'We're backing our girls in': Revitalised Blues eye Dockers scalp

KEEP doing what you're doing. That will be Carlton coach Daniel Harford's basic message to his players in the build-up to the first AFLW preliminary final against Fremantle.

While the Blues are formulating strategies to counter the Dockers at Ikon Park on Saturday afternoon, the theme during the week will be as much about the positives that revitalised the team this season.

"We're backing our girls in. They've done a great job to get to this stage, they trust what they're doing and believe what we're doing. It would be silly to go away from that too much," Harford said.

"Every team, obviously, provides a new challenge. Freo plays differently to a lot of teams, so we need to be fully cognisant of that. But you get to this point because you've played on your terms and executed your plan."

The staggering turnaround, from wooden spooners in 2018 to top of the Conference B ladder and a home preliminary final, was evident to the new coach even as the Blues dropped their first two games, to North Melbourne and Adelaide.

"It was all different with massive changes to the coaching staff and game plan and I thought it might take some time to bed down. And then it was a matter of getting them to believe in it and execute it when the pressure was on," the coach said.

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"In the first game (against North Melbourne), we got a bit overwhelmed and didn't trust. But in the second game against Adelaide, we started to get things rolling.

"We were three goals up with five minutes to go in the third quarter and then they put the squeeze on a bit … we made a few errors and they overran us (by 13 points)."

But the new-look Blues really kickstarted their season by booting 10 goals to thrash Greater Western Sydney on the road in round three.

"We played really good footy and closed it out well. That was the biggest moment for the girls," Harford said.

"They started to understand what it took and whether or not they could. And when they realised they could, it was a matter of harnessing that and building the layers of the plan.

"From the Adelaide game, we got a lot of confidence, but from the Giants game we knew we could and that was the turning point for the season."

Harford has transformed Carlton to a more attacking, free-scoring unit that bagged 36 goals in seven games compared to 21 last year. And that ability to apply scoreboard pressure to the Dockers will be critical this time too.

"Three goals a week is not going to win you many games. So we had to do something about that. We had to hit the scoreboard and we tried a few ways to streamline the ball movement, make it predictable to us, anyway," he said.

Harford said his players and the coaching staff noted the momentum shift rather than the result when the Western Bulldogs almost reeled in a 28-point three-quarter time deficit, with the Blues just hanging on for a win at the Whitten Oval last Sunday.

"It was an interesting scenario for both teams. The Bulldogs had the year effectively over and they, obviously, decided in the last quarter to go out swinging and play really fast, play on at all costs and take risks," he said.

Carlton forward Tayla Harris shows off her technique. Picture: Michael Willson, AFL Photos

"When you've got nothing to lose, you can do that. But when you get to a game like this weekend when both of us have plenty to lose, it's not going to be as dramatic.

"We certainly learnt a few things because Fremantle plays that type of game as well. So, we got a bit of an idea of what that might look like against us this week."

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