Carlton players run through the banner ahead of round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

LAST year, Carlton's AFLW program tore it all up, and started again.

While there were some bright spots through the season, the playing group tired as the months progressed. 

So how are these second-year Blues handling the next stage of their development? was invited to spend a day with Carlton. Read on for the second half of our behind-the-scenes feature, and catch up on part one here.

AFL Media's Sarah Black watched Carlton in action during the club's AFLW training camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


Head of AFLW Ash Naulty, like coach Mathew Buck, has had a whirlwind introduction to AFLW over the past 18 months.

Tasked with heading up the new-look program, he's pleased with the foundations that have been laid, but is aware there's still plenty of work to be done.

"The players really needed change, and they needed more of an alignment to what they were hoping to get out of their own individual and team careers," Naulty said.

"But probably a real big learning for us was how taxing change can be as well. So you know, if we re-live last season, the first six rounds were super competitive, and even in our match sim against Melbourne.

"But then that huge level of excitement can take a toll on a group and an organisation. So maintaining that energy has been a bit of a focus. You've probably heard Bucky talk about consistency as well, and that's probably something that has come from our learnings."

While we chatted, players completed a training session on the oval, running drills to mimic ball movement in game situations, while a smaller group of younger players completed some more individualised work on the side.

It included a wrestling-like manoeuvre, attempting to flip over a teammate who was lying on the ground.

"I'm dead-set covered in kangaroo shit," Keck moaned.

"Just because I'm from the country, doesn't mean I want to be rolling in kangaroo poo."


Adding players like small forward/midfielder Keck to the list is only one part of the puzzle. The next wave of Carlton’s development has to come internally.

"Probably a real key learning was finding out what the DNA of this group is, but then also understand what we want to be too. Maybe that's not a learning, but maybe it's an exploration of that," Naulty said.

"We're really strong in the contest, always try and defend hard. Defend first, but can we be damaging in the forward half? Our contest numbers are strong. So, how can we capitalise?"

"Scores can be really hard to come by in W, so being able to be more efficient when we do have possession, being more efficient to be able to have more looks at scoring. That's obviously personnel, but then it's also adding layers to game plan."

AFL Media reporter Sarah Black (left) speaks with Kerryn Peterson at Carlton's pre-season AFLW camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


Recruit Celine Moody is set to play a key role in the next stage of Carlton's development.

Crossing from the Western Bulldogs in the off-season and set to play with twin Breann for the first time, Celine will add a third prong to the Blues' talls, which also includes Jess Good.

"I love the challenge of the new environment and the challenge of working closely alongside Brea as well. I think it brings out a very healthy competitive side in myself," Celine said.

"Where maybe I've gotten a bit comfortable with my footy previously, this is testing me, and I've seen her thrive in this environment over the years and on the programs that they've had here.

"I think [the program] definitely benefits me. They probably recognise it's not a one-size-fits-all, it's tailored to different positions. I'm benefiting from that."

Celine (left) and Brea Moody at Carlton's AFLW pre-season camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Celine is coming off a full shoulder reconstruction that ended her 2023 season in round four, but is raring to play with Brea. The only time the pair have played together previously was in the annual match at their all-girls school.

"When I was playing in a different club previously, we'd joke about being each other's number one fans, but also number one opponents," Celine said.

"Now, I'd say that still applies a little bit in match sims, or when we're playing on each other. We really know the standards that we set for ourselves and want to push each other, you know, to that next level.

"I think we know how to celebrate each other better than anyone else, and it's pretty cool having someone on the team with whom you've got such a strong connection.

"I'm sure it'll get sick of her at some point. I'm really loving the support that she's been for me since shifting across, and support that she is from down on the field, and how much she challenges me as well."

Brea Moody in action during Carlton's AFL pre-season camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Coach Buck has plenty of options up his sleeve when it comes to his three talls.

"It's a really good problem to have. All three can play in the ruck, they have previously and done really, really well. Celine has done some forward stuff at the Dogs to a great level, and is a great beacon kind of forward at the ball. She played a game down back last year at the Dogs against Melbourne, and did a great job for a while against Eden Zanker," he said.

