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Season review: Carlton

We name the Blues who should go Matthew Lloyd and Damian Barrett dissect Carlton's season
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: Matthew Wright of the Blues celebrates a goal during the 2016 AFL Round 22 match between the Carlton Blues and the Melbourne Demons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 21, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Ex-Crow Matthew Wright was a nice surprise for Blues fans in 2016

In a nutshell
The Blues showed that when all parts of their game are working they have a recipe for future success, with their defensive pressure a feature. Couldn’t fault the intensity and effort, but list changes are necessary. 

What we said in the pre-season 
They exceeded most pre-season predictions by winning seven games, three more than last year. That was an admirable effort given that their forward line, as has been the case for several seasons, was basically dysfunctional. No. 1 draft pick Jacob Weitering demonstrated he will be a long-term key position player once he develops, with the ability to be used at both ends.

What worked
Carlton became a hard team to score against, conceding 100 points in only seven matches. The back half was settled, with All Australian squad members Kade Simpson and Sam Docherty providing plenty of run and drive. Ex-Giants Andrew Phillips and Lachie Plowman were handy acquisitions. Four of last year’s draftees were blooded and showed promising signs. 

What failed
The forward line was a disaster. Ex-Crow Matthew Wright, who also spent some time in the midfield, was the leading goalkicker with a paltry 22. Levi Casboult and Andrejs Everitt failed to deliver consistently, with Casboult’s accuracy in front of goal and smarts a huge issue. Limited depth in midfield was another problem.

Overall rating
C. Exceeded expectations early on but lost momentum in second half of the season. Effort in abundance but lacked class.

Levi Casboult continued to thrill and confound in equal measure, but goals were rare. Picture: AFL Photos

The coach
Promised unity and effort and on the whole he delivered, providing a clear, consistent message. While enduring frustrations, particularly at the back end of the season, he pulled a fragmented club together and set the Blues on the long road back. Still a lot of work to do, though and he is not under contract.

The leaders 
The loss of skipper Marc Murphy with an ankle injury was a savage blow. In his absence Simpson stepped up and was inspirational in the second half of the season. Patrick Cripps and Docherty provided plenty of on-field guidance and Weitering appeals as a future leader.

Patrick Cripps: The AFL’s leading clearance player, the strong midfielder is almost impossible to tackle and starts the ball rolling from the stoppages. Needs to improve his kicking and possibly spend more time in attack. 

Surprise packet
Matthew Wright: The former Crow was Carlton’s leading goalkicker in his first season with the club. He showed his versatility by having the occasional run in the midfield. Consistent performer. 

Get excited
Jacob Weitering: The No. 1 draft pick lived up to the hype as a consistent, durable defender, with his intercept marking a feature. Plenty to like about Charlie Curnow, Jack Silvagni and David Cuningham. 

Andrejs Everitt: Last year’s leading goalkicker managed only 13 games and kicked 17 goals. Did not work hard enough when he did not have the ball. Dale Thomas had an ordinary second half of the season. 

Best win
Round 10: Carlton 16.8 (104) def Geelong 12.13 (85) at Etihad Stadium
The Blues were two men down before half-time, including skipper Murphy, but they embarrassed Geelong, answering every challenge thrown at them. It was Carlton’s first win over the Cats in 15 attempts at Etihad Stadium.

Low point
Murphy’s season-ending injury and the loss to St Kilda in round 20 are on a par. The final-round defeat to the Bombers was galling, but at least they failed to avoid the wooden spoon. 

The big questions
Can list manager Stephen Silvagni deliver and continue to rebuild this list?
How many players will be delisted (and who will survive)?
How long can Carlton afford to go with the wayward Levi Casboult as its main forward target?

Season in a song
Moving On Up – M People

What we say: It's a long and winding road.

Who's done?
Retirements: Michael Jamison, Andrew WalkerCameron Wood
Delistings: Matthew Dick, Jayden Foster
Unsigned free agents: Dennis Armfield, Kade Simpson 

How should they approach trade and draft period?
The Blues will be aggressive again as their list lacks depth in certain key areas. They recruited a good batch of kids in last year’s draft and they will attempt to replicate that this year. 

Early call for 2017
The bar has been raised to seven wins and the arrow must continue to go up. There will be peaks and troughs, but eight victories is a bare minimum.