'We didn't get it 100 per cent right': Blues boss admits AFLW mistakes

CARLTON CEO Brian Cook has admitted the club has made mistakes in its AFLW program, while long-serving star Darcy Vescio says the players are "grieving" as the fallout from its review continues.

The Blues axed coach Daniel Harford with one year remaining on his deal, and opted not to renew the contract of head of women's footy Brett Munro.

Cook confirmed the Blues are looking to appoint Munro's successor within the next two to three weeks, with that person to then help oversee the search for a new coach.

Footy Feed: Blues admit AFLW mistakes

04:48 Feb 9. 2023. 3:55 PM

Nat Edwards with the latest footy news

One of the major findings of the review was the need for a full-time coach, as opposed to Harford's part-time contract.

"Maybe we should have been a bit quicker (to move to full-time). We had 35 staff in the AFLW, most other clubs have about 25, so it means we have a lot of part-timers. We chose that model," Cook said.

"I think maybe the mistake we made was trying to make the AFLW look like the AFL, but it's not. It's a different product, it's a different structure to provide, it's a different mentality.

"The good thing is we're admitting it … we're standing here saying, 'look, we didn't get it 100 per cent right, and we need to do something about it.'"

Brian Cook (centre) poses for a photo at Carlton's AFLW photo day on December 16, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Cook highlighted the conundrum facing AFLW programs around the soft cap, which clubs are juggling in different ways. Some senior coaches are also tasked with list management (Scott Gowans), others are participating in the women's coach acceleration program (Bec Goddard, Natalie Wood), with that portion of salary falling outside both the AFL/W soft caps.

"It's an interesting one, because the AFLW is going through a huge evolution. We're getting into more 'fuller-time' people, but we have to stay within the cap. The challenge is to get quality people who don't necessarily get paid well. It's a really tough gig," he said.

FROM 2017 TO NOW Where are your club’s inaugural players?

"The skills that are required to be a general manager of AFLW are sophisticated. To find those types of people are difficult, given the salary range we can afford to pay. So you go down the path of saying nine months full-time, eight months full-time, it's not ideal, but that's where we are.

"Or you go down the other extreme, and you get a young, ambitious go-getter, who stays there for maybe a year or two only, and you accept that, on the basis that they are brilliant young people."

Darcy Vescio (left) and Patrick Cripps speak to the media during Carlton's Hyundai Launch on February 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Cook called on the AFL to provide firmer guidelines around the future of the AFLW competition.

The AFL has released a "women's football vision", which has aspirational goals including AFLW players to be the best paid sportswomen in the country by 2030.

It does not lay out the additions of rounds per year, nor when or if players will be full-time, a target the AFLPA is aiming to hit by 2026.

ANALYSIS Blues' season review: Key departures, injuries make wins hard to come by

"It is really an AFL issue, it's about resources, it's about when the AFL can continue to invest larger amounts and how quickly the AFL want this competition to be full-time, if they actually do, I haven't heard that yet," Cook said.

"I think there's work towards the AFL setting targets, to get 14 rounds, 18 rounds, I don't think the AFL can afford to do it all next year. That's my perception, and really, it's a question the AFL has to answer."

(L-R): Sam Walsh, Jacob Weitering, Darcy Vescio, Patrick Cripps, Jess Dal Pos and Mimi Hill pose for a photo at a Carlton event on February 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Senior leader Vescio acknowledged the review's pointed message to players that standards needed to improve.

"I was trying to think how I felt about it, because you don't want to just blame everyone around you, we played a part in this as well. It's kind of like that frog in water analogy, we've kind of grown used to accepting things we shouldn’t, and that's on us as well as the club," Vescio said.

"I'm personally quite energised by the fact we've gone through this process. When you have people come in, they can see things quite differently. When you're in a bubble, sometimes it's hard to identify.

"I hope this can be a bit of a reset for us in terms of setting standards for ourselves."

Daniel Harford hugs Blues star Darcy Vescio after the Grand Final loss. Picture: AFL Photos

Vescio said it had been a difficult time for the players.

"A lot of players are almost grieving a little bit at the moment, but we've kind of been encouraging each other to just feel all that, experience it and don't just push it aside," they said.

"I think it's been highlighted through the review that we need to be held to really high standards, and need a coach who will drive that professionalism.

SEASON 2023 Plans taking shape, but coaches still waiting on sign and trade specifics

"I think we've done a lot of work, culturally, in terms of understanding each other and building those connections, and now we need to drive each other and have those challenging conversations, and hopefully translate that to on-field performance."

Both Cook and Vescio were speaking at the announcement of the five-year extension of co-major partner Hyundai.