AFLW Round 4 – Adelaide v Carlton: Not so useless after all


Adelaide and Carlton approached this replay of last season’s Grand Final with substantially differing repute earned from last year’s efforts. The Crows dominant display in front of that famous 53,034 home crowd was their second premiership out of three seasons of AFLW to date. They had established themselves as the competition benchmark. The Blues, on the other hand, had seen their rise last year from 2018 wooden-spooners overshadowed by the fact that their path had been eased by the luck of a soft conference draw. Consequently, they entered this year needing to prove their improvement under coach Daniel Harford had been no fluke. They also faced the reality that they had yet to beat Adelaide in four AFLW contests.


The headlines coming into the match were dominated by the return of Queen Erin. But it’s likely the absence of Chelsea Randall was equally focusing Carlton’s attention, especially the mind of Tayla Harris. Chelsea remains the unconquered Everest of opponents for Tayla, having regularly dominated whenever they’d previously matched up. Mind you, the same could be said of most Randall opponents; she rarely lowers her colours. The prospect of a Chelsea-free afternoon would have cheered Harris.


So it was that Tayla soon found herself marking and shooting for goal, an opportunity she missed. Though one of the league’s most prodigious (and reproduced) kicks, Harris’ set shot accuracy remains a point of some concern.


The pattern of play was established early. If you let them, Adelaide’s preferred method is to go long and fast through the corridor, often with devastating effect. Under Harford, the Blues have been looking to spread opposition defenses by changing the angles of attack, and seeking to retain more possession. Carlton failed to take their first quarter chances. Adelaide goaled first, when Vaomua Laloifi played on too close to the mark, turned the ball over, and saw Rhiannon Metcalfe celebrate her own return from ACL-enforced absence to bounce one through. That goal was the difference at the first break.


Signs grew worrying for Carlton early in the second term. Eloise Jones slotted a beauty from deep in the right pocket to make it 14 to 2. Carlton’s forwards were failing to stop the Crows’ defensive rebound. As a consequence, Adelaide were finding more space through the middle than Daniel Harford would have liked. When Irish recruit Ailish Considine slotted their third with a round the corner snap that wouldn’t have been out of place back home, some alarm bells would have been ringing in Navy Blue minds.


Carlton persisted. They continued to run and support in numbers along the wings, Darcy Vescio worked up the ground and started winning the ball, Maddy Prespakis continued to rack up the possessions, and Lucy McEvoy kept bobbing up in various spots with useful touches. Tayla missed another couple of shots, but better delivery into the forward line saw Carlton rewarded with goals to Nic Stevens and Prespakis. They were within a kick at half time.


The second half began with an Erin Phillips centre clearance, an Anne Hatchard tackle, free kick and goal. But Vescio was still playing high half forward for Carlton, staying involved, and she immediately found Tayla, who nonchalantly potted the set shot off one step.


Adelaide now found the tide shifting against them. They like to work a spare defender to use as a rebound option, but the Blues started to shut this down. With their ball movement slowed, they found themselves repeatedly kicking the ball straight to Carlton’s defensive set up. Charlotte Wilson and Kerryn Harrington racked up the intercept marks. Carlton declined to kick down the line unless someone was open, switching and maintaining possession until opportunity presented. Stevens eventually found Tayla for her second goal. Erin, sensing the momentum shift, found herself increasingly in defense, which would have suited the Blues. Tayla missed another shot from the pocket on the ¾ time siren, leaving Carlton 2 points up.


The Blues spent the opening minutes of the final term absorbing Adelaide pressure, but the Crows couldn’t produce a shot on goal. Carlton threatened on the break, with Brooke Walker missing on the run. Then Darcy picked her moment to drop deep forward, out-body her opponent and kick a crucial goal. With an 8 point buffer, both Vescio and Harris now dropped back into defense, and the Blues played old fashioned keepings off.


The Crows looked surprisingly unable to adjust to this situation. Chloe Dalton had been sent to tag Erin, who was probably finding the tank a little empty in any case, and no other Crow could provide the inspirational spark. The best they managed in the final minutes was an errant long range shot from Metcalfe. The Blues had it well in hand to the final siren.


