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Body language kickstarts 'the AFLW Blues way'

Damien Keeping makes his point at a Carlton AFLW training session - AFLW,AFLW Draft,Tayla Harris,Nicola Stevens
Damien Keeping makes his point at a Carlton AFLW training session
We have been careful to bring together girls with the right character
Damien Keeping

AT HALF-TIME in the first NAB AFL Women's match, Carlton coach Damien Keeping was worried his team was overwhelmed and not firing at maximum capacity.

His players explained they couldn't hear each other above the noise made by the lock-out attendance.

"They had never played in front of a crowd like that," Keeping said as he reflected on the historic win over Collingwood at Ikon Park which kickstarted the inaugural AFLW season.

"So, we told them to lift up their heads, look around and communicate with body language.

"They saved their voices, stayed composed and nailed the game plan.” 

Vision and communication are paramount for Keeping, whose coaching philosophy is based on supporting growth opportunities and the pursuit of goals. 

In 2016, that dedication landed him a job as Carlton's first AFLW coach. 

"We spend hours and hours trying to understand our [players]," said Keeping over coffee in the Carlton cafe during a break in pre-season training. 

"Last year, we asked 27 players to create a culture that could sustain success and they were outstanding in achieving that.

"We know the 2018 group is capable of using that momentum to drive this club forward.” 

When Keeping first entered the coaching world with his son's U9 Auskick team, he was working in a product and people management role for a small company importing kitchens and appliances.

It was there, worlds away from footy, that he discovered a passion for understanding people and supporting individual growth pathways. 

His intrigue was ignited when he met the Calder Cannons' youth girls' academy members while working with the club's under-18 boys.

"Fundamentally, the satisfaction I gained from my son's growth and understanding has been the same driving force all the way through [my coaching],” said Keeping, who played for the Western Jets when the TAC Cup competition started in 1992, had stints at under-19 and reserve levels with Footscray and did pre-season training with Essendon. 

"While the depth shifts in how you coach, it's still the same objective that inspires me today with these players.” 

Following a fourth-place finish in the inaugural AFLW season, Keeping and his staff moved assertively to recruit Tayla Harris (from the Brisbane Lions), Nicola Stevens (Collingwood) and a group of other talented individuals who have bought into "the AFLW Blues way". 

They are set to play a major role in the progression of the football club and the AFLW movement. 

"We have been careful to bring together girls with the right character," Keeping explained.

"But I am also immensely excited about the talent and speed in this group – we are quicker moving the ball around the park this year." 

"There are 11 new players in the squad – and it has been great to watch [players from the] original squad adjust and bring new personalities into the fold." 

"We set the vision and the parameters together, but the group is taking things to the next level."