2017 AFL preview series: Carlton Blues – 17th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Carlton has spent ten of the last 15 seasons in the bottom six spots on the ladder, with the only respite being offered during the Brett Ratten years.

    While they’re not going to bust out of the cellar just yet, Brendon Bolton is laying the platform for a sustained assault a few years from now.

    The Blues were an easy mark in pre-season predictions last year. Each pre-season, a club gets bandied about to not win a game, and in 2016 the talk was of Carlton and a depleted Essendon only capable of beating each other.

    Read the rest of Cam’s preview series here.

    But coach Bolton had them playing an identifiable, well-drilled style of game from the opening pre-season match, and they were able to peel off seven wins, including six out of seven between Rounds 5 and 11.

    Carlton were only able to win one of their last 11 matches, but the year was looked upon as a success due to the defiance of pre-season predictions and the early season momentum.

    Here is the team that will tackle 2017 for the Blues.

    Carlton Blues’ best 22

    B Dylan Buckley Sam Rowe Lachie Plowman
    HB Sam Docherty Jacob Weitering Kade Simpson
    C Bryce Gibbs Patrick Cripps Dale Thomas
    HF Matthew Wright Charlie Curnow Jed Lamb
    F Dennis Armfield Levi Casboult Rhys Palmer
    Foll Matthew Kruezer Ed Curnow Marc Murphy
    Int Andrew Phillips Sam Kerridge Jack Silvagni Liam Sumner

    Emergencies: Harry McKay, Caleb Marchbank, Simon White

    This is only a predicted line-up, but it’s notable that there is only two players in that 25 that wasn’t at Carlton last year – the oft-maligned Rhys Palmer suiting up for his third club, and young defender Caleb Marchbank also trekking the well-worn path from GWS to the Princes Park.

    One of the big questions surrounding the Blues this year is where does the untried talent fit in. What can the likes of Caleb Marchbank, Jarrod Pickett and Billie Smedts offer? Is Smedts this year’s version of Sam Kerridge, begging for an uninterrupted run at senior selection so he can prove his worth at AFL level?

    Sam Docherty and Kade Simpson form one of the best half-back defensive counter-attacks in the league, helped by the style of play Bolton implemented in his first year. Neither are at their best one-on-one, but the more limited players are there to focus on niggardly defence.

    At least both Docherty and Simpson were used to their strengths, which is a lesson other coaches would do well to remember.

    The aforementioned Marchbank will be eyeing off Sam Rowe’s position, but with Weitering and Plowman both on the books, Bolton might be reluctant to have three young players holding down the defensive posts. Or does he commit to the three youthful talls, and use Rowe as a reserve?

    Weitering looked a beauty from his first minute, a natural centre-half back, and is one of three Carlton players that may well be the best in their position in the league within 3-5 years. Docherty as the running half-back is one, and there can only be one guess required as to the other.


    Patrick Cripps is an inside beast in the Josh Kennedy (Sydney) mould, and their early career stats make for an interesting comparison. If anything, the Carlton dynamo has the edge in relative terms, albeit we must make allowances for Kennedy’s lack of opportunities early in a strong Hawthorn outfit.

    Cripps is the leader of the midfield already, with his innate ability to get first hands on the ball at stoppages, but he has high quality support in the form of Bryce Gibbs and Marc Murphy, assuming the latter returns to full fitness. Both can win their own footy and do the utmost damage on the outside, and this trio can deliver wins if they fire at the same time against the right opponent.

    Ed Curnow and Kerridge provide the grunt support, and Dale Thomas will try and run the lines, but rather than being the sight for sore eyes he once was, you now get sore eyes trying to watch him recapture his former glory.

    Matthew Kruezer can now only be categorised as an honest battler when it comes to ruckmen, and he looks no hope of becoming the player he was supposed to be when taken at pick one in the 2007 national draft.

    Carlton’s forward-line alternates between makeshift and motley. 71 points a game was all they could muster last season, and there’s no reason to think it will be any higher this time around.

    Matthew Wright was the only player to kick more than 20 goals for the year, and he finished with a paltry 22 playing as a half-forward. Andrejs Everitt kicked 17 and has been jettisoned.

    Blues fans will be wanting to see plenty of Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, young talls who will be tasked with carrying this forward-line into the future. Jack Silvagni was a bright spark in the second half of the year last season, and can be expected to come on.

    Dennis Armfield, Rhys Palmer, Liam Sumner and Jed Lamb will provide honesty, and will work together to provide pressure and headaches to opposition sides, but can they all play in the same forward line?

