After the most tumultuous offseason in the club’s short history, the Carlton Blues’ AFLW side was considered one of the worst teams after the expansion of the competition leading into season seven.
After losing talent such as Madison Prespakis, Georgia Gee, Grace Egan, Nicola Stevens and Courtney Jones this past offseason paired with a significant injury list the Blues have had to find some players within the ranks to step up.
Many eyes were set on the Blues and how they would go this season after those significant losses this past offseason and whilst they’ve shown their flaws in the opening month of season seven, they have shown that they can cause teams problems throughout this season.
The biggest loss for the Blues was that of 2020 AFLW Best and Fairest winner Madison Prespakis to the Bombers. In this move not only did they lose a three-time club B&F winner, but one of the toughest inside midfielders in the game
So far this season it’s been 21-year-old Abbie McKay who after a solid first four seasons, has taken her game up a notch in season seven.
In the first few games this season, the ex-Sandringham Dragons product leads the Blues in average disposals (22) and contested possessions (12.8) which is the third most in the league. McKay also lead the Blues in clearances (5.3) and tackles (seven).
Each week she’s gone from strength-to-strength with her game last weekend at Fremantle Oval being by far her best game in her career.
Former Blue Georgia Gee’s departure to Essendon left the Blues lacking some creativity from stoppages or centre bounces.
However off the back of the the Rising Star award from last season, Hill has continued her remarkable rise since returning from an ACL injury and has taken on the role of Gee with aplomb.
So far this season she has averaged 21.8 disposals, 3.8 tackles, 11.5 contested possessions, 234 metres gained and four clearances. She also averages a team-high 2.5 inside 50s per game in all four games.
Against the Pies she had a massive impact, often setting up each foray forward and fighting hard on the inside, collecting an equal career-high 26 disposals, eight contested possessions, 257 metres gained and three marks.
Whilst not as big of a loss as Gee and Prespakis, the loss of Grace Egan was still a big one considering her workrate across the ground.
Despite coming into this season under an injury cloud, Lucy McEvoy has also proved a formidable force in the midfield and stepped into Grace Egan’s role from the past few seasons.
The former number two pick has provided grunt and a solid work rate in the first few games this season. She averages a career high 14.5 disposals, 3.5 rebound 50s, 4.8 intercept possessions, 3.5 tackles and 5.3 contested possessions per game.
It was also against the Pies which saw her full array at show, working hard particularly down back when the Pies were on the move. That night she had a career-high 24 disposals, six tackles, five marks, 10 intercept possessions and seven rebound 50s.
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With the departure of Nicola Stevens to the Saints, Daniel Harford’s side lost both an experienced and one of his more creative forward players from the past few seasons.
Coming into Carlton with plenty of expectation having been the Blues first pick this year, Keeley Skepper has proven to be an invaluable addition. She has managed to fill Stevens’ role in her first few career games.
Skepper currently leads the Blues in metres gained (321 per game) as well as averaging 14 disposals, 2.7 inside 50s, 3.7 marks, 2.3 score involvements and 11.7 kicks per game.
Last weekend against the Dockers she played her best game to date, getting 14 disposals and creating plenty of chances and showing courage across the field. Her exploits were rewarded with a Rising Star nomination.
Following a breakout season six, Carlton’s main target up forward and leading goalkicker Courtney Jones was one of the last to depart the Blues to the Gold Coast Suns.
However evergreen 37-year-old Phoebe McWilliams has come across as one of two players acquired by the Blues in the sign-and-trade period. Not only has she provided experience, but she’s also proven to be a strong target inside Carlton’s forward 50 following Jones’ departure.
Despite her season coming to an end this past weekend, the former Cats and Giants player averaged 7.3 disposals, three marks and 1.3 score involvements.
Whilst she’d shown glimpses in the first fortnight, in Round Three when the Blues played Port Adelaide, she showed fans what she could bring to the side. Despite not kicking a goal, she still plucked six marks and had 12 disposals.
Unfortunately the injuries continue to pile up for the Blues with Darcy Vescio, Amelia Velardo and Paige Trudgeon set to miss out on Round Five selection whilst McWilliams is set to miss out on the rest of season seven.
However there is still plenty of talent waiting in the wings, one player that could see this as an opportunity for a debut is former Adelaide Lightning player Taylor Ortlepp. She would likely step in for McWilliams in this instance as a tall forward prospect.
Whilst she hasn’t been able to prove herself yet at the top level, Ortlepp would be both handy in the air with her leaping ability and at ground level with her speed.
Exciting midfielder-forward Poppy Schaap could also come in for Vescio. Whilst not as tall as Vescio, the ex-Geelong Falcon would provide plenty of bounce and energy much like them inside forward 50.
Role-player Natalie Plane could be the likely replacement for Velardo in the midfield, whilst VFLW veteran Jessica Jones could also come in for Paige Trudgeon. Jones’ lockdown ability could work well complementing the styles of captain Kerryn Peterson and Mua Laloifi.
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