2019 finish: Runners up

2020 finish: 2nd (Conference B)

Grade: A+


In a Nutshell

The mark against Carlton’s 2019 Grand Final berth was that the Blues were not necessarily the second-best team as much as they were beneficiaries of the conference system. However, no such accusations could be made of Daniel Harford’s team in 2020.

Co-captain Kerryn Harrington was superb in defence, finishing fifth in the league for marks, fourth for intercept possessions and first in disposal efficiency for players with more than 20 touches. Second-year players Madison Prespakis (21 disposal average per game and two time Best and Fairest), Charlotte Wilson and athletic ball-mover Chloe Dalton continued on their upward trajectory while Georgia Gee and Nat Plane exploded far beyond expectations (the former’s semi-final performance of 12 touches and three goals signalled her arrival as an A-grader). Up forward, Tayla Harris’ newfound consistency made Carlton one of the highest scoring teams while Darcy Vescio had her best season since 2017 as a high forward, where the extra space suited her agility.

Carlton also procured two of the biggest steals of the draft in ice-cool defender Mua Laloifi (pick 52) and midfielder Grace Egan, nabbed from Richmond’s VFLW team with pick 13 after the Tigers failed to match the Blues’ bid. Egan went on to average 14 touches a game and secured a Rising Star nomination alongside fellow Blues Lucy McEvoy and Charlotte Wilson.

The turning point came in the Round 4 Grand Final rematch as Carlton’s high-possession, short-20 ball movement guided the Blues to a crucial victory away from home. From there, no side could touch the Baggers. St Kilda, Melbourne and semi-finalists Brisbane fell to a high-scoring side full of players approaching their best.

For 2021

The Carlton of the backend of 2020 is a premiership contender. Each line is stocked with talent, the game plan has been locked down and youth is on the Blues’ side with only three current players older than 30. The Blues may have to balance a sudden surfeit of forwards. Harris is signed and sealed as a spearhead with Gee, Vescio and Brooke Walker kicking goals around her. Alison Downie played back-up as a tall forward and ruck with Bree Moody cementing her position as one of the best and most athletic rucks in the game. After Damien Keeping attempted to make Nicola Stevens a midfielder, Harford was marginally more successful in deploying the 27-year old as a forward.