Blues’ new-found depth means no more gifting games
David Teague and Carlton's match committee are set for far more headaches at the selection table in 2021.
Like the Australian cricket team after a fruitful summer with the willow, the Blues suddenly bat deeper - particularly in defence and through the midfield
Carlton's added depth comes from the off-season signings of Adam Saad (Essendon), Zac Williams (GWS) and Lachie Fogarty, the anticipated returns of Charlie Curnow and Paddy Dow, and the loss of just one first-choice player, retired veteran Kade Simpson.
Collingwood premiership star turned expert analyst Mick McGuane told The Herald Sun the Blues' aggressive recruiting strategy had addressed glaring list holes, as the club sought to end an eight-year finals drought in 2021.
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"I think they've done pretty well," McGuane said.
"They targeted areas they probably needed, some more midfield mix.
"Good clubs need depth at your disposal.
"You can go to the well and get more of a drink out of different types of players, which is a positive.
"But 30 doesn't go into 22 and they're the hard decisions you have to make week to week, based on who you play and what you may need."
The Herald Sun has tried to put itself in Teague's shoes and select Carlton's best 22 for next season.
Of the five 'ins', Fogarty and Dow have been left out.
There are huge question marks over Charlie Curnow and how often he gets onto the field in 2021 remains to be seen.
He has not played since Round 15 last year, amid recurring knee problems, and will not be running again until January after suffering a setback this month, but he has been named for this exercise - and the forward line looks much more dangerous with him in it.
Highlighting Carlton's new-found depth are some of these difficult selection decisions:
what happens with Mitch McGovern?
Does Marc Pittonet or Tom De Koning ruck?
Which small forwards are in the best 22?
Where is Sam Petrevski-Seton's ideal position?
Does Nic Newman make the side?
EVERY CLUB RATED: DID BLUES WIN TRADE PERIOD?
The answers, in short, are: yes but only if he is playing well, De Koning, Eddie Betts and Zac Fisher but not Michael Gibbons, half-forward and no.
McGovern has been a big disappointment for the Blues since arriving from Adelaide at the end of 2018, kicking 31 goals in 28 games, but struggling to have an influence.
McGuane did not think he was coached tough enough this year and was gifted games.
"He's got to be coached hard and strongly, put the ultimatum on the plate - get fit, stay fit and if you do you'll earn your spot, if you don't you'll surrender your spot, it's over to you," McGuane said.
"(Playing McGovern while out of form) gives him a sense that this level was OK, whereas he should've been dropped.
"Hand it over to him to say 'change your appetite for hard work, otherwise you'll be a washed up statistic pretty quick, one of those players who could've been, should've been."
McGuane said 21-year-old De Koning had impressed him and he should be given a chance to develop as the main ruckman.
"I'd get as many games into him - I know sports science has a role to play - but he's part of their future and Pittonet can be the back-up," he said.
"I'd use the Richmond model: one designated ruckman and (Harry) McKay to be the relief, particularly if (Charlie) Curnow's available."
Betts was chosen in the belief the Blues would not have given him a one-season contract extension if they did not think the 33-year-old goalsneak was in their best side.
Fisher gave Carlton a spark when he returned to the team mid-year, squeezing Gibbons out of the team.
McGuane said Betts had been a champion but might be nurtured through the upcoming campaign.
"We've all applauded the talent he's provided … but has he impacted games the way he should over the last couple of years? The honest answer is probably no," he said.
"So whether he plays 10 games or 12 games … that provides opportunities for others."
McGuane said Saad and Williams' arrivals could force Petrevski-Seton up the ground.
He believed the 2016 No. 6 draft pick could be "that good ball user going inside 50 because that's one area of concern".
After missing all but two games this year with a ruptured patella tendon, Newman may have to start outside the best 22 and force his way in.
McGuane said he liked small-forward Fogarty and that the Blues were big fans of Dow and they could push more experienced players out of the team.
"They haven't seen enough of Dow to know if he'll be a bona fide star," he said.
"But they believe in him and think he's in their best 22 fully fit."
McGuane expected Sam Walsh to build on his terrific two seasons with more inside midfield time and he felt Tom Williamson's kicking would ensure he got a regular game next season.
Williamson slides onto the bench as an extension of a settled backline, led by All-Australian contender Jacob Weitering and co-captain Sam Docherty.
Usually Carlton has an early draft pick that needs to be factored in.
Not this year.
For the first time since 2011, Carlton will not select in the top 20 in the draft, in a sign the club feels it has brought in enough high-end teenage talent for the time being.
Justifiably so because Blues fans are desperate for the finals drought to end and, on paper at least, this looks like a team that can do it.
CARLTON'S BEST 22 FOR 2021
* Before the draft and delisted free agents are signed
FB: Lachie Plowman, Liam Jones, Caleb Marchbank
HB: Adam Saad, Jacob Weitering, Sam Docherty
C: Sam Walsh, Ed Curnow, Marc Murphy
HF: Jack Martin, Charlie Curnow, Mitch McGovern
FF: Zac Fisher, Harry McKay, Eddie Betts
FOLL: Tom De Koning, Patrick Cripps, Zac Williams
IC: Sam Petrevski-Seton, Jack Newnes, Will Setterfield, Tom Williamson
Overlooked: Nic Newman, Paddy Dow, Marc Pittonet, Lachie Fogarty, Michael Gibbons, Levi Casboult
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Originally published as Blues' new-found depth means no more gifting games