AFLW Round 5 – Adelaide v Carlton: The Game Changers need to change their game

Saturday, March 3rd
Norwood Oval


Perhaps better than any other side, Carlton’s shifting fortunes across the twelve AFLW games they have contested reflect how rapidly the competition itself has developed since inception. In the early rounds of last season, the Blues’ discipline and defensive organisation made them formidable exponents of a congested, contested style based on territorial attrition. That was often how women’s footy used to be played. Even in the first rounds of this season, it was sufficient for the Blues to grind out two low scoring victories. But each subsequent round reinforces that method has had its day.


AFL executives can issue all the mansplaining memos they want, but what will really focus the attention of coaches and players is what’s winning games. As the better sides this season are demonstrating, hard running, spread from the contest, hitting your targets, and an ability to convert scoring chances are now essential if you’re going to keep pace. After last round’s car crash against the Bulldogs, the Blues would have woken up the next morning feeling as cutting edge as a prog rock band in the age of punk.


The search for a new way had to begin against the reigning premiers, who have themselves found the field catching up to them pretty rapidly this season. From Carlton’s perspective, it doesn’t begin that badly. We are clearly striving for faster ball movement. And the inclusion of Harris, Loynes and Hardiman is making a notable difference. But we have nothing to show for our efforts on the scoreboard because we can’t kick straight when it counts. Then Ruth Wallace extends our defence’s current nightmare against crumbing forwards by kicking a brace. As quarter time looms, Darcy loads up a barrel which clears the Crows defence for Tayla to bounce through a goal. It is 2.2 to 1.4 at the first huddle.


When Tayla reciprocates with a quick kick to Darcy, who does her thing, we find ourselves suddenly in front at the start of the second term. That is as good as it will get. As the quarter progresses, the Crows turn the balance their way. Carlton’s defence is increasingly rushing their kicks, ensuring the ball’s prompt return. Bri Davey’s calmness is sorely missed.


Eloise Jones breaks the dam wall with two quick goals: one from a fine mark, the other from a glorious snap deep in the pocket. The Crows get on top in clearances and another two goals quickly follow. In not much more than five minutes they’ve opened the game right up. For a team yet to kick more than three goals in a match, Carlton’s half time deficit of 23 points looks ominous. Adelaide clearly feels comfortable, as Erin Phillips puts her problematic quad on ice.


As if to emphasise their current plight, the Blues strive mightily in the second half to make up ground, but make no scoreboard impact. They camp in their front half during the third quarter, keeping Adelaide scoreless, but can only muster a miserable 0.3 themselves.


This trend continues into the final term, until the Crows find their groove late to add another couple of goals. By the end the margin has blown out to 35 points. It seems poor reward for a lot of Carlton effort.


Statistics can deceive as well as inform. It’s easy to look at comparatively close inside 50 totals (30-27 Adelaide’s way) and think you were in the game. The fact is that Carlton generated relatively few clear chances from all those entries. A tally of 12 goals in five matches is clear evidence that the attacking side of Carlton’s game has broken down.


Darcy Vescio has found herself in the predicament that befell Mo Hope last season, stranded in front of a midfield unable to provide regular quality service, struggling to find a way to make an impact. Tayla Harris seems increasingly required in a spare parts role, plugging gaps as they occur. Her work rate and physical style is impressive, but she has maintained a poor conversion rate in front of goal. To my eye, she lacks a consistent set-shot routine.


Carlton’s scoring woes continue to spring from a struggling midfield group. Sarah Hosking has been the Blues’ best this season. Katie Loynes continues her fearless attack on the ball. But they need more help. Too many of their fellow mids rely on winning the ball on the inside, at a time when the ball is increasingly outside. As a group, Carlton are being consistently outrun during crucial periods.


For an example of a midfield that can break the lines, Adelaide remain a potent force. Quick transition creates opportunities for their forwards. Wallace and Jones took advantage for a collective five goals today, ensuring Erin Phillips was barely required. Whilst that questionable quad remains their biggest worry, it would surprise if the premiers didn’t remain in contention right until the final round.


After the aberration of the Bulldogs game, the Blues regained their competitiveness and effort this week. But if they harbour any illusions about how they’re currently travelling, they need only look at their percentage, which has now plummeted to 50. That’s cellar-dweller territory. With this season’s fate decided, their strategy for next season really needs to start now.


ADELAIDE   2.2   6.3   6.3   8.7 (55)

CARLTON   1.4   2.4   2.7   2.8 (20)


Adelaide: Wallace 3; Jones 2; McCormick, Hewett, Sedunary

Carlton: Harris; Vescio


Adelaide: Randall, Wallace, Foley, Marinoff,  Rajcic, Jones

Carlton:, S.Hosking, Loynes, Moody, Harris, Audley, Gay


Umpires: Mirabile, Strybos, Crosby

Official crowd: 5970 at Norwood Oval


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. Jarrod_L says

    The times, they are a changin’

    Liked the prog rock comment, made me think of one of my favourite Simpsons quotes: “I used to be ‘with it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’, and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me…”

    Hopefully the Blues can get back ‘with it’ soon. They’ve certainly got the talent across the ground to do so when fit and firing.

  2. John Butler says

    Jarrod, I think there’s a Simpsons quote for pretty much any situation. :)

    Carlton’s approach to the next trade period will say a lot about our mindset. In many ways, the women’s team pursued the opposite approach to our men’s team. It hasn’t worked.


  3. Yvette Wroby says

    Nice write up John. Back to the drawing board for the Blues. Injuries to key players hasn’t helped.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    As ever John, you drill a spectacular goal with your analysis. I hadn’t realized that against Adelaide there was a near equality in Inside 50s. I did observe that at Footscray, we were only down 29-30. Both are revelatory, as you explain, haphazard kicking forward and an absence of method in the approach to scoring.
    It’s rare for me to offer any insight about modern football tactics. However, I did remark after the two early victories by the Blues (and watching occasional fragments of other games) that the first side to master precise kicking and rapid ball movement featuring plenty of runners would break the competition open. It seems so obvious that when the typical kick is shorter than what we are accustomed to, the answer lies in stringing those kicks together as well as adding run and quick movement, to prevent congestion.
    You’re quite right that the approach to next season will demonstrate whether the Blues’ decision-makers – notoriously slow learners – can adapt. It’s too awful to contemplate the women going down the same path as the men’s team has for a long time. What’s that quote about insanity (apparently attributed in error to Einstein)?

  5. John Butler says

    Thanks for the comments folks.

    Yvette, the absence of Bri has certainly exposed the list’s shortcomings more acutely.

    Peter, the problem with the inside 50 stat is that a kick to 40 that gets instantly rebounded counts the same as an entry that leads to a goal. Like politicians, coaches can pick their stats to provide comfort.

    As to what happens from here? I note with interest that the women’s list manager has already resigned over what what has been reported as a disagreement over strategy and selection. Along with other happenings at the club over summer, Carlton will be worth watching off field as well as (hopefully) on.

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