CARLTON coach Brendon Bolton says a lack of polish cost his side in its season-opening loss to Richmond, with the club ruing the nine-point defeat as a missed opportunity.
In his first game in charge of the Blues, Bolton looked set to steer Carlton to an unlikely victory over the Tigers on Thursday night when his side earned a nine-point lead at the final change.
But Richmond lifted in the final term and overran last year's wooden-spooners, with an array of missed shots and poor kicking in the last quarter costing Carlton.
Despite the Blues entering the clash as rank outsiders and after a four-win season in 2015, Bolton said the club couldn't get carried away by some positives signs against the Tigers.
"We're disappointed. We always will be when the scoreboard doesn't go our way. [It was] an opportunity lost, particularly when we win the inside-50 count (57-46 entries the Blues' way)," Bolton said post-game.
"It always hurts when you don't win."
As well as leading the inside-50 count, the Blues also had more scoring shots than Richmond and controlled the play for all but the final term.
Carlton clearly was more organised around the ground, better set up and played with more run and dare than at any stage of last year, but Bolton said they needed to lift their level of class.
"We'll analyse the game in a really balanced approach and look at what we did well and what we need to improve on, but our conversion and connections late in the game [led to] a missed opportunity," he said.
"There'll be some really good things there to build on. We had enough supply and some of our ball movement troubled them, particularly in the third quarter, and our defensive action was fairly sound. We just need to continue to work on our polish.
"The boys have put in a lot of effort and they gave effort for three quarters in this game and were bold with the ball. That's good courage to play that way. But again we just need a bit more polish and we'll continue to work on that midfield-forward connection until we get it better."
Forward Levi Casboult's kicking will again come under the spotlight after several wayward shots at goal, including a vital miss early in the last quarter that would have stretched Carlton's lead to 15 points.
The 26-year-old marking option kicked 24.12 last year and improved his conversion, but Bolton said the club would continue to try to improve in that area.
"We train goalkicking every session and continue to," Bolton said.
"It's the one thing in the AFL that hasn't had a tremendous spike in many a year, so if someone's got the magic formula for anyone having a shot at goal, we'll take it."
Carlton will welcome back Dale Thomas to its line-up for next week's meeting with the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium, after he was suspended for the Tigers clash following a high elbow on Swan Jeremy Laidler in the NAB Challenge.
"Daisy's trained really well. He's as fit as he's been in a long while and – touch wood there's no injuries – you'll see a pretty determined Dale Thomas next week," Bolton said.
Midfielder Bryce Gibbs was one of Carlton's best in the defeat, gathering 30 disposals, six marks and seven tackles, and the 27-year-old reiterated Bolton's view the defeat was a step forward for the group.
"'Bolts' and his coaching group back you in to use your flair and take on the game, and we've got a lot of talented guys who can use the footy well," Gibbs said.
"When we're moving the ball well and changing angles, it really opens teams up. It was good for three quarters tonight, but in that last quarter we let them get on top of us and probably didn't take as many risks as what we probably needed to."