Apologies to all for my poor attempts at journalism but after a frustrating few weeks of very few AFL articles (especially not ones about the actual game), the appearance of a soccer article on the AFL page forced me to take matters into my own hands.
It will surprise no one my topic is Carlton and specifically the big questions facing them in 2022. To me the Blues are the team, to reference Donald Rumsfeld, with the most “known unknowns” going into 2022, the three greatest of which to me are:
1) What is the plan?
While Carlton at times played some incredibly attractive (if inconsistent) football in 2021 the one constant was the inability to restrict the oppositions scoring despite having highly credentialed and talented back seven.
The blame for this was consistently sheeted home to a poor defensive system and structure and it ultimately cost David Teague and most his assistants their job.
With a new broom of Michael Voss, Aaron Hamill, Ash Hansen and Tim Clark sweeping through, all eyes will be on what they can do to remedy the situation and how quickly the players can adapt to their third system since 2019. This ability to adapt appears to have been severely hampered by the very late start to the pre-season, with the more experienced players not due back until December.
2) What is the best team?
While there seems to be as many versions of Carlton’s best 22 for 2022 going around as there are pundits but the one thing that can be guaranteed is that it will be massively different to 2021.
My attempt at a 22 would look like this;
B Lachie Plowman (19 games for Carlton in 2021) Liam Jones (19) Lewis Young (0)
HB Adam Saad (22) Jacob Weitering (22) Zac Williams (14)
C Ed Curnow (22) Patrick Cripps (20) Adam Cerra (0)
HF Josh Honey (4) Charlie Curnow (4) Jack Martin (11)
F Jack Silvagni (15) Harry McKay (19) Zac Fisher (10)
Foll Tom De Koning (13) Sam Walsh (22) George Hewett (0)
Int Liam Stocker (17) Matthew Kennedy (12) Brodie Kemp (2) Paddy Dow (16)
This team has an averages of just 12.86 games for Carlton in 2021, which makes drawing a form line from one year to the next an exercise in futility.
However, it does demonstrate that there is an enormous opportunity for a significant rise up the ladder if Voss can find the right mix and the right plan.
Having players the calibre of Cerra, Hewett and C Curnow play a full season alongside McKay, Walsh and Weitering dramatically changes the look of the Blues’ best 22.
3) Who takes their chance?
A new coach is an opportunity for all players to have a fresh start and press their claims for a spot in the side. The 22 I listed above is almost as much about the players not listed as it is those in the side.
Former first round picks Caleb Marchbank, David Cuningham, Sam Philp, Lochie O’Orien (possibly the biggest beneficiary of a new coach after the previous one seemed unwilling to use him ahead of the limited “good soldier types of Jack Newnes and Matthew Cottrell), Lachie Fogarty and Will Setterfield, 2021 defenders Nic Newman and Tom Williamson, 2021 promising draftees Jack Carroll and Corey Durdin plus experienced campaigners like Mitch McGovern, Tom McDonald, Jack Newnes and Marc Pittonet all are out of my side and could press their claims for a spot, not to mention co-captain Sam Docherty.
There is a significant amount of, as yet unrealised, talent amongst that group and more than one of them can point to a horrid run with injury for their inability to secure a regular spot but the number of these fringes players who are able to take their chance and establish themselves as legitimate AFL footballers will have a big say in how far the Blues can go in 2022 and into the future.
I must confess that I have no concrete answers for any of the questions I raised, or for what the hell we do if Liam Jones refuses to get vaccinated.
While I continue to be optimistic about the strength of the list we are building and that the long-term trajectory seems to be upward but that shouldn’t prevent us Roarers doing what we do best, discuss, challenge and examine the issues presented thoroughly.