THERE’S no denying that 2019 was an unforgettable year for Charlotte Wilson. However, she and her teammates aren’t harping on that.
As she puts in, Carlton has some unfinished business.
Coming into last year as the youngest player in the competition, Wilson was a surprise packet for the Blues, playing five games including the Grand Final.
When you talk to the recently-turned 19-year-old (her birthday is 29 December), you simply cannot wipe the smile off her face.
It’s all summed up with one quote.
“I just love it so, so much. I’m willing to give everything,” Wilson told Carlton Media.
“I want to be here so badly. I want to improve so badly. I want to be out there with the girls and the coaches and better myself and others.”
Affectionately known as ‘Muscles’ by her teammates (she’s got the Hoskings to thank for that one), Wilson knows that with an extra year in the system comes greater responsibility.
Not that Wilson is any stranger to having to pull her weight: she emerged as a key member of Carlton’s defensive setup at the perfect time in 2019.
The journey to the Grand Final was a memorable one for all of those in Navy Blue, but it’s clear that the day itself is lingering at Ikon Park.
“We got to the Grand Final but we got our arses handed to us. It wasn’t good enough and we know that,” she said.
“If you look at the overall ladder, we actually finished fifth and not second. We’ve really got to push to get back there and hopefully go one better than we did last year.”
Having debuted in Round 5, Wilson couldn’t have imagined this time 12 months ago that her debut year would have involved a Grand Final berth.
Even less so could she have imagined what her first involvement would actually be: a chase-down tackle which was the best Navy Blue moment of the day.
“So many people still ask me about that! At Christmas time, we had family friends come over who I hadn’t seen for ages and they said ‘Hey Charlotte, how about that tackle in the Grand Final?’
“My response is that it’s the only good thing I did, because it obviously wasn’t the best day.”
It’s that physicality which ‘Muscles’ brought that is the focus across the board for Carlton this pre-season.
With the season opener under three weeks away, Wilson said the lessons learnt from the Grand Final have dictated preparations to date.
“It’s definitely been a focus to be a lot more physical. When we look back at vision, there were a lot of times where if we threw in an extra bump, they may not have gone onto score or they wouldn’t have outrun us,” she said.
“We got stuck a lot fo the time over the back, so it’s about being more physical and aggressive.”
As someone who finished the season - perhaps unexpectedly - in the senior team, Wilson unsurprisingly wants to pick up in 2020 where she left off.
Just as it did with Wilson over a year ago, Carlton bolstered its defensive stocks at the draft with Brooke Vernon and Vaomua Laloifi — “She can read the ball so well and she’s got very sticky hands… she’s probably going to take my spot!”.
Having made her debut in Round 5 last year (against Collingwood no less), there’s only one word which Wilson could use to describe her feelings ahead of the season opener.
“I’m so desperate — that’d be the word. I’m desperate to play in Round 1,” she said.
“It would be so exciting to open the season, I didn’t get to do that last year. I know in myself that I’ve worked really hard and hopefully others can see that.
“It would also be exciting because one of my best friends, Laura McClelland, plays for Richmond. If she played and I played, it would be really fun for us and our families.
“At the end of the day, the coaches will be putting the best team out there to get the win.”