"I was really proud of the players that went out and locked that out.”
Coming up against a brand new side in Essendon, AFLW Senior Coach Daniel Harford moved the magnets around and saw his team adapt - and then hold on - against a surging Bombers outfit on Sunday.
With the aim to enhance team flexibility while also developing all players on the list, no matter their age or experience, the opportunity to have a look at different mixes - such as Kerryn Harrington on the wing - saw experience spread all across the ground.
The opening fortnight has also seen Jess Dal Pos in a new role up forward.
“We’ve got a really stable lineup down back and they’ve worked really well together for the last couple of seasons,” he said.
“It’s just about adding different looks, it’s like any other team: you need some flexibility and some levers to pull in certain games to have access to some different formats and different flow of game.
“That’s why we’ve thrown ‘Kez' up there a bit, Gab [Pound] gets up there a bit now and then, Brooke Vickers goes from back to wing, so there’s all those opportunities for those players to develop.
“[Jess Dal Pos] is such a versatile player, she can be a back pocket plumber, she can go through the midfield, she can go on a wing, and she can play that forward role that we’ve got her in at the moment. She helps organise our forward half and not just on field but off field as well with her leadership, the way she sets standards around the footy club.”
In terms of developing players in new roles, Harford believes it is essential to have a balanced group that can take on different scenarios in-game.
“They’re the things you have to try and find throughout the games, to arrest momentum, to gain momentum, to lock down the game, to try and attack,” he said.
“It’s about having the levers to pull, it’s a part of this evolution of this group, to find players who can play in different roles and still get the job done for us or create new opportunities for us.”
Speaking of experienced players, Harford acknowledged the three players who would reach their 50 game-milestone this weekend: Breann Moody, Elise O’Dea and Jess Dal Pos.
Moody has played all 50 of her games for Carlton, with Harford acknowledging the special layer that adds to the milestone and what it says about the program at IKON Park.
“Brea Moody is an ‘OG’ at the ‘Baggers and we’re rapt with her performance so far this season: the last couple of years have been great for her to develop her progress and her talents at Carlton” he said.
“50 games for an OG is a really good thing, we had ‘Darce’ a couple of weeks ago go through that, now ‘Moods’ gets her crack at it.”
As for O’Dea and Dal Pos, Harford noted the extensive work that both did in the inception of the AFLW competition and progression of women’s football as a whole, both starting their careers at the Darebin Falcons and coming to Carlton with a wealth of experience.
“O’Dea has been a really popular member of this crew since she came across from the Dees,” he said.
“She’s a bit of an AFLW icon and rightly so for what she’s done, not only for this competition, but for the VWFL back in the old days. She’s a football name in this town and across the nation.
“Jess Dal Pos - a bit like ‘June’ - has been doing things for women’s football for many, many years and to have her be a part of our program and a part of our team and to lead this group has been a real joy. Jess has thrown herself into this program since she came from the Giants, and we’ve loved every minute of her contribution to our team.”
The milestones will be occurring on the first of two Indigenous Rounds, where Carlton will be running out in its guernsey designed by Indigenous artist Brooke Sutton: it's a special day which Harford can't wait to see his team participate in.
Noting that Indigenous Round wasn’t always a part of football in his lifetime, Harford referred to how far the program has come and how lucky he feels that he can be a part of a special occasion such as this.
“It’s a really cool thing: the Indigenous Round is a great concept full stop,” he said.
“Our players really embrace it, we’ve got really connections to the Indigenous communities through our group and they are very strong in their allegiance to Indigenous people across the nation.
“We’ve got a really good crew that love this concept of supporting and recognising the contribution of Indigenous players, men, women, administrators and people in sport, let alone the country, and what they’ve done for AFL and being able to represent that to a degree wearing the Carlton crest as well.
“The players love the design on this jumper and I can’t wait to see them out there on the weekend. When I was growing up, this didn’t exist, this recognition, this opportunity to understand and learn didn’t exist.”