blues’ midfielder has undergone shoulder surgery, with General Manager of Women’s Football Brett Munro saying she’ll likely be available halfway through season seven.

This makes what was already a centre bounce low on rotations even more spread thin.

Carlton was hit hard through the expansion and trade periods, losing multiple best 22 players. Maddy Prespakis and Georgia Gee departed for Essendon, while Grace Egan joined Richmond in a four-way trade.

The Blues didn’t manage to land any inside midfielders in return, however. Amelia Velardo joined from Collingwood, but seems to be most comfortable as a marking option along the wing or a spare behind the ball.

In terms of their draft hand, the Blues looked to increase their midfield depth with the additions of Keeley Skepper and Lily Goss. Skepper will likely be blooded through the middle slowly, building her game off half-back, while Goss is a ready-made in and under contested ball-winner.

Skepper averaged 24.2 disposals, 4.1 rebound 50s, 4.8 inside 50s and 17.4 kicks in her NAB League season, while Goss averaged 15.3 disposals, 6.4 tackles and 3.8 clearances for Carlton’s VFLW side.

Lily Goss lays a tackle against the Southern Saints. (Photo: Carlton FC)

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Of the newcomers to the squad, Goss looks the most likely to make an immediate impact. Her skillset suits to a pressure heavy role like Abbie McKay already plays. She could fill the gap left behind by Egan in coach Daniel Harford’s midfield.

It’s clear that Carlton’s best mix requires a strong pressure player to protect the best ball-users and extractors. It only won one game without Egan in the side, and three once she returned.

The other key to the Blues’ best midfield was undoubtedly Mimi Hill. The rising star runner-up exploded along the wing in her return to footy after an ACL injury, with two 25 plus disposal games.

With a full pre-season under her belt, she’s a likely candidate to move into the centre bounce. This could give the potential for a player like Gab Pound, one of the Blues’ best by foot, to take her post on the wing.

Hill, surrounded by McKay and Goss, has all the capabilities to become one of the AFLW’s best midfielders. Her explosiveness gives her the ability to burst out of the contest and hit a target on the run.

Maddy Guerin is one of the other key variables in the Blues’ midfield equation. Bouncing around in a number of positions in her career so far, she showed just how capable she is in the guts in season six.

In the final game of the year against Melbourne, she laid a monstrous 12 tackles to go with her 19 disposals. Gaining consistency in the position at the backend of the 2021 VFLW season, she seems primed to take the next step with the opportunity available.

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When it comes to the more experienced heads of the group, Harford can look to the likes of Elise O’Dea and Jess Dal Pos.

O’Dea played every game last season, and while her form was patchy, she adds a senior body to help give the young brigade a chop out. At 172cm, she’s one of the taller options Carlton has available too.

Dal Pos was seemingly without a role in Carlton’s backline last year, not finding much of the ball but also not playing a particularly strong lockdown either. Spending time training with the midfielders across the pre-season, she presents as another number to rotate through.

Carlton may be down a lot of midfield talent, but with the right moves, it may not be as dire as it appears.

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