THERE was a lot for the navy blue faithful to like in Saturday’s AFLW practice match against Geelong at Ikon Park.
The Blues fell just short, going down 7.2 (44) to 7.4 (46) despite a final-quarter surge. Their ability to move the ball smoothly and quickly across the ground was a clear sign of a revamped game plan set to excite in AFLW 3.0.
A shining light and an early masterstroke by new coach Daniel Harford was the move of Bri Davey to full forward, with the skipper booting four goals in her return from the ACL injury that ended her 2018 campaign.
First-round pick Maddy Prespakis was everywhere across the ground while Shae Audley and Natalie Plane provided constant pressure up forward.
If Blues fans were concerned about the side’s ability to score this year, those fears only took six minutes to disappear.
It was comeback captain Davey who set the game alight early with two goals, courtesy of assists by Prespakis and Shae Audley.
In a new role up forward, Brianna Davey kicked four goals on return. (Photo: Arj Giese)
Prespakis, who shook off a heavy hit early in the game that echoed around Ikon Park, started strongly in a clear sign that she is ready-made to excite the Carlton faithful.
Davey’s two goals saw the Blues take an 11-point lead into quarter-time.
The Cats responded with the first of the second term, before Audley provided an immediate response on the back of an outstanding repeat effort by Georgia Gee in the forward half.
Momentum crept the way of the visitors though as the quarter played out, with Geelong sneaking in two goals to edge two points ahead at the main break.
That wave continued at the resumption with the Cats putting on another two goals. However, Natalie Plane broke the run when she snapped truly from 30m out to cap off a brilliant team move through the middle of the ground.
A goal apiece to round out the third term saw the arm wrestle continue, with Davey adding her third for the game after Tayla Harris found her inside 50 in acres of space.
The Cats maintained a 14-point lead for much of the final quarter, but Carlton’s fighting spirit shone through late with back-to-back goals to Plane and Davey.
Time proved too much of an enemy though, with the final siren coming just too soon.
However, it certainly did not dampen the optimism that now surrounds this Blues ahead of its season opener against North Melbourne in just two weeks.
CARLTON 2.0 3.1 5.1 7.2 (44)
GEELONG 0.1 3.3 6.3 7.4 (46)
Carlton: Davey 4, Plane 2, Audley