Harford laments “fumbly, messy” Blues

CARLTON coach Daniel Harford did not hold back when assessing his side’s 18-point loss to Collingwood to open Season 7 of the AFL Women’s last night, describing them as “fumbly and messy”. After a promising first term where goals to debutant Mia Austin and 50-gamer Darcy Vescio kept the Blues level at 12 points apiece, Carlton would register just one more score – a remarkable goal to ruck Breann Moody – as the Pies went on to kick 3.6 and dominate the territory battle.

“We made the most of our opportunities in the first quarter in particular,” Harford said of the game. “Outside of that, we were fumbly and messy and lost track ahead of the footy, and a bit of composure at the fall at the contest.”

Harford paid credit to the Pies’ pressure that they brought to the contest, which forced the Blues into making more mistakes with ball-in-hand.

“In the end their pressure was probably the difference in the game, they were able to surge and get the space they wanted on the open side a fair few times and we couldn’t shut it down because we were stuck at the contest” Harford said.” “I think that summed up my view of the last three quarters really.”

Coming into the match, the Carlton coach said he was “really confident” his side could defy media expectations and “put up a really good showing”. The Blues have lost the likes of Madison Prespakis, Georgia Gee, Nicola Stevens, Charlotte Wilson, Grace Egan, and to the opposition last night, inaugural Blue, Lauren Brazzale. Despite those departures, Harford said he was optimistic about what his side could produce.

“Collingwood were really physical and made us earn everything and that was certainly one of their assets tonight,” Harford said. “But no, we weren’t the team we should have been tonight for many and varied reasons, but it’s a disappointing outcome to start like this when I’m really sure that we’re much better than that.

“We’ll keep working, getting back to the basics and try not to turn the ball over, try and pick it up a bit cleaner, try and use it a bit more effectively and get the ball inside our forward half at some stage.”

Despite the loss, Carlton was able to break even in the clearances (23-23) and contested possessions (100-97) with a clear win in the hitouts (36-16). Harford said he felt his side’s method was “a bit off” and stayed too tight through the midfield, unable to exploit space on the outside.

“We got really close, we got really tight and when the ball was turned over they were able to get advantage with territory and we weren’t able to do that because we were so tight and stuck in, so that was one thing. “Our method was a bit off tonight. “Theirs was pretty good, and ours was pretty bad in the end.”

Carlton’s night did not get off to the best start when star midfielder Mimi Hill copped a corkie in the warmup. She received some strapping and went back out there to win more disposals than anyone else with 26, as well as record three marks, two tackles and lay two tackles. Harford praised Hill’s ability to work through the knock and produce what she was able to on such a big occasion.

“What a kid, what a way to work through that and be such an important player for us,” he said. “She probably wasn’t able to spread and explode like she would have normally liked to have done with the niggle, but I thought she was massive tonight with that going tonight.”

Another key player out there for the Navy Blues was Lucy McEvoy with the former Geelong Falcons premiership skipper, and utility playing after a shoulder injury threatened to rule out most of her Season 7 campaign.

“She’s a great competitor, Luce,” Harford said. “We love her in the team, and outside of last week I didn’t expect to be seeing her for quite some time, but she kept ticking all the boxes along the way, and when we got the all-clear that she was going to play, that was a big plus for us. “I thought she was brilliant behind the ball tonight, she was too busy for my liking but I thought she did a hell of a job coming back from that injury.”

Debutant Mia Austin was another player who contributed to the “little snippets” that Harford liked from his side throughout the course of the game, pulling down a strong pack mark and slotting the opening goal of the season.

“That’s one of her great strengths (jumping and marking), she’s a great athlete,” he said. “She runs and jumps at the footy and she works really hard, and she’s a great kid. “She’s going to be a fantastic player for our footy club for a long period of time, so little snippets along the way, we got to like and we had to tick the boxes but it probably wasn’t enough in the evening.”

Having fallen short against arch-rivals Collingwood, the Blues will have 10 days to reassess and prepare for Round 2 when they take on another rival in newcomer, Essendon. Carlton takes on the Bombers at ETU Stadium from 11:10am on Sunday, September 4.

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