A final-round horror show brought a disappointing end to what had been a promising season for Carlton.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 10-8 (106.5%)
Players used: 57
Played every match: 1 – Luke Parks
AFL players used: 32 (218 matches)
Ex-AFL players: 5 (86 matches)
Debutants: 17 – Jaxon Binns, Nate Caddy, Lachie Cowan, Hayden Gill, George Hewett*, Darcy Hogg, Ollie Hollands, Blake Kuipers, Jack Lefroy, Harry Lemmey, Jack Maruff, Aiden Mills, Hugo Nosiara, Hudson O’Keeffe, Darcy Porter, Logan Prout, Harley Reid (*previously played NEAFL)
Best and Fairest: 1st: Jaxon Binns, 2nd: Paddy Dow and Lachlan Plowman, 3rd: Ned Cahill, 4th: Ben Ronke, 5th: Luke Parks
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Paddy Dow (17), Jaxon Binns (11), Ned Cahill (5), Zac Fisher (5)
Coaches MVP votes: Paddy Dow (56), Jaxon Binns (42), Ned Cahill (19)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Jaxon Binns
Goalkickers: Ned Cahill (28), Ben Ronke (28), Liam McMahon (18)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Paddy Dow (31.4), Jaxon Binns (29.2), Zac Fisher (29.0)
Kicks: Jaxon Binns (21.1), Paddy Dow (15.0), Lochie O’Brien (14.0)
Handballs: Paddy Dow (16.4), Zac Fisher (15.3), Archie Stevens (12.1)
Marks: Jaxon Binns (7.9), Sam Durdin (7.5), Ben Crocker (6.5)
Tackles: Lachie Fogarty (5.7), Paddy Dow (4.5), Archie Stevens (3.9)
Hitouts: Alex Mirkov (35.6), Hudson O’Keeffe (15.9), Harry Lemmey (4.5)
Clearances: Paddy Dow (8.0), Lachie Fogarty (4.9), Archie Stevens (4.7)
Inside-50s: Paddy Dow (6.5), Jack Carroll (4.7), Jaxon Binns (4.5)
Rebound-50s: Lachlan Cowan (4.8), Jaxon Binns (4.6), Lachlan Plowman (3.8)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Blues were competitive in almost every game, with their biggest losing margin in Victoria being the 28-point defeat to Collingwood in Round 19. They won the games they were expected to win and were pretty good in close finishes with a 4-3 record in single-figure margins and the defeats being to Werribee, Brisbane Lions and Footscray who all made the top six. Jaxon Binns produced a stunning debut year and showed himself as a player of the future to win the best and fairest and make the VFL Team of the Year. Binns averaged 29.2 disposals, 7.9 marks, 4.6 rebounds, 4.5 inside-50s and booted eight goals. Carlton made him serve his apprenticeship, but don’t expect to see him in the VFL much longer. Paddy Dow and Zac Fisher also showed themselves to be above the level.
WHAT WENT WRONG
It all comes down to one game. The Blues were in the top 10 for most of the season and seemed certain to make the finals for the second straight year when they stunned reigning premier Casey Demons in Round 21 to be well clear of 11th-placed North Melbourne on percentage with one round to play. They only needed to avoid a flogging from the Gold Coast Suns at Heritage Bank Stadium to book their finals place. What followed was a debacle as the premiership-bound Suns dealt out a record 127-point hammering. The result meant the Kangaroos could lose to Richmond by approximately less than 10 goals on the final day of the season and still make the finals, which they duly did. Carlton’s second biggest defeat was one of its other interstate trips, going down to the GWS Giants by 39 points in Round 2 as they went 1-2 on the road. That will be a focus for improvement next year.
After going within two goals of a preliminary final in 2022, this season was heading along the same trajectory until that last-round horror show. It means 2023 can’t be considered a success, although there were plenty of ticks along the way. Young talls Hudson O’Keeffe and Harry Lemmey showed signs up forward and chopped out Alex Mirkov before taking over in the ruck when the big man’s season ended prematurely. The next step for both is more goals, given they kicked just 20 between them, which left too much for their smalls to do, even though Ned Cahill and Ben Ronke booted 28 each. Young VFL-lister Archie Stevens was another positive, making the club’s top three in handballs, tackles and clearances. The fact their defence performed better than the three teams that tipped them out of the Wildcard Round should chasten them even further.