2013 fixture: Carlton
The Blues' 2013 home-and-away fixture explained
CARLTON ruckman Matthew Kreuzer says the Blues have "a lot to prove" and are determined to start their 2013 campaign with "a few" pre-season victories.
Carlton was the AFL's worst-performed club last pre-season and then produced a below-par premiership season that ultimately cost former coach Brett Ratten his job.
The Blues last year lost all five of their pre-season matches – NAB Cup clashes against Port Adelaide (six points), Adelaide (nine), Western Bulldogs (four) and the Brisbane Lions (64), along with a practice match against North Melbourne (16).
Admittedly, the Blues were under-strength and underdone with several key players missing and others lacking fitness.
Of course, they then belied their pre-season form by winning their opening three games of the premiership season to become flag favourites. However, their joy was short-lived as their season deteriorated due to many factors, including further injury and form issues, and Carlton missed the finals for the first time since 2008.
Kreuzer says the Blues plan to rectify the disappointment of 2012.
Many things are different at Visy Park this season, with a far healthier playing list allowing vastly improved training numbers and creating hot competition for spots as players try to make strong impressions on new coach Mick Malthouse.
Kreuzer is one Blue who is enjoying being injury-free
and training fully after being restricted before Christmas as he recovered from minor knee surgery.
He is confident the Blues will return to the finals and believes that some pre-season wins would build crucial belief and momentum.
But Kreuzer said they would not put victory above other imperatives such as getting sufficient game time into players and implementing Malthouse's new game plan.
The Blues mightn’t necessarily be aiming to win this year's NAB Cup, but Malthouse has shown in the past that he doesn’t consider such success to be an impediment to premiership-season plans. He took Collingwood to NAB Cup grand finals in two of his last three seasons in charge, including a victory over Essendon in 2011 when the Pies went on to play off in their second successive day grand final.
Asked whether the Blues were aiming to win the NAB Cup, Kreuzer didn't reject the idea.
"We're looking forward to having a big year, so in the NAB Cup we want to show what we can do," he told AFL.com.au
"We want to show what we've picked up this pre-season, how we've improved, and just try to rectify what we did last year.
"We'll definitely be trying to win some games and be better than we were in last year's pre-season … Winning obviously isn’t everything in the pre-season – the most important thing for us is to gel together and play the way the coaches want us to – but you still want to get a few wins under your belt because it builds confidence in the group and everyone rides off it."
The Blues have much to be optimistic about, but Kreuzer insists any success won’t just happen as a matter of course.
"We've got a few more players on the track than we had last year, which is great because everyone's been able to do a lot more work and learn how Mick wants us to play," he said.
"But we know we can’t expect to do well just because most players are available; we've still got a lot to prove. The games can’t come around quick enough."