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The decade that was: Carlton

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Roar Guru
4 days ago
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Carlton entered the 2010 decade having finally broken a seven-year finals drought and, despite a disappointing loss to the Brisbane Lions after holding a five-goal lead in the final quarter, there was a lot of optimism surrounding the Blues as they embarked on their fourth year under coach Brett Ratten.

With two-time Coleman medallist Brendan Fevola banished after a string of off-field misdemeanours, Carlton became more unpredictable in attack, managing another top-eight finish. Another interstate elimination final resulted in another close loss, this time to the Sydney Swans, but the Blues went one better in 2011. A huge win over fierce rivals Essendon set up a semi-final clash with West Coast in Perth. In a seesawing contest, the Blues fell short by just three points.

The Blues were installed as premiership favourites after a hot 3-0 start to the 2012 campaign, but a disappointing finish to the year saw Carlton miss the finals altogether, resulting in the sacking of Ratten after six years at the helm. Long-time senior coach Mick Malthouse was sensationally given the top job after one season out of the game following his 12-year tenure with Collingwood.

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse

Mick Malthouse didn’t go so well at the Blues. (Photo: Greg Ford/AFL Media)

In contrast to the previous year, the Blues started 2013 with three consecutive losses before working their way into the season. Despite finishing in ninth position, Carlton were promoted to the finals following Essendon’s relegation in the midst of the doping saga. Matched up against Richmond in front of a monster 94,690 crowd, the Blues came from 32 points down in the second half to pull off a stunning win, before being bundled out by the Swans the following week.

Things started to unravel for the Blues, with a seven-and-a-half win season resulting in a 13th-place finish in 2014. After seven losses from their first eight games in 2015, Malthouse was sacked, with John Barker taking the reigns as caretaker coach. The Blues would manage just three more wins for the year, claiming the wooden spoon. Hawthorn assistant coach Brendon Bolton was entrusted with the top job.

After an 0-4 start to the 2016 season, Carlton responded to win four straight games. They would win just three more matches for the year. 2017 wasn’t any better, with the Blues finishing 16th on the ladder. 2018 would be the annus horribilis, with a two-win season resulting in yet another last-place finish. Bolton would survive half of the 2019 campaign before being moved on with a 20.77 per cent winning record from 77 matches.

With David Teague taking over the job for the remainder of 2019, the Blues saw instant improvement on the field, winning six of their final 11 matches.

It proved to be a successful audition for Teague, with the former North Melbourne and Carlton defender named the new senior coach as they head into the new decade.

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Best wins

Elimination Final, 2013 – Richmond 14.12 (96) def. by Carlton 18.8 (116) (MCG)

Essendon’s relegation from the finals series was Carlton’s gain, with the Blues moved into eighth position – setting up a dream elimination final against arch-rivals Richmond.

On a perfect day at the MCG, the fifth-placed Tigers looked a class above, leading by 32 points early in the third quarter. A second-half fightback, led by champion midfielder Chris Judd and unlikely hero Nick Duigan, saw the Blues overcome Richmond and record a famous 20-point victory, their best win in the Malthouse era.

Round 12, 2017 – Carlton 10.11 (71) def. Greater Western Sydney 9.16 (70) (Marvel Stadium)
Heading into this mid-season encounter, both sides were at opposite ends of the ladder. The Giants sat in first with a 9-2 record, while Carlton were one spot off the bottom with three wins to their name.

A promising first half saw the Blues hold an eight-point lead at the main break. In a tense second half, the Giants had the better of Carlton on the scoreboard, taking the lead late in the match. Behinds to Levi Casboult and Zac Fisher proved enough to get Brendon Bolton’s boys home in a famous win.

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Round 15, 2019 – Fremantle 11.9 (75) def. by Carlton 11.13 (79) (Optus Stadium)
The bottom-of-the-table Blues made the daunting trip west to take on a Fremantle Dockers side fighting to stay inside the top eight. Under Teague, Carlton had pulled off a miraculous come-from-behind win against the Brisbane Lions a few weeks earlier, before almost snatching a win off the Western Bulldogs.

