Carlton’s quick rise made them the darlings of the AFL world for a part of 2016, but an enormous step backward over the second half of the year has many questioning whether they’re capable of improving this year.
Let’s have a look at the list changes made in the off-season.
Additions: Caleb Marchbank, Rhys Palmer, Jarrod Pickett (GWS Giants), Billie Smedts (Geelong), Alex Silvagni (Fremantle), Sam Petrevski-Setton, Zac Fisher, Harrison Macreadie, Cameron Polson, Tom Williamson, Patrick Kerr, Kym LeBois (draft)
Subtractions: Zach Tuohy (Geelong), Andrew Walker, Michael Jamison, Cameron Wood (retired), Andrejs Everitt, Jason Tutt, Mark Whiley, Clem Smith, Matthew Dick, Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, Jayden Foster, Billy Gowers (delisted)
What happened last year?
The reigning wooden-spooners endured a tough start to 2016, dropping their first four matches by an average of 40 points.
But they quickly became the talk of the town after a blistering run of six wins from seven matches – including a monumental 19-point upset of Geelong – saw them boasting a winning record at the halfway point of the season.
But a torturous nine-game losing streak was to follow, as the Blues added just one more win to their tally over the second half of the season.
Carlton continued to clean house in the offseason, with Mick Malthouse-era recruits Andrejs Everitt, Jason Tutt and Mark Whiley all shown the door.
Experienced duo Andrew Walker and Michael Jamison hung up the boots, while Irish sensation Zach Tuohy had his wish for a trade to Geelong granted.
The Blues primarily regenerated their list through a healthy draft crop headlined by Sam Petrevski-Setton, while also adding Billie Smedts of the Cats. Their now annual trade with Greater Western Sydney also netted them promising young defender Caleb Marchbank.
While the players they’ve brought in won’t immediately have the same impact as the ones they’re replacing, Carlton once again made the right moves to set up them up for contention in the future.
What needs to happen in 2017?
Blooding youngsters must continue to be the focus for the Blues in 2017.
As incredible as it was to watch their admittedly short-lived rags to riches tale in 2016, this is not a club that is in a position to contend right now. It’s the Jack Silvagnis and the Charlie Curnows on Carlton’s list that are going to bringing the premiership back to Lygon Street, not the Dennis Armfields or, sadly, even the Marc Murphys.
Brendon Bolton will have some tough calls to make at the selection table this season, and while it may not give his club the best chance to win every week, at some point he’s going to have to make calls on whether players like Dale Thomas and Sam Rowe are taking away game time from their junior counterparts.
As it stands right now, there aren’t many mouth-watering players on Carlton’s list under the age of 25 outside of superstars Patrick Cripps and Jacob Weitering. That’s not to say they don’t have the talent in that age bracket – we just haven’t seen enough of it.
Gallant efforts from the youngsters in defeat are more important to the Blues right now than victories on the back of Kade Simpson turning back the clock.
Brendon Bolton got the Blues playing a lot more competitive football in 2016, and that bodes very well for the club’s long-term future.
But while the club appears to be more prepared for the future, in the short term it’s very hard to argue their list has got any better compared to the end of last year.
Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards.