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Footyology countdown: Bolton’s Blues need to be bolder

Charlie Curnow is an emerging superstar, but Carlton needs more spark than just him if it is to hit the scoreboard harder in 2018. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Footyology countdown: Bolton’s Blues need to be bolder

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 6 wins, 16 losses (16th)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 13th
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 12th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 4th

Darcy Lang (Geelong), Matthew Kennedy (GWS), Matthew Lobbe (Port Adelaide), Aaron Mullett (North Melbourne), Paddy Dow (Bendigo Pioneers), Lochie O’Brien (Bendigo Pioneers), Tom De Koning (Dandenong Stingrays), Angus Schumacher (Bendigo Pioneers), Jarrod Garlett (South Fremantle), Cam O’Shea (Northern Blues), Matt Shaw (Gold Coast), Cillian McDaid (Galway, Ireland)

Bryce Gibbs (Adelaide), Dennis Armfield (retired), Kristian Jaksch (delisted), Liam Sumner (delisted), Andrew Gallucci (delisted), Daniel Gorringe (retired), Matthew Korcheck (retired), Dylan Buckley (delisted/GWS), Rhys Palmer (delisted), Ciaran Sheehan (delisted), Simon White (delisted), Blaine Boekhorst (delisted), Billie Smedts (delisted)

B: Lachie Plowman, Jacob Weitering, Alex Silvagni
HB: Kade Simpson, Liam Jones, Caleb Marchbank
C: Sam Petrevski-Seton, Ed Curnow, Matthew Kennedy
HF: Jed Lamb, Charlie Curnow, Dale Thomas
F: Jack Silvagni, Levi Casboult, Matthew Wright
Foll: Matthew Kreuzer, Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy
Inter: Tom Williamson, Zac Fisher, David Cuningham, Jarrod Pickett
Emerg: Harry McKay, Jarrod Garlett, Aaron Mullett

Few, if any, clubs have turned over their senior list at the rate Carlton has in recent years, another 13 players departing Ikon Park since the end of 2017. Brendon Bolton is only entering his third year as coach of the Blues, but already the list with which he is working is exactly 50 per cent different to that with which he began 2016.

It’s been a necessary rebuild, but at the same time, one which sees Carlton still grappling with developing the sort of synergy that the best teams have as second nature. And at time it’s made the Blues’ progress difficult to assess.

Where do they stand headed into 2018? Well, six wins last year was one less than previously, but there was tangible progress nonetheless, with the generational change continuing apace, and on that score, real results delivered.

Carlton debuted no fewer than seven players last season, and five of their young guns – Caleb Marchbank, Charlie Curnow, Sam Petrevski-Seton, David Cuningham and Jack Silvagni – won Rising Star nominations.

That was exciting at least, even if aesthetically, Carlton often wasn’t. Bolton had his team playing a slow possession game, the Blues with the highest kick-to-handball ratio in the AFL and on differentials the most uncontested marks.

Scoring was a chore. Indeed, the Blues were the only team last year not to top 100 points in a match at least once, and they finished last for points scored. The upside was they were often difficult to play against, 11 of their defeats by five goals or less.

Clearly, the offensive side of Carlton’s game needs to improve for it to be more competitive against the good teams. But on that score, the Blues aren’t without prospects.

Bryce Gibbs is obviously a huge loss, and defensive playmaker Sam Docherty’s absence for the whole season with a knee injury costly to say the least, but there’s some good “ins” this season, too.

It will be a bonus if midfield draftees Paddy Dow and Lochie O’Brien can have an impact this year, but Aaron Mullett is capable of filling Docherty’s role, while more seasoned pick-ups in Matt Kennedy and Darcy Lang can both offer plenty, Lang in particular having played some of his best football with Geelong in last year’s finals.

There’s cause for hope close to goal, too, and not just in the shape of superstar-in-the-making Charlie Curnow. Harry McKay’s two games late in 2017 offered a glimpse of his strong marking and kicking and he’ll play a lot more this season.

And at the feet of the big men, there might be a bit more excitement with Jarrod Pickett and former Sun Jarrod Garlett potential ground-level support for Petrevski-Seton.

How far can all that take Carlton this year? There’s still plenty of “ifs” and “maybes”, but it’s hard to think the graph won’t at least continue on an upward trajectory, regardless of what ladder position that may bring.

16th. Carlton is certainly capable of a higher finish given a touch of luck and good health, but how quickly the Blues embrace the more offensive parts of the game will have the biggest say.

THE LADDER SO FAR…(click on team to read)

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