It’s been a dismal season yet again for Carlton so far, going 4-7 to start it off as well as continuing to concede goal runs left, right and centre.
As a fan, it’s tough to see given the improvement off-field and on-field last year.
As a journalist, it was expected due to the amount of pressure on them to improve. And with finals pretty much already out of the question, how can the Blues improve ahead of next season? Well, here are couple of ways.
It usually takes time for players to become a superstar (with the exception of Sam Walsh). Look at Harry McKay for example. He’d only kicked 71 goals in four seasons. Now he already has half of that at 38 goals and is leading the Coleman race.
Jacob Weitering looked solid in his first year, dropping his form a little bit for a couple of years too. But now he’s one of the best intercept defenders across the entire AFL. And he even won the John Nicolls Medal in 2020 ahead of Sam Walsh.
But other than those three mentioned (and Charlie Curnow), none of Carlton’s first-round draftees since 2015 have become superstars. Liam Stocker, Sam Petrevski-Seton and Lochie O’Brien have shown glimpses, but have been inconsistent.
If they’re to become a great team, they need to play these youngsters more and in a position they prefer. Stocker and Petrevski-Seton are playing down back. They are midfielders and barely know how to play there.
A winger who makes smart decisions is exactly what Carlton needs. O’Brien can be that winger who makes smart decisions if they just play him more. If these players can develop and Carlton can play these youngsters in positions of need such as the wing, then they could genuinely be a top-eight threat.
The old guard at Carlton has still got some good players. Ed Curnow is quite literally a fine wine, Eddie Betts is still just a freak of nature and Marc Murphy has shown glimpses of his old self, but has been rather inconsistent of late (due to playing up forward).
But now it’s time to get rid of some of these oldies, specifically Levi Casboult and sadly Marc Murphy. Casboult has been ridiculously poor this year, averaging career lows in marks, disposals and contested marks (3.3 marks, 8.3 disposals and one contested mark per game). He’s also averaging a career-high in clangers (3.3 per game).
Murph on the other hand is averaging a career-low in disposals (15 per game due to playing mostly forward) but he’s also having career lows per game in kicks (9.1), inside 50s (2.9) and uncontested possessions (10.8).
It’s always crucial to have a veteran experience in one line, but with Liam Jones and Sam Docherty having that veteran-like influence down back after the retirement of Kade Simpson, Curnow and Patrick Cripps having that same influence in midfield and Betts the same up forward, it’s sadly time to say goodbye to two Carlton greats and to bring in and develop some of our youngsters.
Ever since 2014 the Blues have done nothing but lose (many thanks to Mick Malthouse). In fact, since then we’ve gone 44-115-1, going 17-22 under David Teague. There is a slight improvement under Teague, but it still looks like a losing culture from the outside.
The only way to make it a winning culture are the three Cs: cohesion, chemistry and a consistent line-up. Look at Melbourne on Friday night. They won that game because of how cohesive that unit is and how little the line-up has changed since the beginning of the year.
Carlton have that losing culture because of the changes they’re making left, right and centre, already bringing in an average of 2.3 players each round and having already played 35 players (excluding Josh Honey as medi-sub) this year.
That will always lead to inconsistency and very little chemistry and cohesion. If they start to play a more consistent line-up, they can build that chemistry and improve gradually or dramatically by the season’s end or by the start of 2022.