CHARLIE Curnow started his 2018 season with a career-best game, and Carlton coach Brendon Bolton sees plenty of growth left in the powerful young forward after his five-goal haul against Richmond on Thursday night.
The 21-year-old had a stunning opening to the season against the reigning premiers, booting a career-best goal tally and being the most dominant forward on the ground.
WATCH: Quick-thinking Curnow nails impressive goal
The 2015 first-round draft pick was strong and competitive in the air, classy at ground level and mixed his goals from set shots and spectacular snaps, showing his special talents to a crowd of more than 90,000 at the MCG.
Bolton was disappointed the Blues gave up an early lead to lose to the Tigers by 26 points in an entertaining battle, but heaped plenty of praise on Curnow, who entered the season as one of the most hyped players in the competition.
"He's a fantastic player and [to] kick five goals tonight in his third year, we know we've got a special talent. We're rapt to have him. Most importantly though, he understands and we understand there's huge growth still and his mindset is going to allow him to get better, so that's an exciting prospect for the Carlton Football Club," Bolton said post-game.
Curnow finished with 19 disposals and 10 marks, plus five inside-50 entries, and Bolton said he would likely only "pinch-hit" in the midfield this season as he continues to establish himself as a goalkicker.
"We want to lock away a position and become a master of that space, and [for Curnow] that is up forward. But we also need to build flexibility," he said.
"But you don’t just do that by flicking them forward or midfield randomly, or back then forward randomly. We need [them] to lock away and learn their craft in one area and then build in another space, which will be midfield. That's the intention with Charlie."
Curnow's performance alongside Patrick Cripps' outstanding midfield display (he had 36 disposals, of which 25 were contested) were clear highlights for the Blues, who lost GWS recruit Matt Kennedy to an ankle injury in the second term.
Bolton said the loss of the ball-winner to a sprain was a blow, and also said the club was content with its call to send ruckman Matthew Kreuzer back on the ground in the last quarter after he went to the rooms with a groin complaint in the third term.
"We're comfortable with our decision. Our medical department are highly professional, so they won't make decisions that are going to put people at long-term risk," he said.
"He lost a bit of power in his groins, so we'll go and get that checked. But I don't think it will be anything long-term."
The Blues kicked the first five goals of the game in a stunning opening that shocked the premiers not long after the club had unveiled its 2017 flag, before the Tigers were able to settle and gradually cut back their deficit.
Bolton said as much as the improved scoring power and more attacking ball movement was a positive, he described the players as being "edgy" with each other after the loss in what he viewed as a missed opportunity.
"Our players were ready to play, you can see the growth. We were really happy with that start, but our players and coaching staff were really disappointed that we only went in nine points up at the end of the first quarter so that's another significant moment we need to address," he said.
"You can use young players as an excuse, but when they go out they are Carlton footballers and they need to learn to adapt. It does take time but never use that as an out, [because] that can be scary thinking. It doesn't give you a performance mindset."
The Blues face Gold Coast next Saturday at Etihad Stadium.