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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Carlton


David Cunningham celebrates a goal during Carlton’s win over GWS. Cunningham was one of five Rising Star nominees for the Blues. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Carlton

Ronny Lerner    

CARLTON
2017 record: 6 wins, 16 losses (16th)

THE INS
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)

THE OUTS
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)

THE STRENGTHS
The Blues would be absolutely rapt with the rate at which their youngsters are developing. The direction they’re heading in under coach Brendon Bolton got a huge nod of affirmation this season when they amassed a club record five Rising Star nominations. Only GWS recorded more in one season in 2012 (eight). Caleb Marchbank, Sam Petrevski-Seton, David Cuningham, Jack Silvagni and Charlie Curnow were all recognised for their efforts throughout 2017 and gave the club plenty to get excited about in what was another tough season. While Carlton finished the year in 16th spot, it was still a tough nut to crack. The Blues won six games and only five of their 16 losses were by more than five goals – four of which were against eventual finalists. The challenge now is to gradually swing the pendulum from a defensive-minded game plan to an attacking one. Their back six is coming along nicely, although the loss of Sam Docherty to a knee injury will hurt, and they have quality followers in Matthew Kreuzer, Patrick Cripps and captain Marc Murphy.

THE WEAKNESSES
The Blues had the worst attack in the competition in 2017 with a paltry average of just 72 points per game. In fact, they kicked more than 12 goals on just three occasions. If they intend to win more than seven games for the first time since 2013, their scoring power will have to improve dramatically. Charlie Curnow is the only player in their forward line who, at this stage, looks like a potential superstar, so kicking a winning total could prove to be a weekly battle again in 2018. The Blues were also ranked last for disposals and clearances and were in the bottom four for contested possessions, so they still have an enormous amount of work to do. The bottom six players in Carlton’s best 22 are promising but still very raw. The Blues are ranked fifth-last both in terms of average age and average games per player. Bolton’s heavy emphasis on youth will hopefully start bearing fruit in two to three years’ time, but it looks as though it will ensure a bit more pain for the Carlton faithful next year.

ONE TO WATCH
Charlie Curnow got better and better as each week passed last season – so much so that he even drew comparisons with legendary Carlton utility Anthony Koutoufides. In 2017, the 20-year-old key forward finished second at the club for contested marks and third for goals. He also averaged 14 touches a game. His freakish talents definitely made the footy world sit up and take notice. He will no doubt attract more attention next year from opposition defenders, but he should be good enough to take that in his stride as he sets his sights on becoming Carlton’s next genuine star forward.

UNDER THE PUMP
He might only have arrived at his new club two months ago, but make no mistake that the pressure is already on former Geelong speedster Darcy Lang. He showed glimpses of his potential in his 44 games with the Cats, but failed to bed down a regular spot and never really set the world on fire. Has the potential to be a handy acquisition for the Blues, and his football during the finals was arguably the best he’s yet returned at AFL level, but Lang is far from a walk-up start. Will be made to earn his spot.

RONNY LERNER’S BEST 22
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

The one glaring omission is All-Australian defender Sam Docherty, who ruptured his ACL last month and isn’t expected to feature in 2018. Alex Silvagni might be on the rookie list but, given Carlton’s dearth of key defenders and his impressive start to life as a Blue which was cut short by a knee injury, the former Docker can expect plenty of game time in 2018. Kennedy slips straight into the midfield and Thomas might have his knockers, but did enough last season to keep his spot. Whether he has it by the end of the year or not is a different story.

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