    Levi Casboult is what he is, and has a place. Sav Rocca is known as something of a goal-kicking guru, and hopefully can have an impact on the man with the most wayward set shot in the league. More must be demanded of Andrew Phillips if he is going to continue getting a game as supporting ruck and resting forward.

    Can Nick Graham, Dylan Buckley and Blaine Boekhorst cement their spots and make any sort of consistent impression, or are they list-cloggers that would be better off replaced by more GWS offcuts?

    Not much will be demanded of Carlton in 2017, and frankly, not much will be given. We can be confident of seeing system, but we must see improvement of individual players in order to see how quickly they can elevate themselves out of the lower reaches of the ladder.

    A 4-6 win season looks on the cards, which is acceptable. We can’t forget they are coming from a long way back. Getting as many games as possible into talented kids at the expense of experienced jobbers will be a priority.

    Predicted ladder spread: 15th-18th

    Predicted finish: 17th

    Best and fairest: Patrick Cripps

    Leading goalkicker: Rhys Palmer

    All-Australian potential: Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty

    Rising Star candidates: Charlie Curnow, Zac Fisher, Caleb Marchbank, Sam Petrevski-Seton

    Cam Rose’s AFL Preview Series Ladder

    17th – Carlton
    18th – Brisbane

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (85)

    • February 28th 2017 @ 8:20am
      dylillama said | February 28th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Agree with this. Should be a pretty dire year, but nothing is really expected.

      Carlton should provide a cautionary tale for anyone looking to land Fyfe at year’s end. Totally different ball game for their list management over the last few years if they’d built around Kennedy rather than Judd.

      • Columnist

        February 28th 2017 @ 8:33am
        Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

        Remember though, the clubs looking to land Fyfe will be wanting to do so as a restricted free agent, so won’t have to give up a potential gun and high pick like Carlton did for Judd.

        • February 28th 2017 @ 6:04pm
          dylillama said | February 28th 2017 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

          Oh yeah I hadn’t clocked that. Whoops!

        • March 1st 2017 @ 3:58pm
          rtp said | March 1st 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

          But to do that, they will have to offer a massive salary such that Freo don’t match it. Carlton presumably have plenty of cap space but they will still want to leave some room for other signings. The reality is that most quality RFAs will be traded – albeit for less value than they are worth eg Dangerfield.

          Probably something like Carlton’s 1st (probably number one or two pick) and their second (pick 19) for Freo’s first (let’s say pick 8).

          The funny thing about these sorts of deals is that only developing clubs will have the pick currency to get a trade done but for such clubs these players often aren’t really appropriate for them. The above trade is a bargain for clubs looking to compete within the next two to three years for a flag but you would think best case scenario for Carlton is 4-5 years.

          • March 2nd 2017 @ 9:07am
            Macca said | March 2nd 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

            “compete within the next two to three years for a flag but you would think best case scenario for Carlton is 4-5 years.”

            If the blues got Fyfe for the trade mentioned above a team boasting a starting midfield of Fyfe, Cripps, Gibbs and Murphy will be pretty competitive and 2 more years of development into the roughly a dozen draftee’s in the last 2 years (6 picks inside the top 30) plus the likes of Marchbank and Pickett and a couple more top 10 draft picks it isn’t ridiculous to think they won’t be far away.

            I am not saying this will happen just that with such a young list and with the blues looking to add someone like Fyfe it is impossible to say where the blues will be in 2 years.

    • February 28th 2017 @ 9:21am
      Macca said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Not a bad write up Cam but I find it a little strange the blues top 2 draft picks of 2016 (let alone the other 4 players taken) didn’t rate a mention. SPS looks likely to play a significant chunk of the season and Fisher while light has really impressed in his time at the club and racked up 10 touches in about 40% game time against Melbourne.

      I also find it a little odd that for a team that turned over double figure players in the offseason you only find room for 1 new player in the best 22. Marchbank is a dead set certainty to play and Pickett is likely to be given every opportunity. I wouldn’t have Jed Lamb or Dale Thomas in the best 22 and players like Armfield, Kerridge, Wright and White should all be pushed out by player like Cuningham, SPS and possibly even Polson or Le Bois.

      I think they will also play McKay for at least half the games – especially now Phillips and Gorringe are injured.

      • Columnist

        February 28th 2017 @ 9:43am
        Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Too many unknowns Macca with those new players and draftees for me to name them in the side. Marchbank should be in, but who for? Rowe finished high enough up in the B&F that Bolton must rate him, and do they want three kids in the key defensive positions?

