Are they coming? Are they going? Or are the Blues just simply plateauing?
They’re questions on the lips of many Carlton supporters right now.
With president Mark LoGiudice announcing that he will be stepping down at the end of the 2021 season, these questions only become more complex to answer.
The 2021 season was touted to be one of the years that this once-great club of the AFL would return to the the top eight and be competing among some of the league’s best.
And while we are only six rounds into the AFL season, early signs are showing a side that can’t seem to shift themselves into the next gear that has eluded them for the better part of two years.
This is a side that on paper has some real class in the likes of Sam Walsh, Patrick Cripps, Harry McKay, Jacob Weitering and the recently signed Adam Saad and Zac Williams.
There’s a strong spine throughout the side, and these new acquisitions should have bolstered the Blues’ slingshot play as well as fans’ hopes of fast and exciting footy.
Sadly, neither has been the case.
In the opening six rounds, Carlton have had their fair share of moments, with glimmers of silky and commanding footy transitioning from forward to attack.
This more often than not is occurring in the opening quarter.
Yet, when they aren’t pushing through their opponent’s ranks, they appear far too reactive defensively and also lack some real polish offensively.
In their most recent defeat to Brisbane, they started the first quarter strongly with an eight-point lead at the break, only to buckle in the second quarter, losing out seven goals to two.
The Blues couldn’t recover.
For the most part, these losses come from dark spells when the opposition get to chain together multiple goals to pile on the pressure. Brisbane multiple times were able to fly coast to coast without a contested mark in sight during this time.
As seen online, some supporters feel that it’s a lack of desire that is causing these sorts of losses.
Others like Fox Sports’ David King see it as an issue of poor list management. King said: “They’re almost to the point that in two years’ time you’ll call some of these guys list cloggers, if not now”.
And for others, it’s simply an issue with coaching.
David Teague is now well into his second full season at the Blues as head coach, and still deserves the time to nurture and finesse his squad. He would be more than aware that 2-4 is not where the Blues intended to be by Round 7.
But more than that, this is not where the Blues intended to be in 2021.
This proper rebuild began in 2015 after the Mick Malthouse era, and in six years the Blues have slowly been trying to build up to something greater. By the actions of these first six rounds, this slow build has perhaps tested the patience of fans, who were promised so much more.
With scrappy wins over Fremantle and an undermanned Gold Coast, it certainly appears that the side has become stagnant.
Last year there was an inability to close out close matches against sides like Collingwood, Port Adelaide and West Coast, signalling that the tides were finally changing for the young Blues.
This year, these losses have been more convincing, and the Blues have saved face with late, junk-time goals to lessen margins in the final minutes.
Only six rounds in, there is still plenty of time for recovery. As well as this, the Blues have plenty of pride to back themselves and make a charge, starting this Sunday against their old enemy in Essendon.
With team changes on the horizon, the pressure is on for poor performing players.
And maybe that is what this side needs: a challenge to perform.
Due to injuries and a lack of depth, Teague has been conservative in dropping players who have struggled to make an impact. Maybe with a full-strength side, these things could change.
Once again, it becomes a waiting game for Carlton fans, and the longer the season goes on, the more telling it will become what the predicament really is.
This is a side that not too long ago had only racked up two wins in a season, so perhaps the journey is becoming slightly longer than anticipated . But there is some progression.
Whether there are still growing pains of a team that is on the cusp of finding form, list issues or coaching woes, the next few rounds are paramount for Carlton in showing the AFL and their fans what they are truly capable of.