This was an outstanding Carlton effort. They held their own in contested ball, usually an Adelaide strength, and dominated possession on the outside. After conceding the opening 3 goals, they didn’t panic, and executed an astute game plan to a tee. They’ll be delighted in their young midfield group. They could scarcely have hoped for a better Bri Davey substitute than Lucy McEvoy, who’s strength in the tackle is eerily reminiscent of our former skipper. Even at her young age, McEvoy can also offer a forward marking target. Grace Egan has begun as if she’s been running in AFLW midfields her entire life. And we already knew what Maddy P could do.


Darcy Vescio played a vital role. Getting her up the ground got her involved, and her smart decision making came to the fore. Charlotte Wilson had a career break-out game in defense, picking off intercept marks at will. Even when Carlton struggled early, Nat Plane provided important run out of the backline.


Adelaide have some thinking to do. After a first up loss, they didn’t get past St Kilda and Geelong with much to spare. Now they found themselves considerably outplayed in the second half of this game. Erin will be better for the run. Eb Marinoff and Anne Hatchard continue to work in close proximity to each other, waxing plenty of possession to effect. But they looked short of forward options today, which was surprising. And the dominance of Tayla reminded them what they’re missing without Chelsea. They still hold third spot in their conference, but face a challenging game against North next round. That game may tell a real tale.


Carlton will be happy that this win allows them to control their own destiny in a tight Conference B. There’ll be no easy games, but after a poor effort against Collingwood they’ll take confidence from two impressive victories.


The standard at which this game was played highlighted how quickly this AFLW league is developing. Given the limited game minutes available, it is a credit to the players and coaches involved. Much is being achieved from comparatively limited resources and opportunity.


ADELAIDE       1.2       3.2       4.3       4.4 (28)

CARLTON        0.2       2.3       4.5       5.6 (36)


Adelaide: Metcalfe, Jones, Considine, Hatchard
Carlton: Harris 2, Stevens, Prespakis, Vescio


Adelaide: Hatchard, Marinoff, Phillips, Mules
Carlton: Wilson, Vescio, Egan, Harris, Prespakis, Harrington, Laloifi, Plane


Crowd: 7281 at Hisense Stadium



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About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Spot on John. Carlton were super impressive – outworked and outrun a team that has run outrun its opponents across the first three rounds. As you point out the absence of Randall is huge for the Crows and particularly when playing against a team with Harris in it – up until now it has been one of the few situations where Randall has been used as a lock down defender on a player rather than floating intercept player across half back.

    I think Carlton should consider trying Vescio in defence again. For a player of her calibre she seems to go missing in the forward lines sometimes but was outstanding in the last quarter. As for the Crows, the forward line is not working this year. The ball is getting in there enough but Jones, Thompson and Ponter are all getting consistently caught behind their usually taller opponents, making it all the more difficult when the opposition regularly has +1 or 2. If such a player exists they would be better off maybe playing Thompson or Jones up the ground and having another lead up forward presenting.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Ditto JB

    The ball handling and movement of both sides was a couple of notches above most games I’ve seen this year. Pity about the result, but the Crows looked shaky early and I was surprised when they got out to that lead in the second quarter. They’ll struggle against North, but I like the look of the Blues from hereon.

  3. John Butler says

    Cheers Dave. Last year the Crows moved the ball so quickly those running forwards were able to get behind or through the defense before it was set. They still seem to be trying to play that way, except the ball isn’t coming in as quick, and the opposition defense is set. It’s a bit like what happened to the Adelaide men’s team post 2017.

    Swish, a big test for the Crows this week. They lost to the other side currently above them, so need to establish some real credentials this year. I wouldn’t count them out.

  4. JB I admit I’m not surprised that the Crows have lost that air of invincibility with out,Chelsea Randall
    Great crowd I admit more than frustration re the criticism of AFLW this week so many people can’t see the whole picture the explosion in numbers of females playing footy is helping and even save so many community clubs well done the blues

  5. John Butler says

    Rulebook, any team would struggle to cover Chelsea.

    Big game for the Crows this week.


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