IT was a tough 2022 season for Carlton fans as the Blues struggled in the first half of their campaign, and despite roaring home late, fell short of finals. Their fall from grace since reaching the 2020 AFL Women’s Grand Final was further compounded by the losses of key players to expansion. They still have some quality players up either end, but their midfield in particular will need some reinforcements, as well as a forward or two to replace those departed.
AFLW DRAFT PICKS: 17, 18, 49, 71, 73 | VIC DRAFT POOL: 8, 9, 26, 38, 40
It was an off-season to forget for the Blues, as Madison Prespakis and Georgia Gee both went to Essendon, while Grace Egan (Richmond), Charlotte Wilson (Melbourne), Nicola Stevens (St Kilda) and Courtney Jones (Gold Coast) also opted for a change of scenery. They traded Lauren Brazzale to Collingwood for Amelia Velardo, and also secured the services of further experience inside 50 via ex-GIANT and Cat Phoebe McWilliams. The wholesale changes mean the Blues will attack the draft with two picks inside the Top 10 of the Victorian pool.
It is easy to group the Blues first two picks together given they are back to back, and ultimately come after the expansion selections and St Kilda’s first pick. Given the losses over the off-season, bringing in some readymade talents who can immediately impact would look to be a positive. Northern Knights’ Rylie Wilcox is one player who can fill the Gee void, with her dash, skill and vision making her one of the most damaging outside runners in the draft crop. Pairing her up with an inside ball winner who can go forward, there are a couple of options. Both Bridie Hipwell and Charlotte Taylor can step straight into the side and play a role and would be more than suitable picks at the selection. If Hipwell’s Sandringham Dragons teammate Sofia Hurley is left on the board, then she is another name to keep in mind for the Blues as a player who can start inside but roll outside.
The later Victorian selections are a bit of a gamble, particularly the last two, but expect the Blues to want to look for upside and players that can fill roles sooner rather than later. Essendon VFLW’s Amelia Radford is one immediate readymade option who earned an AFLW Draft Combine invite and was not pre-listed, and could fill that inside midfield role easily. Collingwood VFLW’s Nyakoat Dojiok has developed into a forward this year and has potential, while Lucy Schneider is another state league talent. If the Blues do go down the youth route, then someone like Dandenong Stingrays’ Emily Shepherd or Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling could be midfield/forward options. Other options who might present later value with ties to the Blues through the Northern Knights include running machine Lulu Beatty and defender Brooke Plummer who had a good national carnival.
Carlton will view the 2022 AFL Women’s Draft as a crucial one, with coach Daniel Harford now having the security of being re-signed, he can mould the team the way he wants going forward. The Blues have lost a lot of talent over the off-season, but still have talented players on their list, and will need to dive back into the draft pool in order to fill the void through the losses of those key players.