        I think we all would like to see those players mentioned forced out by youth, and that will be exciting for Blues fans. I quite liked what Lamb had to offer last season but will also understand if he’s not consistently part of the line-up. Wright was top 6 B&F and leading goal-kicker, he’s going nowhere. Kerridge was 10th in B&F, and offers solid multi-faceted midfield support.

        • February 28th 2017 @ 10:04am
          Macca said | February 28th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          Cam – To get Marchbank into the side I think it will be a combination of things, Rowe won’t play every game, The blues could push a Simpson or Docherty on to a wing (or even play Marchbank himself on a wing given his aerobic capacity) and Rowe, Weitering & Marchbank will probably all be used up forward from time to time – whatever it is Marchbank plays.

          I also don’t have an issue with those kids holding down all 3 spots – Weitering seems to be older than his years and with Simpson and Docherty beside them they should hold up OK – Rowe is more for size than experience, the other 3 are a little on the small side so Rowe will be required for the likes of Hawkins.

          As for “too many unknowns” I think the blues are happy to go for the “unknowns” rather than the “knowns” this year – they know Thomas is a shadow of his former self, they know Armfield is 30, they know Rowe, White, Wright & Kerridge are honest triers who aren’t in the next premiership team – so while these players will get plenty of game time in 2017 the blues are going to spend plenty of time turning “unknowns” like SPS, Pickett, Fisher, Cuningham, Polson & Le Bois into knowns.

          I do really like what Wright & Kerridge offer – but I see their role as more making the younger more talented players earn their spot.

          • Roar Guru

            February 28th 2017 @ 11:06am
            Pumping Dougie said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

            Must admit, I agree with some of your take on this Macca, although I’ve never heard of Fisher, Cunningham, Polson & Le Bois (and upon looking them up, I can see why I’ve never heard of them). But I imagine Bolton will be keen to inject Marchbank, SPS, Pickett and McKay if they show enough. I can understand Cam’s reluctance to include them in the Blues Best 22 given they haven’t proven anything yet, but I think the fact Carlton’s team is not strong, means these guys are likely to be given a regular go, provided they show some semblance of form. Probably at the expense of White, Armfield and Lamb.

            • February 28th 2017 @ 11:20am
              Macca said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

              To me it isn’t the team most likely to win a game but the team most likely to make us better in 2018.

              As for not hearing about those players PD Cuningham was a first round pick and was handy enough in his handful of games last year and Fisher was an early second rounder (and racked up 10 touches while only playing 40% game time) and Le Bois did this on the weekend http://www.foxsports.com.au/video/afl/afl/lebois-dazzling-debut-goal!609817

              I am confident at least 1 of them will become a quality player.

              • Roar Guru

                February 28th 2017 @ 11:27am
                Pumping Dougie said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

                Yeah I acknowledge my ignorance of them Macca, but I think it’s highly optimistic to think they will be in your Best 22. Le Bois for instance was a rookie pick. Fisher was pick 27 – and Carlton don’t have any form yet with picks beyond top 10 to suggest they are good at picking in this range, so my confidence in these players becoming regulars is non-existent. Doesn’t mean they won’t succeed though.

                I agree looking at your best side for 2018 is a reasonable approach to selection this year, providing the young kids do enough to earn a go.

              • February 28th 2017 @ 11:41am
                Macca said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

                “it’s highly optimistic to think they will be in your Best 22” not when you look at the players we have playing in their roles already. 😉

                And I said “the blues are going to spend plenty of time turning “unknowns” like SPS, Pickett, Fisher, Cuningham, Polson & Le Bois into knowns.” even if by the end of the year they “know” they aren’t up to it that is a step forward.

            • Columnist

              February 28th 2017 @ 11:21am
              Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

              I agree with the sentiments of both Macca and PD here. And the “best 22” I put in serves as both a conversation starter, but also to highlight areas where young kids can come in at the expense of the tried.

              I like Macca’s last line.

        • February 28th 2017 @ 4:09pm
          Macca said | February 28th 2017 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

          Cam – “Wright was top 6 B&F and leading goal-kicker, he’s going nowhere.” Have you seen the list of our top goal kickers for the 5 years?

          Betts won in 2012 and was gone by 2014
          Garlett won 2013 and was gone by 2015
          Waite won 2014 and was gone at the end of that year
          Everitt won in 2015 and was gone by 2017

          Only Betts played anywhere near 22 games the year after they won.

          • Columnist

            February 28th 2017 @ 8:38pm
            Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

            I meant from a best 22 perspective this year. You still need some experience, smarts and goal-kicking nous on the park.

            • March 1st 2017 @ 7:44am
              Macca said | March 1st 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

              It was a joke cam, you say he isn’t going anywhere while it has been customary for our leading GOP kicker to be given the boot.