Fresh off the bye, the visitors conceded the first five goals, but quickly found themselves back in the contest after a strong second quarter. Carlton hit the front in the third term before Freo gained the upper hand again, opening up a 15-point advantage in time-on of the final term. In a late flurry, Carlton slammed on four of the last five goals of the game, the last of which to former skipper Marc Murphy, to pull off an inspirational win.

Worst losses

Round 17, 2015 – Carlton 4.11 (35) defeated by Hawthorn 27.11 (173) (Marvel Stadium)
Records were broken in this Friday night clash against Alastair Clarkson’s outfit, on their way to a third consecutive premiership, handing Carlton their biggest ever loss since their VFL inception in 1897. It was this defeat that contributed to Carlton having the worst percentage of any side that season and an 18th-place finish.

Round 13, 2018 – Carlton 6.10 (46) defeated by Fremantle 15.13 (103) (Marvel Stadium)
Facing a struggling Fremantle outfit with just five wins after 12 games, it was seen as a golden opportunity for the 18th-placed Blues to score a rare win on their home deck at Marvel Stadium.

A 12 goal to nil first half put the kibosh on that, with Carlton booed from the field at half time. In a year the club suffered three separate defeats by over 100 points, it was this 57-point loss that was widely seen as the low point of the season.

Round 9, 2019 – Greater Western Sydney 20.18 (138) defeated Carlton 7.3 (45) (Giants Stadium)
A week after nearly causing a major upset over arch-rivals Collingwood, the Blues were beaten from pillar to post against a ruthless Giants outfit. After kicking the first goal of the match, the Blues conceded seven on the trot, trailing by 74 points at half time.

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Positively, they avoided a 100 point defeat, kicking five of the last nine goals, but it was this result that arguably spelt the end for Brendon Bolton, who was sacked two weeks later.

Moments that shaped the club

Mick Malthouse’s tenure
Following Brett Ratten’s axing at the conclusion of 2012, the Blues made a surprise play for three-time premiership coach Mick Malthouse, who had spent one year out of the game after handing over the coaching reigns to Nathan Buckley at Collingwood.

With the former head coach of the enemy now wearing navy blue, Carlton supporters enjoyed immediate success, albeit in unusual circumstances. With the supplements scandal engulfing Essendon, they were relegated from the finals in 2013, with ninth-placed Carlton bumped up a spot as a result.

This set up a huge elimination final clash with Richmond, with the Blues coming from behind to snatch a memorable win. The Blues would manage just eight more wins under Malthouse, with tension between the longest-serving coach in the history of the game and the Carlton board resulting in his sacking after just 54 games.

List build
It’s hard to find a more horrible off-season for a club from a list management point of view than what happened at Carlton between the 2014 and 2015 seasons. For starters, they lost Jarrad Waite to North Melbourne as a free agent, who went on to play the best football of his injury-interrupted career. Cross.

Stephen Silvagni

Stephen Silvagni, List Manager of the Blues, (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

They picked up delisted free agent Matthew Dick from the Sydney Swans, who managed six games in two years. Cross. They acquired Liam Jones for pick 46. Tick, although it didn’t look great to start with.

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They sent their first pick in the national draft that year, which was pick seven, to the Greater Western Sydney Giants for fringe duo Kristian Jaksch and Mark Whiley, while also getting pick 19 back, which they then used on mature-age draftee Blaine Boekhorst, who played just 25 games in three years. Jaksch and Whiley played a grand total of 16 games between them. Triple cross.

Following Boekhorst through the doors at Princes Park were Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, Clem Smith and Jayden Foster, who combined for a total of seven games. Another triple cross. To make matters worse, they were the only club to participate in the pre-season draft that year, selecting former Bulldog Jason Tutt, who lasted 14 games. Cross.

This was an absolutely abhorrent period for Carlton, and it showed in the following years.

Teague Train
After four and a half seasons at the helm, Brendon Bolton was sacked in 2019 following a disappointing tenure that yielded just 16 wins from 77 matches. Assistant coach David Teague took over the reigns as caretaker, with on-field performance immediately lifting. In Teague’s first match, the Blues came from 37 points down against the top four-bound Brisbane Lions to cause a stunning upset win.

