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AFL preview series: Carlton Blues - 17th

Patrick Cripps of the Blues celebrates kicking a goal. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Expert
19th February, 2018
191
2883 Reads

In the back of a car on a long journey, children are famous for asking “Are we there yet?” Their attention span isn’t long, they get bored after a while, and just want to know if they’ve arrived.

Carlton is in the midst of a rebuild that is taking forever.

Fans aren’t so much impatient as they are apathetic. Opposition supporters have long since stopped paying attention. It can’t be too long before ‘I Spy’ starts getting played.

B: Lachie Plowman, Jacob Weitering, Cam O’Shea
HB: Caleb Marchbank, Liam Jones, Kade Simpson
C: Sam Petrevski-Seton, Patrick Cripps, Aaron Mullett
HF: Darcy Lang, Charlie Curnow, Matthew Wright
F: Jed Lamb, Levi Casboult, Jack Silvagni
Foll: Matthew Kreuzer, Ed Curnow, Marc Murphy
Int: Zac Fisher, Dale Thomas, Matthew Kennedy, Tom Williamson
Em: Sam Kerridge, Nick Graham, Ciaran Byrne

The Blues have been going with a dual-pronged approach during their rebuild – hitting the national draft consistently, while also hoping to hit on hidden gems from other clubs by orchestrating a mass intake every other year.

They have ten players on their list to have been taken in the top 30 in the last three drafts. They’ve done well there. Charlie Curnow and Jacob Weitering are on track to be genuine stars of the competition, a centre half-forward / centre half-back combination that will hold the club in good stead for a decade.

Sam Petrevski-Seton suggested he’s going to be a gun in his first season last year, while Zac Fisher didn’t show as much in a bits and pieces role but will gain great benefit from his 17 games.

These are the headliners from the last few drafts, with Paddy Dow, taken at pick three in the most recent national draft, predicted to join them.

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There has also been plenty of average stuff walk through the door at Princes Park, ostensibly to fill a hole while the rebuild takes place. Think of Sam Kerridge, Jed Lamb, Alex Silvagni, Andrew Phillips and Jarrod Pickett. To that list this year we can add Aaron Mullett, Cam O’Shea, Darcy Lang, Matthew Kennedy, Jarrod Garlett and Matt Shaw.

Where the Blues recruiting staff have been canny is to mostly target younger players, in the hope that the odd one kicks on. To give them due credit, they have had enough do so to make the exercise worthwhile.

They can thank their lucky stars Sam Docherty chose Carlton when leaving Brisbane. Caleb Marchbank and Lachie Plowman have proven valuable down back. Liam Jones took his sweet time, and needed a change of role, but it looks like he’ll now be a good player. Matt Wright, while not young, has been a win up forward.

The Carlton gameplan under Bolton has been reliant on intercepting in the back half of the ground, and then patient ball movement going forward.

The backline is well set up for the intercept play through Jones, Weitering, Marchbank and Plowman. They’ll be tough to penetrate. But they do look to lack some rebound class outside the ageing Kade Simpson.

Docherty did so much of the heavy lifting back there, so his ACL injury is obviously going to hurt them. Cam O’Shea looks the obvious replacement to take this role, with Tom Williamson and Ciaran Byrne in the mix here too.

The midfield will be led by the mighty Patrick Cripps, the only Carlton player in The Roar top 50 list last week; hopefully he can stay injury free.

patrick-cripps-carlton-blues-afl-2016-tall

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Marc Murphy will ride shotgun again, coming off his best season for many years. His class will be at the fore of any attacking forays the Blues can muster.

Ed Curnow will help Cripps on the inside, and tag an opponent when required. Aaron Mullet has been recruited to help the outside game, potentially on a wing, and may also fill a hole at half-back.

Matthew Kreuzer is coming off a season that was career-best by a country mile. He’s only missed one game in each of the last two years after a career plagued by injury. He could easily have won All-Australian selection in 2017, and could well be seen as the number one ruckman in the competition this year.

The question is how much can the younger players add? Can Petrevski-Seton and Fisher avoid the second year blues? Is it just greater opportunity that Matthew Kennedy has been waiting for, which he will surely get now after his move from GWS?

Whichever way you cut it, the midfield looks thin after the departure of Bryce Gibbs.

The forward-line hasn’t been helped in previous years by conservative ball movement that Bolton has needed to protect the defence from cricket scores being kicked against them. But even if the Blues do start trying to attack and give their forwards plenty of one-on-one opportunities, there’s not a lot there to be scared of.

Charlie Curnow broke out in the second half of last year. In his first 11 matches in 2017 he averaged 78 per cent game time. In the next ten games he played 87 per cent. His stats and impact went through the roof accordingly. The promise of more to come after another pre-season to build fitness is exciting for all football fans. A fitter Curnow will get to more contests, allowing him to put that contested marking prowess to even greater use.

Charlie Curnow Carlton Blues AFL 2017

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Levi Casboult will do what he does, but can become a bit more dangerous if the best defenders go to Curnow now. Wright will be solid in support as always.

Darcy Lang has been recruited to add some bite around the forward-line, and Bolton will be wanting to find some more pressure players, with that sure to be a focus of all teams this year. Pickett and Lamb were poor in this area last year. Can someone like Garlett provide the answer, like his cousin Jeff does at Melbourne?

Carlton finished 16th last year, with six wins and a percentage of 78. They’ve lost two of their best five players coming into this year, replacing them with the motley crew of O’Shea, Mullett, Lang and Kennedy.

Are the Blues there yet? The simple answer is no, and won’t be for a while yet. Now, go play with your iPad or read a book or something. And stop asking me for ice-cream. There isn’t any.

Prediction: 17th

Cam Rose ladder prediction
17. Carlton
18. Gold Coast Suns