THE TASK of replacing Brianna Davey at Carlton has already started.
Davey, Carlton's AFLW skipper for the past two seasons, stunned the club in April when she requested a trade to bitter rivals Collingwood.
The blockbuster deal taking the star midfielder to the Pies came barely a month after she led the Blues to their first ever AFLW Grand Final and just weeks after she won her second best and fairest in three years with the club.
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Having enjoyed a stellar campaign upon returning from a ruptured ACL, which she suffered in February 2018, Davey's decision to seek a move elsewhere has left the club with the unenviable job of attempting to fill the void of one of the League's best talents.
It also shocked a number of senior figures within the club's women's program, including her former coach Daniel Harford.
"Yeah, I was surprised," Harford told womens.afl.
"She had such a good year, coming back from the knee injury, and she had such a good relationship with the staff that got her into that position. I thought it would have been a big call for her to leave, to find a new home and to trust new staff members.
"I don't begrudge her moving. It's what the League wanted with expansion … player movement and giving expansion clubs access to talent – not that Collingwood is an expansion club, but it created the dynamic.
"(But) you get what you can out of the game through your time in it.
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"We all know the challenges the girls face with work and footy, so I certainly don't begrudge any player leaving any club for opportunities that they think are going to be in their best interests long-term. But I was surprised, I must admit."
Carlton replaced Davey's leadership by naming co-captains in mid-December, with veteran midfielder Katie Loynes and star defender Kerryn Harrington taking over the role. But replacing what she brings on the field will prove just as difficult.
The Blues received a bevy of draft picks from the Pies in return for Davey, including the second selection in the most recent NAB AFLW Draft where it recruited versatile Vic Country prospect Lucy McEvoy.
But rather than naming individuals who could potentially fill Davey's void in 2020, Harford believes a more cohesive approach through the midfield will help the club strengthen in that part of the field.
"We don't replace really good players easily," Harford said.
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"There will be a loss to a degree there, so what we need to do is work with the players we've got to upskill them as quickly as possible.
"What we got out of Bri was four draft picks that we were able to use really effectively when it came to the draft. We picked some elite young talent that I would hope will play straight up.
"They're not going to bring the experience, expertise and quality that she has straightaway, but we hope that in two or three years that's the outcome we're getting from this young talent.
"While it's a loss from a playing perspective, our list is actually much more balanced now. Not because Bri is gone, but just because of the way we've built the list through the draft. We've got a much more balanced list this season."
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One player who Carlton does believe is capable of taking another step forward in her development next season is Madison Prespakis, who is already coming off a high base after winning the NAB AFLW Rising Star last season.
Prespakis tied Davey for the club's best and fairest award in 2019 despite it being just her first season in senior footy, after a stellar campaign where she averaged 19.1 disposals per game and kicked seven goals from nine matches.
The impact that the 19-year-old made last season was enough to leave her coaches in awe, as well as being incredibly excited about what is still to come.
"She was remarkable last year," Harford said.
"She had an amazing year, an absolutely amazing year. We were so pleased for her, because she is a really driven young player. But she's still got challenges to work through as well, because there will be more of those this year.
"You imagine that once everyone has seen what she's done for a period of time, then more work will go into her. People understand the influence she can have, everyone is aware of that and she is aware of that. But her year last year was out of this world."