CARLTON has rocketed to its first NAB AFL Women's win for more than a year, accounting for Greater Western Sydney by 29 points.
The team recorded its highest-ever AFLW score in the four-quarter performance, winning 10.5 (65) to 5.6 (36) at Blacktown International Sportspark.
The Blues' previous high score was 54, coming against the Western Bulldogs back in round 5, 2017.
Their most recent win also came against the Giants in round two, 2018, when skipper Brianna Davey ruptured her ACL.
A four-goal second quarter from Carlton did most of the damage, with Tayla Harris' marking skills on show and midfielder Maddy Prespakis staking a claim for the overall NAB Rising Star award with composure and skill.
However, Harris may come under match review scrutiny for a bump on Randall late in the fourth quarter, in which she ran past the ball to hit the Giant.
She told Channel Seven after the game she hadn't intended to collect Randall heavily.
"It was one of those when you're coming together and you're calculating in your head 'where can I get here, in the exact spot' and I suppose as we came together, being a tall person, these things happen," Harris said.
"I know Pepa so I'm not gonna ... why would I ever do that? (It was) clearly not intentional. I just hope she's OK.
"I know footy and I know that probably looks bad and I'm just hoping that it wasn't – for her sake, health-wise, and then obviously (for) my sake."
The Giants have now lost all three of their matches and will most likely need to win the remaining four to finish in the top two of conference B and qualify for a preliminary final.
Blue Sarah Hosking was crucial around the stoppages, the lightly framed Georgia Gee was composed rotating between the middle and the forward line, and Darcy Vescio was involved in an enthralling battle with close-checking defender Pepa Randall for the first half.
Momentum swung between the two teams during the first half, with the 5-6-5 rule meaning centre clearances seemed to have a direct bearing on shots on goal.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Giants, who have unearthed a highly skilled player in Irish Gaelic footballer Yvonne Bonner.
Playing as a high half-forward, Bonner (13 disposals, eight marks) presented well and showed natural football traits in just her third ever game, including kicking a goal of the year contender.
Courtney Gum and Rebecca Beeson were strong in patches while key position player and third-year Giant Louise Stephenson played close to her best game for the club, floating between defence, ruck and forward.
Brianna in the middle
Carlton captain Brianna Davey is one of the most versatile players in the AFLW, and Carlton has often had the issue of where to play her. She spent her first two injury-interrupted AFLW seasons (back and ACL) as a rampaging half-back, but played round one and two up forward. Against GWS she started in the middle, where her bigger body allowed the likes of Maddy Prespakis and Georgia Gee a clear run at the ball. The midfield could be a happy compromise for the Blues, with Davey well able to dictate play. She did raise eyebrows calling for the ball for a free kick which wasn't hers. Giant Alyce Parker threw the ball to Davey instead of the free kick recipient Prespakis and promptly gave away a 50-metre penalty and goal.
Battle of the young guns
In an exciting sign of things to come, the round one and two NAB Rising Star nominees Alyce Parker and Maddy Prespakis went head to head at times in the middle of the ground. The two young midfield bulls have dominated the under-18 championships for several years now, but this was the first time they'd come up against each other playing senior footy. Blue Prespakis was a fairly comfortable winner with 21 disposals, four marks and three goals. Giant Parker still impressed with 15 touches and six tackles, although she'd be ruing a poster from a straightforward set shot.
It was over when…
GWS' forward line contains enough talent in Cora Staunton, Christina Bernardi, Yvonne Bonner and Jacinda Barclay to score heavily and quickly. With the margin at 18 points at three-quarter time, the Giants were still well within comeback territory. But a quick Prespakis kick to the top of the square just one minute into the fourth and a classic Tayla Harris diving mark and subsequent goal put the margin beyond reach. In the end, the sheer weight of numbers was too much with Carlton having 33 inside-50s to GWS' 21.
One to watch
Carlton forward/midfielder Georgia Gee caught the eye in her first season last year, with the slight then-18-year-old showing spark around the ball but struggled against the bigger bodies in senior football. A VFLW season with the Blues and another pre-season has done wonders for Gee's confidence and poise, impressing with her composure and decision-making. Her 14 disposals (along with six tackles) was a career high, rotating between the middle and forward line, and a Rising Star nomination may not be too far down the track.
"The first four shots on goal came on turnover against us, and that told the story of the game a little bit. Our kick effectiveness was 10 per cent down on the opposition, and that's been a bit of a trend over the first three games. Our ability to compete was pretty good, but our ball use relative to our opponents wasn't good enough." - GWS coach Alan McConnell
"I've no doubt our ability to stick to what we wanted to do for four quarters [won the game]. We did it for two and a half last week and this week we did it for four and we got the reward for effort. So without a doubt, the confidence we get out of that and seeing the result you can get from sticking to the system [will hold the team in good stead]." - Carlton coach Daniel Harford
Carlton face a much smaller road trip in round four, down the Princes Highway to take on Geelong at GMHBA Stadium, while GWS have a Victorian adventure of its own, playing Collingwood in Morwell (in the east of the state).
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.1 3.2 5.4 5.6 (36)
CARLTON 2.2 6.4 8.4 10.5 (65)
Greater Western Sydney: Bernardi 2, Barclay, Bonner, Staunton
Carlton: Prespakis 3, Harris 3, Pound, Vescio, Downie, Gee
Greater Western Sydney: Bonner, Beeson, Parker, Bernardi, Stephenson
Carlton: Prespakis, Harris, S.Hosking, Davey, Harrington, Gee
Greater Western Sydney: Gum (left quad cork)
Umpires: Adair, Bryce, McGinness
Crowd: 3823 at Blacktown International Sportspark