Season review: Carlton

THE GRAND Finalists from 2019 didn't disappoint in 2020, Carlton finishing the season as one of the form sides of the competition.

We didn't get a chance to see how the mouth-watering preliminary final against North Melbourne would have played out, but there was no doubt of Carlton's flag credentials.

Over the next two weeks, womens.afl will look at each of the seasons of the 14 AFLW teams, kicking off proceedings with Adelaide and moving alphabetically from there. 

Meet the Antonios: How football brought us together

04:13 Mar 11. 2020. 8:46 AM

A story of love, marriage and footy

Coach: Daniel Harford 

Leadership group: Kerryn Harrington, Katie Loynes (co-captains), Alison Downie, Sarah Hosking, Nicola Stevens

2020 finishing position: Second in Conference B, five wins, one loss, 151.8%. Qualified for preliminary final.

Best win: Carlton 6.4 (40) defeated Melbourne 3.6 (24) in round six.
An honourable mention to the round five victory over Adelaide, but the win against Melbourne in Alice Springs sewed up a home semi-final and reaffirmed Carlton's claims to the flag. The Blues were challenged and down at half-time, but responded in strong fashion. 

AFLW Match Highlights: Melbourne v Carlton

05:46 Mar 14. 2020. 10:36 PM

The Demons and Blues go head to head in round 6 of the AFLW

Best individual performance: You could throw a blanket over most of Maddy Prespakis' season, but her game against Adelaide in round five was arguably the best. Her stats say twenty disposals, four marks and a goal, but that doesn't show the quality of opposition she was up against.

Club best and fairest candidates: Maddy Prespakis, Kerryn Harrington, Tayla Harris

NAB AFLW Rising Star nominations: Lucy McEvoy (round one), Grace Egan (round four), Charlotte Wilson (round five)

Charlotte Wilson in action against the Crows. Picture: AFL Photos

Debutants: Joanne Doonan, Grace Egan, Mua Laloifi, Lucy McEvoy, Brooke Vernon 

Most improved: Taken with pick 27 in the 2018 NAB AFLW Draft, Charlotte Wilson played five games in her debut season of 2019, but took her game to a new level this year as her confidence grew. The defender played with composure and maturity beyond her years, averaging the third-most marks in the competition. Georgia Gee also took another step in 2020.

Star recruit: The Blues landed themselves arguably the steal of the draft with Mua Laloifi at pick 52. The 26-year-old former basketballer became an integral part of the team's backline, with her intercept and rebound key to the side's success.

Unsung hero: An inaugural member of Carlton's line-up, Nat Plane was an important part of the team's ball movement this year, providing a key link on the wing. Plane's average disposal increased from 6.5 to 12.3 this season. 

What worked:

- Being adaptable to their opposition. With limited training hours available for pre-season, we rarely see teams roll out notably different game-plans week-to-week. But Carlton did just that against Adelaide, employing a high-marking game to beat the Crows.

- Darcy Vescio ventured further up the ground in 2020 and consequently had a much more consistent impact on matches. She still managed to cause havoc close to goal, but also brought teammates into the game with her clever decision-making across the top of the 50. 

What needs improvement:

- Slow starts were an issue throughout the season, but ultimately only cost the Blues one game against Collingwood. On average, Carlton was only one point ahead of its opposition at half-time throughout the season.

Season in a song: Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You). The Kelly Clarkson classic fits Carlton well. The Blues lost skipper and best-and-fairest Brianna Davey to arch-rivals Collingwood but brought in two extra draft picks (including pick two, Lucy McEvoy) and had arguably a better season.

Early call for 2021: With just three players over 30 (Alison Downie, Katie Loynes and Jess Edwards), none of whom look like slowing down any time soon, expect much of the same from Carlton in 2021. A preliminary final – at the least – is definitely achievable.

Season rating: 9/10