"Jess did so well in the ruck for us last year prior to hurting her ankle against Collingwood, and then Brea can play anywhere. She constantly amazes me with her athleticism, she's so strong at the moment.

"We just can't be locked into this thing. So, you know, 'Goody' played some VFL games up forward to help with that craft, so she'll do a little bit of that. Breann did a bit of both last year – I'd say that kind of combination, and then find the best fit with Celine.

"If the bigs can all tackle and chase in the forward line, we'll be fine, but we'll see what happens."

Brea Moody in action during Carlton's AFL pre-season camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


Buck – a former VFL assistant coach at the club – hadn't coached a game of women's football before his appointment in April last year.

He had two months to cram seven seasons of AFLW before the start of pre-season, charged with a rebuilding side and brought on in a full-time capacity, a key finding from the review.

"I learned a lot about the competition, and I probably admire and respect a lot of people in the competition. I don't know all the other coaches really well, but I know some of them, and the respect and admiration I have for what they do and the way they go about their business is really great," Buck said, leaning back on his chair and soaking up the afternoon sun.

"They all do it in different ways, but the job they do in the environments they have is incredible.

"Then the players – there's this constant dialogue around AFLW football that it's 'on the improve'. And I look around and go, it's really good now. No one's coming through who's better than Jas Garner, she's an incredible player. I look at Charlie Rowbottom, and she's incredible as well. It's kind of unfair to talk about how good it will be one day; I can't have that. It's great now."

Mathew Buck speaks to his players during Carlton's AFLW pre-season camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Buck, a father of three busy little boys, is still attempting to finesse that elusive work-life balance after his first year in the job.

Another thing he's trying to do is harness is the happy energy of the team.

It's a group with somewhat of a demographic split – the senior core of Peterson, Vescio, Jess Good, Harriet Cordner, the Moodys, Jess Dal Pos, Gab Pound and Gen Lawson-Tavan are all 27 or older, with 13 players 22 or under.

After lunch (pesto pasta with chicken and bacon), the team split into three groups by age, the "oldies", as christened by the rambunctious Brooke Vickers, sticking together for an hour or two of relative peace as they worked their way through a cooking class, weights and recovery.

Carlton AFLW coach Mathew Buck is seen during the team's pre-season camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Vickers is deadly serious on the field, charging off half-back and tough in her attack on the ball.

But when she's not playing, she's simultaneously a born performer and unintentionally funny, serenading her young teammates with a rendition of Taylor Swift's new song, Down Bad, complete with interpretative dance moves.

In combination with Keck and the wickedly blunt Keeley Skepper, there's plenty of happy noise as they try (and sometimes fail) to assemble sushi, much to the amusement of the decidedly quieter Brown and Meg Robertson.

Brooke Vickers in action during Carlton's AFLW training camp in June, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Robertson, a draftee whose dad Ben played three games for the club in 1992, had her moment in the sun, her experience working at a sushi shop coming to the fore as she calmly demonstrated the best way to roll everything together, while Vickers – and in the case of Skepper, fatally – overloaded their rolls with ingredients.

The "oldies" – Peterson saying she preferred the descriptors "mature and trusted" – weren't perfect themselves, Cordner "accidentally" overloading their banana choc-chip muffins with chocolate that was meant to be shared across all three groups.

"We talk about being a really values-based kind of team. We're really clear on when it's time to work and when it's time to have, you know, have your fun and muck around with each other," Buck said.

"And they do it in a really respectful way. It's because their connection strong, right? So they know each other so well, and they know it's they know it comes from a good place.

"On top of that, they can give each other strong feedback on the grass, where it's really important to us. We've done a lot of work around a player-led environment. [Former Australian cricket captain] Belinda Clark is our leadership consultant, who's been amazing this space to support our leaders, to give feedback to each other, and how to do that in a way that's going to be effective.

"We speak to our group around the tools you can use when you when you receive feedback, or how do you give feedback in a really effective way? We've put a lot of eggs in that basket at the moment, and I've just seen great results on track, they're really driven around system language and what we want to execute in intentions and drills.

"A lot of the time they do a lot of the talking, and I'll facilitate conversation. That's probably been a really big growth from when I came in last year. From 'just tell us what to do', to now 'you told us what to do, now we're going to get after the detail around it'."