Charlie Curnow celebrates a goal with teammates during Carlton's clash against Essendon in round 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON'S improved depth and a coach "at the peak of his powers" means the Blues will be the main challengers to Sydney in 2024, according to Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd.

More than halfway through the home and away season, the Swans are two wins clear at the top of the ladder (with a game in hand) while the Blues jumped to second spot after their win over Essendon on Sunday night.

Lloyd says the Swans are clearly the best side in the competition, as evidenced by their win over the Blues in round 10, but Voss's team is building nicely.

"Apart from being exposed for speed by Sydney at the SCG, I think they've got every aspect you'd want of a good football side," Lloyd said on's Access All Areas.

"I think their depth has really improved and they take away the strengths of the opposition really well.

"That's where Michael Voss is coaching at the peak of his powers at the moment – what he's doing in taking away the strength of opposition teams."


A key part of Voss's strategy in recent weeks has been the use of Alex Cincotta, who has been effective in lockdown roles on star midfielders like Zak Butters and Touk Miller as well as small forwards Bobby Hill and Tom Papley.

Cincotta was at it again on Sunday night, limiting Bombers skipper Zach Merrett to an equal season low of 21 disposals while kicking two crucial goals himself.

Lloyd says the way Voss deployed Cincotta on Sunday night was key to Carlton's win, adding the lift from the club's lesser lights this year – which has taken the pressure off the Blues' big names – has them well placed to go at least one better in 2024.

"Merrett got his first kick halfway through the first quarter and I think that was a big psychological win for Carlton," he said.

Michael Voss and Alex Cincotta celebrate Carlton's win over Essendon in round 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"And they're doing it really well. (Cincotta) didn't start in the centre square with Zach Merrett ... they kept their centre bounce players going to work and then he got a hold of him.

"It used to be (Patrick) Cripps, (Sam) Walsh, (Harry) McKay, (Charlie) Curnow, (Jacob) Weitering – they had to have big games (but) I think Carlton no longer have that reliance (on those players).

"None of those guys had big games (against Essendon) ... it's (Elijah) Hollands and (Tom) De Koning, Zac Williams, Blake Acres. I think they go a lot deeper than they used to."