Leadership, podcasts and twinning: How star Blue is gearing up for 2020

CARLTON coach Daniel Harford gave his side a reality check after last year's 45-point AFLW Grand Final loss to Adelaide. 

The Blues finished on top of Conference B last season with four wins from seven games, with a percentage of 99.6.

But midfielder Sarah Hosking says the side is fully aware of where it sits, despite a rapid rise from 'wooden spooners' to Grand Finalists in the space of one season. 

NO HARF MEASURES Blues coach realistic about 2020 challenges

"In the bigger picture, 'Harf' made it clear to the playing group, in an overall ladder we finished in fifth position. As more of a reality, we're aware of where we finished overall," Hosking told women's.afl.

Despite that, the Blues have the belief they can make a run at the Grand Final again with Adelaide and Melbourne battling injuries.  

"I think every team at the start of the season, the aim is to be contenders," she said.

Hosking noted list depth was one of the key reasons why Adelaide was successful last year, and could be so again in 2020 despite the loss of Chelsea Randall to an ACL injury. 

The addition of second overall pick Lucy McEvoy should certainly help with bolstering Carlton's depth.  

McEvoy, who led Geelong Falcons to a premiership as a 16-year-old in 2017, was rewarded with All-Australian selection for the past three seasons and dominated playing in just about every position.

FOLLOW THE LEADER Your club's 2020 captain and leadership group

It might be a coincidence, but the recruitment of McEvoy adds to Carlton's 'twinning' formula.

Ten sets of twins have been listed for the Blues across their AFL, AFLW and VFLW competitions in the past 12 months.

Hosking and her identical twin Jess have been on Carlton's AFLW list since the start.

Breann Moody has played for the Blues in both the AFLW and VFLW, while her twin Celine joined the Blues for the 2018 VFLW season. 

Celine is now heading into her second season with the Western Bulldogs in the 2020 NAB AFL Women's Competition. 

Harry McKay's twin brother Ben plays for North Melbourne, while Sarah and Gemma Wright played for the club's VFLW side in 2019. 

A NUMBERS GAME Your club's jumper owners for season 2020 

McEvoy (brother), Gab Pound (sister) and Maddy Prespakis (sister) all have twins who are not involved in football. 

Hosking said each set of twins has a different dynamic to the others at the club, with Prespakis and her sister being polar opposites, while the Hoskings are inseparable. 

"I love Gab's cheeky side. She's just like Jess and I, we love playing pranks on people and getting a laugh," she said.

In 2017, most of the team didn't realise Pound had an identical twin, so she took full advantage for a practical joke.

PLAYERS' SURVEY Who is the best midfielder in AFLW?

Pound dressed her identical twin sister Annie in her Carlton training uniform and got her to warm up with the team, with none of the players picking up anything unusual.

After training, the team headed into a lecture theatre and sat down. 

Pound then walked in a few minutes after, with the playing group looking bewildered and swinging their heads left and right to make sure they weren't seeing double. 

Hosking believes McEvoy can not only follow in Prespakis' footsteps and potentially give the Blues back-to-back Rising Star winners, but believes the 18-year-old is an 'emerging leader' already.

No.2 pick Lucy McEvoy is expected to make a big impression at Carlton. Picture: AFL Photos

"The nature that she carries herself with, she's not only an elite player on the field at a young age … off the field as well she's such a down-to-earth genuine soul," Hosking said.

"Her leadership characteristics are more of a natural feel."

FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game

For the first time in their brief AFLW history, the Blues will have two captains in Kerryn Harrington and Katie Loynes.

Hosking was named in the leadership group, alongside Alison Downie and Nicola Stevens. 

Carlton's leadership group (L-R) (front) Captains Katie Loynes and Kerryn Harrington, (back) Sarah Hosking, Alison Downie and Nicola Stevens. Picture: Getty Images

The Blues opened their arms to anyone who wanted to raise their hand for a leadership role, with players presenting in all different ways for five to 10 minutes. 

"It took everyone on an emotional rollercoaster… there were some emotional speeches, funny speeches, poems and powerpoints," she said.

"Chloe (Dalton) was one of the funnier speeches. She whipped out her gold medal and had a few extra votes from her gold medal."

PLAYERS' SURVEY Who is the best defender in AFLW?

Dalton has since announced she will chase a second gold medal in rugby 7s at the Tokyo Olympics later this year, and the team is right behind her. 

The second-year Blue has been training six times per week, with some sessions at Carlton and others with the Melbourne Rebels.

"We're lost for words at how impressive she is," Hosking said.

"We're excited to see her in our 2020 AFLW campaign but also hopefully a second gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics."

PLAYERS' SURVEY Who is the best ruck in AFLW?

Hosking has also found a new calling as the host of Carlton's Behind the Game Changers podcast, something that might come as a surprise to friends who know the tough midfielder well. 

Hosking admits she isn't the "most organised person" when it comes to most aspects in life, but prepares meticulously when it comes to the podcast.

"To be completely honest I haven't really listened to many podcasts before. I have an interest in the media space and have done a little bit of TV interviews," she said.

"I love the idea of helping people feel comfortable in front of camera or in that kind of 'can-be-awkward' situation."

The show has given Hosking the chance to create a stronger bond with her teammates. 

"I thought I had a good understanding of a lot of the girls, but it's given me a good opportunity to dig a little bit deeper and get to know the girls on a better level," she said.

"It’s the environment that you create outside and off the field that can really set the tone for how you all gel and play on the field."