CARLTON has continued its push towards a finals campaign under new coach Mathew Buck, recording a 19-point victory over the Western Bulldogs at VU Whitten Oval.
The Blues dominated play in the first term to lay the platform for the 8.5 (53) to 4.10 (34) victory, winning the inside 50 count 14-1 in what was another indication Carlton is taking giant steps forward after significant change across the entire club over the off-season.
BULLDOGS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
The Bulldogs had a handful of players come down with gastro during the week, which was far from ideal preparation for a side still hunting its first win of the campaign.
Veteran Blue Phoebe McWilliams kicked the opening goal of the match, before gun midfielder Abbie McKay hit the scoreboard shortly after.
The Dogs opened their account late in the first term through Bri McFarlane, who executed a terrific run-down tackle before converting from the square following a 50-metre penalty.
It was the first time the Blues had booted three goals in the opening quarter all season.
Despite trailing by 15 points at quarter-time, the Dogs drew first blood in the second term as teammates flocked to Brit Gutknecht who kicked a beautiful goal on the run, her first since a serious leg injury last season.
The Dogs were able to wrestle some momentum off the Blues in the second quarter as they upped the energy around the contest, but goals to Daisy Walker and Lily Goss ensured the Blues held a handy 19-point lead at the main break.
Darcy Vescio struggled to have their usual impact over the course of the night but chimed in with a goal off the ground in the third term to further extend the Blues' lead.
The Bulldogs got the first goal of the final term through Jess Fitzgerald and threatened to get themselves back in the contest, but Katie Lynch, in a new role forward, was unable to convert her set shot.
Carlton's ruck tandem of Jess Good and Breann Moody did a superb job of nullifying the dangerous Alice Edmonds throughout the evening.
Good and Moody combined for 36 disposals and 33 hitouts, restricting Edmonds to just 11 disposals and 18 hitouts in the process.
Carlton's midfielders took control of the contest through the likes of McKay, Mimi Hill (23 disposals) and Keeley Skepper (23 disposals, seven marks, 583 metres gained).
Carlton won the disposal count (289-252), contested possessions (120-109) and uncontested possessions (161-138).
Young midfielder Keeley Sherar was superb for the Blues, recording a team-high 28 touches and eight tackles and McKay was able to push through a sore knee to finish with 23 touches and a goal.
Ellie Blackburn was again the standout for the Bulldogs, racking up 27 disposals, while Kirsty Lamb kept trying all night, finishing with 23 disposals and six tackles.
Carlton was without captain Kerryn Peterson, who was ruled out during the week with knee swelling, but stand-in skippers Jess Dal Pos and Hill stepped up beautifully in her absence.
Dogs spin the magnets
After starting the season 0-5, Nathan Burke went searching for answers against the Blues.
Highly touted youngster Gabby Newton (17 disposals) has spent more time down back in recent weeks and the coaching staff persisted with that move, but perhaps the most eyebrow raising positional switch of the night came with Katie Lynch.
Having played as a forward at times at the beginning of her AFLW career, Lynch has made her mark on the competition as a strong intercept marking defender in recent years. However, with the Dogs looking to shake things up in the second half of the season, Burke deployed Lynch as a forward. Lynch struggled to impact the game, recording just seven disposals and two behinds.
The Bulldogs will hope to secure their first win of the season when they take on Adelaide at Norwood Oval at 6.45pm ACDT on Friday, October 13, while the Blues will look to continue their finals push against Collingwood at IKON Park at 3.05pm AEDT on Sunday, October 15.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 2.3 2.5 4.10 (34)
CARLTON 3.3 5.4 7.5 8.5 (53)
Western Bulldogs: Pritchard, McFarlane, Gutknecht, Fitzgerald
Carlton: Walker, Vescio, McWilliams, McKay, Goss, Good, Fitzpatrick, Austin
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Georgostathis, Lamb, Berry, Pritchard
Carlton: Sherar, Good, McKay, Skepper, Moody, Pound
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Carlton: McKay (ankle), Laloifi (knee)
Crowd: 2,163 at VU Whitten Oval