They would go on to win another five from the remaining 10 matches in the season, and the Carlton army were united in calling for Teague to be given the coaching role permanently. Those calls were answered in the week leading up to Round 23, with Teague given a three-year contract.

Best 22 of the decade

Back pocket – Kade Simpson
The last remaining survivor from the 2002 AFL draft, Simpson has been one of Carlton’s most durable performers this decade, playing 215 games from the start of 2010. Amazingly, he has finished in the top ten of the John Nicholls Medal each year this decade, claiming the award in 2013, with runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2018. Simpson needs just four more games to move past Nicholls into third position for the all-time games record at Carlton.

Full back – Michael Jamison
Michael Jamison? As I live and breathe! The trusty defender played 116 of his 150 career matches in the decade, finishing in the top ten of the best and fairest three times. He was named best clubman in the 2010 season, retiring at the age of 30 in 2016.

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Back pocket – Zach Tuohy
A former Gaelic footballer in Ireland, Tuohy joined the Blues in 2010. Naturally, it took him a little while to establish himself as an AFL player, but once he did, he was a mainstay in the Carlton line-up. Tuohy played 120 games and kicked 40 goals in the navy blue, impressing as a rebounding defender with a long, accurate kick. 2015 was his best year, finishing third in the John Nicholls Medal, one of three top-ten finishes in his time at the club. At the end of 2016, Tuohy was traded to Geelong.

Half-back – Heath Scotland
The rebounding defender’s career was certainly in its twilight as the decade began, but Scotland was still in terrific form, claiming his first John Nicholls Medal in 2012 to go with top ten finishes in 2010 and 2011. After 268 games, 92 of them since 2010, Scotland retired in 2014.

Centre half-back – Sam Rowe
A former rookie with Sydney back in 2006, Rowe was given a second chance at an AFL career by the Blues in 2011. However, not long after being drafted, Rowe was diagnosed with testicular cancer, ruling him out of the 2012 campaign. He made his long-awaited debut at the age of 26 in 2013, but it was a year later when Rowe cemented himself in the Carlton line-up.

Having played most of his career as a tall forward, Rowe reinvigorated himself as a key defender. He managed a top-five finish in the 2014 best and fairest, while he finished in the top ten in both 2016 and 2018. After the latter campaign, he was delisted following 99 games and 17 goals with the Blues.

Half-back – Sam Docherty
A boyhood supporter of Carlton, Docherty was a highly-rated youngster traded in from the Brisbane Lions at the end of 2013. He quickly became a general in the Blues’ backline despite his young age, winning the John Nicholls Medal in 2016 before making the All Australian side the following year, narrowly missing out on his second best and fairest.

Sam Docherty Carlton Blues AFL 2017

Sam Docherty. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Docherty grace the field since, following two consecutive knee reconstructions. Despite this, he was named co-captain of the club alongside Patrick Cripps at the end of 2018.

Wing – Ed Curnow
Similar to Rowe, Curnow took a unique path to his spot on the Carlton list, but once he found his way there, he has been a mainstay. Capable of playing as a lockdown tagger or a ball-winning midfielder, Curnow has played 165 matches since his debut in 2011. He has managed five top ten finishes in the club best and fairest, with his past two seasons (second and equal-third) his best efforts.

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Centre – Patrick Cripps
Not only is Cripps one of the standout players for the Blues this decade, he is also one of the best midfielders across the league currently. After an injury-interrupted debut season in 2014, Cripps has gone on to win three best and fairest awards by the age of 24, making him the youngest player in Carlton’s history to do so.

He enters the new decade having made two consecutive All Australian sides, while 2019 saw him claim the Leigh Matthews Trophy as the AFLPA’s most valuable player. He has also finished in the top five of the Brownlow Medal in the past two seasons.

