IN THE weeks and months preceding the inaugural AFLW Draft of October 2016 the eight foundation clubs, Carlton included, were permitted to cherry-pick their first players.
AFLW rules dictated that the clubs could specifically secure marquee signings on increased salaries across any state; priority players with existing club connections; and up to two rookies who had not participated in competitive Australian Rules in the three lead-up years.
On July 27, 2016, the club’s recruiters confirmed their first marquee signings – the St Kilda Sharks (and future Carlton captain Brianna Davey) and the Darebin Falcons’ Darcy Vescio.
Permitted one priority selection, the club also went with Vescio’s teammate Lauren Arnell, whose name is forever consigned to history as Carlton’s first AFLW captain.
As fate would have it, Arnell originally hailed from East Ballarat, a short, ten-minute drive from Sebastopol - the old hometown of Jimmy Aitken who led the men of Carlton onto the Brunswick Street Oval for the club’s very first VFL match in May 1897.
Carlton used its rookie selections on the soccer player Nat Exon and basketballer Kate Shierlaw.
On October 12, 2016, a state-based draft was conducted; the draft order having been determined by random draw on September 29 of that year. The draft order operated in snake formation, with the club holding the first selection of the first round also holding the final selection of the second round, and so on.
The Blues went with Cranbourne’s Bianca Jakobsson as their first-round selection and three overall), Seaford’s Kate Gillespie-Jones (second round and 14th), Seaford’s Sarah Hosking (third round and 19th), Melbourne Uni’s Gabriella Pound (fourth round and 30th), Cranbourne’s Danielle Hardiman (fifth round and 35th), Diamond Creek’s Shae Audley (sixth round and 46th), Bendigo’s Bella Ayre (seventh round and 51st), Diamond Creek’s Lauren Brazzale (eighth round and 62nd), Cranbourne’s Breann Moody (ninth round and 67th), Seaford’s Jess Hosking (tenth round and 78th), Seaford’s Natalie Plane (eleventh round and 83rd), Bendigo’s Sarah Last (twelfth round and 94th), St Kilda Sharks’ Tilly Lucas-Rodd (thirteenth round and 99th), Diamond Creek’s Katie Loynes (fourteenth round and 110th), Melbourne University’s Madeline Keryk (15th round and 115th), Victoria’s Kate Darby (sixteenth round and 126th), Diamond Creek’s Alison Downie (seventeenth round and 129th), Diamond Creek’s Laura Attard (eighteenth round and 140th) and Eastern Devils’ Rebecca Privitelli (nineteenth round and 142nd).
Following the draft, two more players – Bendigo’s Jess Kennedy and Hayley Trevean - were identified as undrafted/free agents to complement Carlton’s senior list of 25 players.
So where are they now?
Brianna Davey – Davey, the former Matildas goalkeeper, took out her club’s best and fairest award in hers and the team’s first season, as well as All-Australian honours. She was appointed Carlton captain in 2018, but after 17 matches in three seasons sought a trade to Collingwood.
Darcy Vescio – Following in the footsteps of Carlton’s Wally Koochew more than 100 years before, Vescio, AFLW’s first footballer of Chinese heritage, impacted from the outset - booting four goals (more than Collingwood’s score) in that memorable first encounter before 18,000 people at Ikon Park. An AFWL leading goalkicker and All-Australian in 2017, the highly-visible Vescio is now 30 games and four seasons into her highlight-catching Carlton career.
Lauren Arnell – Having previously worked at the club in an off-field role, including in the development of Carlton’s bid for a women’s team licence, Arnell was named the club's inaugural AFL Women's captain and was first to break the banner in the historic opening round at Ikon Park. Replaced as captain by Brianna Davey the following year, she completed duties as vice-captain before furthering her career with Brisbane in a three-way deal involving Collingwood.
Nat Exon – Another feted member of the inaugural AFLW match, in what would be her one and only season with the club, Exon was, together with Bella Ayre, traded to Brisbane in a complex arrangement involving four teams, five players, and a draft selection. In April 2019 and after two seasons with the Lions, Exon joined expansion club St Kilda along with Kate McCarthy.
Kate Shierlaw – Having completed her debut in the second round of 2017, in a match with Greater Western Sydney at Ikon Park, Shierlaw was a fixture for the duration of the season. On the completion of season 2018, Shierlaw was delisted, but on the eve of the 2020 season was contracted by St Kilda and took on leadership duties as co-captain.
With Sarah Hosking having recently been traded to Richmond for an end-of-first-round draft selection, only eight of the original 25 squad members for Carlton’s inaugural 2017 season remain - Lauren Brazzale, Katie Loynes, Gabriella Pound, Jess Hosking, Breann Moody, Alison Downie, Natalie Plane and Darcy Vescio.