Charlie Curnow celebrates a goal for Carlton against GWS in round 24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Ins and outs


Matt Carroll (Rookie Draft), Orazio Fantasia (delisted free agent), Elijah Hollands (trade, Gold Coast), Ashton Moir (No.29 draft pick), Rob Monahan (international rookie), Billy Wilson (No.34 draft pick)


Ed Curnow (retired), Paddy Dow (trade, St Kilda), Zac Fisher (trade, North Melbourne), Josh Honey (delisted), Lochie O'Brien (delisted), Sam Philp (delisted), Lachie Plowman (retired)

Medical room

Star defender Jacob Weitering suffered a serious calf strain in January and won’t return before round three. Jack Silvagni’s season is already over, having ruptured his ACL during match simulation. However, there is some bright news for the Blues with dasher Zac Williams, who ruptured his ACL last pre-season, returning to half-back after missing the entirety of 2023. Irish recruit Matt Duffy, also falling to a torn ACL, will spend 2024 in the rehab group.

Jacob Weitering at Carlton training on September 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Three burning questions

How will the Blues handle huge external pressure?
In June last year, ugly scenes surrounded the Blues as they walked down the players’ race following a 34-point loss to Essendon. They’d sunk to 15th on the ladder, and furious fans who expected so much more were making their anger known. Three months later, they were winning finals in front of crowds exceeding 90,000, the enormity of a successful Carlton gripping Melbourne like a Taylor Swift tour. They’ll rival Collingwood for the hottest ticket in town in 2024, and coach Michael Voss – who just signed a contract extension – will be expected to take them a step further.

Can Tom De Koning leap into stardom alongside Marc Pittonet?
De Koning attracted the attention of just about everyone last year from rival recruiters to Robbie Williams, who filmed himself singing ‘De Koning’s in the air’ – to the tune of John Paul Young’s Love Is In The Air – following the young tall’s starring semi final performance against Melbourne. In that match, he attended four centre bounces compared to Pittonet’s 20. Pittonet isn’t going anywhere having signed a four-year deal in 2023, so De Koning’s anticipated leap to stardom might need to come in that hybrid forward-ruck role, rather than solidifying a position as the sole big man.

How does Harry find a consistent pair of kicking boots?
Harry McKay’s career-best season in 2021 returned 58 goals and 33 behinds, tailing off in 2022 with 45.31, before his accuracy completely fell away in 2023 with 29.29. It’s more than just about booting goals for McKay, whose contested marks around the ground – a stat he ranked elite in last season at 2.2 a game – give the Blues a big edge. However, if the 204cm forward can prove more damaging in front of goal in 2024, a triad with Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow and the rising De Koning would be extremely difficult to subdue.

Harry McKay celebrates a goal during Carlton's preliminary final against Brisbane on September 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Track watch 

Mitch McGovern has capitalised on an injury-free pre-season after playing 22 games last year, his best tally since 2016. He’ll play a huge role early with Jacob Weitering sidelined. Assistant coach Jordan Russell told the Carlton website that Jesse Motlop has been one of the strongest on the track, with the small forward building his “repeat speed” running base. All eyes are on Zac Williams as the gun half-back returns from a knee reconstruction, while recruit Elijah Hollands has been rated by coaches as a top performer. Young key forward Harry Lemmey has been working closely with McKay. 

Fantasy lock 

Defender Zac Williams (DEF, $442,000) has received a huge discount and is one of the genuine bargains of the season following his return from an ACL injury. He is a durability concern given he played no games last year and only nine in 2022, but his upside is undeniable given his ability to find the footy. He has averaged in the 90s before so should be a lock in your defence.

Instant hit 

The Elijah Hollands effect won’t quite be instant with the Gold Coast recruit to serve a two-match suspension for breaching the League’s Illicit Drugs Policy. However, expect him to slot straight into the Blues’ line-up for Good Friday against North Melbourne and add a new dynamic to the midfield-forward connection. Selected at pick No.7 in his draft year, the powerful runner has a point to prove and will be looking to repay the faith after his off-field hiccup.


It’s a big year for 

It might be harsh to expect the world from Zac Williams in his ACL comeback, but the half-back dasher is entering the fourth of a bumper six-year deal with Carlton and will be expected to make the line-breaking plays he became known for at Greater Western Sydney. 

Pass mark

They dared to dream of a Grand Final berth when they were up five goals to one in the prelim. Armed with stars on every line, it’s time to turn those dreams to reality.

Best 23 for 2024

B: Caleb Marchbank, Jacob Weitering, Nic Newman
HB: Zac Williams, Mitch McGovern, Adam Saad
C: Blake Acres, Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty
HF: Matt Cottrell, Harry McKay, Elijah Hollands
F: Tom De Koning, Charlie Curnow, Jesse Motlop
Foll: Marc Pittonet, Sam Walsh, George Hewett
I/C: Adam Cerra, Jack Martin, Oliver Hollands, Lachie Fogarty, Matt Kennedy (sub)
Emerg: Brodie Kemp, Matthew Owies, Alex Cincotta