    • February 28th 2017 @ 9:22am
      Mick_Lions said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      I can see Bolton blooding as many newbies as possible.
      Marchbank will play a fair bit and they really need to get games into their rookie forwards as the forward line you have named is mediocre at best.
      Ultimately they want to stay at the bottom of the
      ladder this year as the list needs another strong forward, a bit more grunt and some speed before it can mature.
      They may beat North and finish 16th tho!

      • Columnist

        February 28th 2017 @ 9:44am
        Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Definitely a huge transition year for Carlton and Bolton, and as Macca writes above, how many of these young players will force their way in at the expense of the others? And will they force their way in, or be handed games?

        • February 28th 2017 @ 11:29am
          Mick_Lions said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          My money’s on “handed games”.
          Their list is still 2-3 drafts away from being full by which time they need to have a cohesive forward line and strength in the back line.
          SPS, McKay, Curnow etc need games regardless of where they are in the current pecking order. Personally I’d delist Thomas and a few others mid season but that’s coz I don’t really care for the Blues 😉

          • February 28th 2017 @ 11:33am
            Macca said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

            My moneys on earing them, if you listened to anything Bolton said last year or looked at this selections in 2016 it was they way he went.

    • February 28th 2017 @ 9:24am
      Tom M said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      It still shocks me that Carlton and Adelaide weren’t able to broker a satisfactory deal for Gibbs. The crows become a serious contender if he went to them and the blues would’ve got some dead wood off their list that would’ve fast tracked their rebuild. Now he just takes midfield mins away from young up and coming players.

      • February 28th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Macca said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Tom M – our midfield is shallow enough to allow our young players to get plenty of midfield minutes and keep Gibbs.

      • Columnist

        February 28th 2017 @ 9:34am
        Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Yeah, I think it’s harsh to call Gibbs dead wood, although I understand the perspective. I liked that both clubs played hard-ball.

        • February 28th 2017 @ 9:54am
          Tom M said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          I agree it was good to see a club not fold to a players desires but im not sure SOS really wanted to trade him and set a way overs price for him. For mine a player shouldn’t be allowed to chose his destination when he is under contract, if a player wants out the club should have the right to field offers from all clubs and chose the best offer, players have far to much power, this also leads to every player wishing to be traded to a contender.

    • February 28th 2017 @ 9:26am
      Aransan said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      I think it is important that Carlton allow Weitering to develop on the backline for the next couple of years, once developed there may be a better position for him. Carlton have done all the right things in the last two drafts but it won’t be until next year that we will start to see the benefit of their actions. Supporters should take comfort in watching Carlton’s young players develop this year.

      • Columnist

        February 28th 2017 @ 9:35am
        Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        I think he’s a dead-set natural gun CHB. Like Hurley, Carlisle and Hooker at Essendon, I’m sure he could play CHF, but to nowhere near the same level as he would as a key defender. Weitering will be a six-time All-Australian as a defender.

        • February 28th 2017 @ 12:46pm
          Aransan said | February 28th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

          At 195cm and very young for his draft year (DOB 23/11/97), Weitering has great upside on a very good first year. He is expected to be a general on the backline and the value of that on-field leadership is consistently underestimated, especially by supporters.

        • February 28th 2017 @ 9:05pm
          Brinnx said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

          Well I’ll defiantly run against the grain here, I think Weitering can develop into a Nick Riewolt type CHF, and if good CHB’ are hard to come by, good CHF’s are rare as hen’s teeth.

          I take Aransan’s point about giving him time to mature so he can take the punishment handed out to forwards, and he will be a massive asset in the back half this year as the defence will be under the pump all season.

          But for mine his future in forward of centre, just not this year.

    • Roar Rookie

      February 28th 2017 @ 9:48am
      Tim Durrant said | February 28th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Bringing Parkin back for a second stint in 1991 was one of the best decisions ever made by a footy club. Maybe the club needs to swallow their pride and do the same with Brett Ratten.

      Since the Parkin era, the Blues have lost 68% of their games when not coached by Brett Ratten.

      Ratten got the Blues to 7th, 8th and 5th, and his winning record of 50% is second only to Parkin (63%).

      And it’s not getting any better – since Malthouse was dropped in round 8 of 2015, Carlton have lost almost 3 out of 4 games played! (73%)

      • Columnist

        February 28th 2017 @ 11:22am
        Cameron Rose said | February 28th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        I think Bolton has them on the right track Tim, but he took over an absolute rabble. The Malthouse years were a black hole, but at least they got a finals win over an old enemy out of it!

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