Part 1 of the six-part series comprises the five players the Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions and Carlton Blues can least afford to lose in 2021, plus each side gets one honourable pre-draft mention.
There was so much optimism from Carlton supporters during the summer.
They got their man in Jack Martin. Eddie Betts returned to the Blue haven for the first time in six years. The talls were looking good as ever and of course the return of Sam Docherty, who hadn’t smelt the prospect of senior footy in two full seasons, was back on the track and looking fitter than ever before.
It seemed that the green shoots former coach Brendon Bolton said were sprouting from the ground and were going to tear the competition up in 2020.
That was until we saw a collapse with Harry McKay going down with an injury over the summer. Mitch McGovern began a modified training program after an injury over the summer.
You’d think the bolstering return of Patrick Cripps, Betts and even McGovern would help the Blues tone up and prepare for the season opener against Richmond next Thursday in their final Marsh Series hit-out against the Lions at Carlton.
McGovern looked cooked from the moment he came out on the field, and it proves that Carlton are going to struggle to kick a score against the reigning premiers.
Without the reliable Harry McKay and the prowess of Charlie Curnow, who won’t return until at least the second half of the season, does Carlton really trust McGovern to stand up alongside Levi Casboult?
Short answer to that question is no.
Casboult is the only reliable tall ready for Round 1 along with the mosquito fleet. We saw glimpses of what this guy could do in the Marsh Series and even though he isn’t ready yet, you’d roll the dice this close to Round 1. Bring in Tom De Koning to fill that second tall and get McGovern to spend the first few weeks away from senior football.
Two of the best defenders in the competition in Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin will run rings around Casboult and De Koning, which is no surprise to anyone. The Tigers’ back line is the best it’s ever been, but to save face and stop the bleeding from beginning, McGovern simply can’t take to the field against Richmond.
Once McGovern has had a decent stint in the VFL for the Northern Blues and McKay returns from his groin injury, you then are able to release the shackles of the two Blues and they’ll be able to help the Blues kick a consistent winning score.
But it’s a hard decision for coach David Teague in his first official year as Blues coach to get this right, and try to keep the faith of those Blues supporters who have high expectations for a team that needs to begin to ascend up the ladder and away from the bottom four where they’ve been residing for most of this century.