THE DIFFERENCE between Carlton's AFLW team last year and this season is stark.
The Blues posted four wins this campaign and finished on top of Conference B. This time last year, they were wooden-spooners.
Ruck Alison Downie told womens.afl Carlton's 2018 season was derailed partly by events out of their control.
"We had Bri Davey go down (with a serious knee injury), our coach (Damien Keeping) was unwell … we didn't stick to our structure and it didn't work. A lot of girls were a little bit unsure of what their roles were and what they needed to do," Downie said.
"It was a lot harder last year to get into a groove."
Having faith in the message coach Daniel Harford is preaching has made a huge difference.
"This year, what we've done and the way 'Harf' has put everything in place has been great … he's all about trusting the process," Downie said.
The process seems to be working. Carlton has won three straight games ahead of Saturday afternoon's first preliminary final against Fremantle at Ikon Park.
A 36-point thumping from North Melbourne in Hobart in round one could have been disastrous, but instead the Blues regrouped and steadily improved.
"We probably could have dropped our bundle a little bit, because they caught us off guard and we probably hadn't jelled and weren't quite ready for that," Downie said.
"As 'Harf' said, we sort of made stuff-ups and didn't really play to our plan.
"We could've just turned around and gone, 'It's not our year again', but the girls rallied. We've gotten better ever since."
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Downie, 34, explained what it was like playing in a team that was firing.
"When we really click and we make that extra handpass, it's almost like we know that person's going to be there. When we give the ball out, create that chain and score, or it's a good passage of play, you go, 'There it is at work'," Downie said.
"Sometimes you fall away from it. We've got quite a young team, so you can drop off when you get a bit fatigued. Those are the little things (we've focused) on this week.
"If we can tighten up then we're in with a really good chance."
Having played more than 300 games and won three Women's National Basketball League championships with the Dandenong Rangers , Downie knows what it's like to play in cut-throat games.
"It doesn't matter what sport you've played. If you've played in finals, you know that pressure and you know that feeling.
"It's a completely different game … and I'm experienced enough and old enough to know what works for me," she said.