Wing – Bryce Gibbs
Entering the 2010 decade on the back of a top ten finish in the Brownlow, Gibbs was at the top of his game. He would play 165 games and kick 103 goals across eight seasons for the Blues, finishing in the top ten of the best and fairest in each year except for an injury-interrupted 2015 campaign.

It followed a career-best 2014 season where he won his first and only John Nicholls Medal. At the end of 2016, Gibbs requested a trade back to his home state of South Australia, and while a trade could not be done that offseason, he was sent to the Adelaide Crows the following year.

Half-forward – Andrew Walker
In 2010, Walker returned from serious shoulder injuries that limited him to just 13 games across the previous two seasons. The following year, the 190cm utility enjoyed a career-best campaign up forward, leading Carlton’s goalkicking award with an impressive 56 goals.

In 2013, Walker played more of a midfield role, averaging 23 disposals per match to poll 11 Brownlow Medal votes and finish second in the John Nicholls Medal. Walker retired in 2016 due to ongoing injury concerns following 115 games and 107 goals in the decade.

Centre half-forward – Jarrad Waite
Returning from an ACL injury in 2010, Waite became a permanent fixture in the Carlton forward line after spending most of his career capable of swinging between both ends of the field. However, injury continued to dog Waite, who managed just 69 games in five seasons.

He still managed 135 goals, winning the club goalkicking award in 2014. That would be Waite’s final year with Carlton, switching to North Melbourne as a free agent.

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Half-forward – Dennis Armfield
A fan favourite, Armfield played 119 of his 145 career games in the 2010 decade. Capable of playing almost anywhere on the ground, Armfield was a dangerous goalkicker when playing forward, kicking 62 goals between 2012 and 2016.

Forward pocket – Eddie Betts
The superstar small forward became one of Carlton’s focal points in attack with the departure of dual Coleman Medallist Brendan Fevola at the end of 2009. This saw Betts take out Carlton’s leading goalkicker award in 2010, an honour he would replicate in 2012.

That year, Betts came very close to winning his first John Nicholls Medal, finishing second behind Heath Scotland. Funnily enough, Betts’ best season in the navy blue in terms of goals was in 2011, where he kicked 50 from 24 matches, but was bettered by teammate Andrew Walker. After struggling with form and injury in 2013, Betts sought a fresh start at the Adelaide Crows after 87 games and 167 goals in four seasons.

Eddie Betts

Eddie Betts is back at Carlton. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Full forward – Lachie Henderson
Arriving at the Blues in the Brendan Fevola trade at the end of 2009, Henderson was used at both ends of the field, excelling as both a key forward and a key defender. In 102 games with Carlton, Henderson booted 101 goals, finishing third in the John Nicholls Medal in 2013.

Forward pocket – Jeff Garlett
An extremely talented small forward, Garlett arrived at the Blues as a rookie selection, earning his way onto the senior list after a breakout year in 2010. From that point on, he helped form a dangerous forward trio with fellow Indigenous forwards Eddie Betts and Chris Yarran, with the group affectionately nicknamed ‘The Three Amigos’.

Garlett won Carlton’s leading goalkicker award in 2013 with a haul of 43 majors, which was his second-best effort behind his total of 48 in 2011, just his third season. After 107 games and 183 goals in six seasons, Garlett was traded to Melbourne.

Ruckman – Matthew Kreuzer
The third of Carlton’s three consecutive number one draft picks from the 2000s has been a warhorse for the club, leading the ruck division for the entire decade. The big man hasn’t been without his injury worries, rupturing his ACL in 2010 before missing all but one match in 2014 due to a foot injury.

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Known for his ability to become a midfielder once the ruck battle is complete, Kreuzer’s best year was in 2017, where he made the All Australian squad of 40, but missed out on selection in the final team. He also managed a top three placing in the Carlton best and fairest for the first time in his career.

Ruck rover – Chris Judd
Despite starting the 2010 season with a three-game suspension stemming from an infamous eye-gouging incident with Michael Rischitelli the previous year, Judd was still good enough to win his second Brownlow Medal, the first of which came while he was playing at West Coast six years earlier. With the triumph, Judd became the first Carlton player since Greg Williams in 1994 to win a Brownlow. He would make the All Australian side that year, a feat he would achieve for a sixth time in 2011, along with winning his second Leigh Matthews Trophy as the AFLPA’s MVP.

