In the first of a series of team previews, the 18th placed team was broken down based on a number of key categories, and today we move up the ladder one rung and look at who will come 17th.
Last year’s wooden spooners, Carlton, come back in 2016 with a new coach, a number of new players and new hope.
The fix will not be quick, though, as this is arguably the least talented list in the AFL. That will not be the case in three to five years’ time, but as far as the present goes the Blues are definitely not coming anywhere but bottom two.
B: Jacob Weitering, Michael Jamison, Lachie Plowman
HB: Sam Docherty, Sam Rowe, Zac Tuohy
C: Kade Simpson, Marc Murphy, Ed Curnow
HF: Sam Kerridge, Andrejs Everitt, Matthew Wright
F: Dale Thomas, Levi Casboult, Andrew Walker
R: Matthew Kreuzer, Patrick Cripps, Bryce Gibbs
I: Nick Graham, Blaine Boekhorst, Dennis Armfield, Kristian Jaksch
Levi Casboult showed promise on occasions last season but his kicking is a crippling weakness that must be rectified in order for him to be an effective forward. Andrejs Everitt was a serviceable forward last season and will be challenged to play in a key position, something that may well be beyond him.
The small forwards are near-on non-existent and draftee Charlie Curnow and second-year player Clem Smith will be given every opportunity early should the side not generate enough scoring power.
Dale Thomas owes the club a huge amount and will play the high half-forward role while former Crows in Matthew Wright and Sam Kerridge will provide honest service and compete strongly.
2015’s worst forward line looks highly unlikely to improve on that rating in 2016.
Number one draft pick Jacob Weitering seems destined to be a star and should be thrown into the deep end immediately. This young gun comes with huge wraps and on exposed underage form should slot nicely into the backline and play a key role.
Michael Jamison and Sam Rowe will do a job but offer very little to the Blues’ future plans so will be under pressure most weeks. Zac Tuohy had a breakout year in 2015 playing as a running defender, and at 26 should be entering his prime and pushing into the midfield to replace one of the current crop.
Sam Docherty, Kristian Jaksch and Lachie Plowman will feature heavily in Carlton’s future plans and will all be given ample opportunity to make these positions their own. Jaksch, in particular, has massive wraps on him and could be a jewel in the crown of this proud club.
Patrick Cripps. If you don’t know that name, you are not an AFL fan or are just ignorant. If it weren’t for Jesse Hogan, Cripps would have been a runaway winner of the NAB Rising Star and with good reason.
At 20 years, Cripps ranked in the top 15 in the AFL in contested possessions, clearances and handballs per game and did it all in a putrid team. We could see something truly spectacular from the young man from east Fremantle in 2016.
Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs are two of the more polarising players of this generation, wonderfully skilled and talented but two players who seem intent on cruising through underwhelming careers as opposed to doing everything in their powers to strive to be elite players. Having played almost 400 combined games, it is time for them to both deliver on their potential (in fairness, both need some luck with injury) and help Cripps do some of the heavy lifting.
Matthew Kreuzer will be the ruckman by default but will do well to keep journeyman Cameron Wood out of the side; no player in the league has promised so much and yet delivered so little, so let’s hope for Carlton fans that Kreuzer moves beyond being mediocre.
Riding shotgun alongside Cripps in the Blues engine room for the next decade will be Nick Graham, and if his debut season is anything to go by he will become a permanent figure in this midfield in 2016. The Blues had better hope he does, as otherwise they turn to the likes of Ed Curnow to play a key role.
Carlton might have plenty of reasons and excuses for being terrible in 2016, but the fixture is not one of them. This may be the best fixture in the AFL. They play just one top eight team from 2015 twice (Sydney Swans) and will get favourable match-ups with St Kilda, Essendon and Brisbane twice.
Not once do the Blues have consecutive six-day breaks and while they play four top eight teams in the first five weeks, that is countered by seven straight games in Victoria mid-season and a final month that figures games against four of the bottom six teams from 2015.
In his time at Hawthorn, new Carlton coach Brendan Bolton was on the losing side just 29 times in five years. He will likely reach half that total by August this year, but Carlton have given him the remit to rebuild this side and he will have the patience and support of one of the AFL’s strongest clubs.
Bolton has already discussed culture and leadership and the need to overhaul both at Carlton, and he will quickly learn that as a coach you are only as good as the cattle you have available. Bolton will be best judged in three to five years but comes into the job with his eyes wide open and the freedom to put his stamp on this list.
In Cripps, Graham, Weitering, Plowman, Jaksch and Doherty the Blues faithful will expect big things in 2019, not 2016. Just as well because even if these youngsters are better than advertised, a long rebuild is on the cards and the veterans and depth are just not there in what is currently the weakest list in the competition.
Predicted finish: 17th