Ellie Blackburn was an outsider to win the AFLW best-and-fairest award heading into Friday night’s game against the Bulldogs.
She won’t be now.
The 25-year-old almost single-handedly willed her side over the line in the last quarter at Whitten Oval.
After facing a 10-point deficit heading into the last quarter, Blackburn was everywhere for the Dogs and kicked two final-term goals within the opening five minutes to have her side put their noses ahead of the Blues.
A second goal to Kirsten McLeod put the Bulldogs up by eight points and a misfiring Carlton made sure Blackburn’s efforts got the reward they deserved.
SORRY … NOT SORRY
When Kirsten McLeod ran into an open goal early in the first quarter the Dogs looked set to kick the first goal of the night.
But a complete shank off the outside of her boot left the Whitten Oval crowd silent and scratching their heads.
Fast forward to the second half and McLeod was given the same opportunity to kick the opener.
This time it was from deep in the pocket and 30 metres out.
Launching a drop punt, McLeod split the middle, and repeated her heroics again in the last quarter when Blackburn was looking for a partner in crime.
Running onto a loose ball 40 metres from goal, McLeod burst away from her opponent and at full speed kicked truly after running her distance.
After a wayward first half in front of goal, Tayla Harris made the most of her chances in the second half and kicked the Blues away in the third term with two goals.
After Collingwood’s Stacey Livingstone got the better of her last week, Harris looked at her best once she’d taken a couple of contested marks and worked her way into the game.
Harris shapes as the vital cog in the Blues’ quest for a finals push, providing an important connection with her star-studded midfield.
Mimi Hill is shaping as a Rising Star candidate after a prolific outing in which she amassed 17 disposals.
Carlton’s first pick in last year’s draft made an immediate impact with 12 touches against Collingwood last week, but she showed it was no fluke against the Bulldogs and led all comers for disposals at halftime.
Hill’s addition to Carlton’s midfield gives them some of the best depth in AFLW alongside Prespakis, Gee and Hosking.
It was a moment champion racehorse trainer Peter Moody captured and will have up on his fireplace come Monday morning.
Identical twins Breann and Celine Moody, daughters of Peter, faced off in the opening ruck contest and found themselves rubbing shoulders for most of the night.
While the hit-outs were almost even, Breann shading Celine 13-12, Breann was able to win more of the footy than her sister, finishing with 13 touches, to take the bragging rights.
Harford slams ‘awful’ Blues
Daniel Harford wasn’t pulling punches after his side’s loss to the Western Bulldogs, labelling the Blues’ performance “awful”.
Carlton held a 10-point lead entering the last quarter, but an Ellie Blackburn inspired Bulldogs outfit overran the Blues, kicking three goals to none to run out six-point winners.
And Harford, whose side now sits at 0-2 on the season, said while the Blues have come back from here before, they were a long way off it.
“We went through being 0-2 a couple of years ago and rebounded really strongly and made the grand final, so we’ve proven we’re capable of rebounding but what we saw tonight, it was awful, we were awful tonight,” he said.
“I don’t want to take too much away from the Doggies because I thought they were really good, but it was nothing like what we are as a team and what we try to accomplish as a team.
“We need to dig deep into the number and the psyche of the players and try and find why what is happening is happening.”
Harford said despite the last quarter dominance of the Dogs, he felt Carlton was beaten all night.
“I think the Dogs were hungrier I must admit, it wasn’t so much the last quarter it was all through the game,” he said.
“They had really dominant patches and we didn’t cope with those patches at all, we made bad errors skill wise and decision making and then we lost a bit of confidence, I think.
“Then the Dogs started to feed off that and got reward with an early goal in the last quarter which maybe just got us a bit nervous again.”
One bright spot for the Blues was the performance of second-gamer Mimi Hill, who finished with 19 touches.
“Without her I reckon we lose by six goals tonight, particularly early in the night she saved us a lot,” Harford said.
“She’s a terrific kid and works her backside off and when you invest your first pick in a kid you want to make sure they can contribute pretty quickly and Mim’s been terrific in that.
“I thought her game tonight was full of leadership and almost played beyond her years tonight the way she covered off and helped out when by rights she shouldn’t have had to, but she did.”
WESTERN BULLDOGS 6.6 (42)
CARLTON 5.6 (36)
Western Bulldogs: McLeod 2, Blackburn 2, Fitzgerald, Huntington
Carlton: Harris 2, Gee, Loynes, O’Dea
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Lamb, Fitzgerald, McLeod
Carlton: Prespakis, Gee, Hill, Egan
Western Bulldogs: Bailey Hunt (calf)