Surprisingly, Judd would win just one Carlton best and fairest in the 2010 decade, finishing in the top three in both 2011 and 2012. At the end of 2012, Judd passed on the captaincy, which he held for five seasons, to Marc Murphy. Judd’s exceptional career came to a premature end in 2015 when he ruptured his ACL in a game against Adelaide.

Rover – Marc Murphy (Captain)
A number one draft pick from 2005, Murphy was one of the best midfielders in the competition at the start of the decade, claiming the AFL Coaches’ Association Champion Player of the Year award in 2011, along with a maiden All Australian berth and his first John Nicholls Medal. 2012 would see Murphy become the favourite for the Brownlow Medal, an award he finished equal-seventh in the previous year, before a shoulder injury ruled him out for two months.

Upon his return, he was given the role of captaincy in the absence of the injured Chris Judd, before being given the job full-time the following year. He would hold the honour for six years, winning his second best and fairest award in 2017. At the end of an injury-interrupted year in 2018, Murphy handed the captaincy reigns to both Patrick Cripps and Sam Docherty. In a show of his consistency, Murphy has finished either in the top ten of, or won, the club best and fairest eight times out of ten this decade.

Marc Murphy Carlton Blues AFL 2017

Marc Murphy. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Interchange – Chris Yarran
Like his Indigenous teammates Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett, Yarran was extremely gifted around the goals, but unlike those two, he had the ability to bound away from his opponents with ease and use his long kicking to set up offensive plays. It was this trait in his game that saw Brett Ratten move Yarran from a forward position to the half-back line in 2011.

He would finish tenth in the John Nicholls Medal that year, before kicking the Goal of the Year in the first match of the 2012 season. His 2013 and 2014 campaigns were when he was at his most damaging, kicking 47 goals across those two seasons. In the latter year, he would finish fourth in the best and fairest, a personal best. After 113 games and 86 goals in the decade, Yarran was traded to Richmond a year later, where he failed to play a game.

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Interchange – Levi Casboult
A much-maligned player for much of the decade, Casboult endeared himself to the Carlton faithful with his knack for taking contested marks, but it was his subpar goalkicking accuracy that would leave the same fans tearing their hair out. Under the tutelage of former Collingwood and North Melbourne goalkicker Saverio Rocca, Casboult has transformed himself into one of the club’s most reliable shots at goal, which saw him win the goalkicking award in 2017 with a haul of 34 majors.

After a difficult year in 2018, Casboult bounced back with a career-best season in 2019, finishing fifth in the best and fairest after showing a great ability to play as both a bullocking key forward and as an intercept defender.

Interchange – Andrew Carrazzo
Respected across the league as one of the best two-way taggers the modern game has seen, Carrazzo was Carlton’s vice captain at the start of the decade. He would manage three top ten finishes in the club best and fairest before retiring in 2015 after four injury-interrupted seasons, playing 95 games in the decade.

Interchange – Mitch Robinson
Apologies to Liam Jones and Jacob Weitering, but it’s hard to look past Robinson’s 90 games with Carlton in the 2010 decade. The hard-at-it midfielder would notch consecutive top ten finishes in the John Nicholls Medal in 2011 and 2012, also displaying a handy ability to sneak forward and kick a goal, ending with 53 goals before his departure to the Brisbane Lions at the end of 2014.

Are the Blues placed better or worse going into the new decade compared to ten years ago?
Better, although you would have said the same thing if this article was written ten years ago following Carlton’s disastrous 2000 decade where they won three wooden spoons. Two more followed in the most recent decade, so I won’t believe David Teague has the Blues on the right track until we see many years of consistent good football.

Then again, we saw that at the start of 2010, but I don’t see Mick Malthouse or Brendon Bolton coming back to coach them, nor do I see Carlton chasing the scraps from the GWS Giants’ playing list, or drafting Blaine Boekhorst with an early selection.