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Season review: Carlton

Blues key talls who are under pressure What went right and what went wrong for Carlton in The Wash-Up

In a nutshell

Forgettable. The Blues won just two games for the year, had a lengthy injury list and struggled to find any continuity or rhythm. The end couldn't have come quick enough.

What we said in the pre-season 

The way Carlton played throughout pre-season had many believing in an exciting new game plan. Ultimately, it didn't pan out that way. The team struggled to find a balance between attack and defense early in the year, and combined with a host of injuries, it forced them to play more conservatively than they might have liked. But for a team that won six games last year, then effectively lost its two best players in Bryce Gibbs and Sam Docherty, maybe we should have seen this coming.


Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Blues using the form at the bottom of this article.


What worked

A-Graders. Patrick Cripps and Charlie Curnow are stars and showed that in 2018. The Blues can feel confident about building their future around those two.

Commitment. Patrick Cripps, Charlie Curnow, Marc Murphy, Paddy Dow, Lochie O'Brien, Zac Fisher, and more. All have re-signed throughout the year.

Forward future. The Blues have uncovered some promising key forward prospects, with Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay and Tom De Koning all showing glimpses of their potential this year.

What failed

Scoring. The Blues simply must start scoring. They haven't hit the 100-point mark in 55 games now, and only managed to notch more than 90 points twice in 2018.

Medical department. The Blues weren't helped by an extensive injury list that decimated their defensive stocks and left an already young squad exposed even further.

Mixed messages. The Blues nailed their flag to the mast about not requesting a priority pick in May. But after a season where they won just two games, they are now likely to backflip on that stance.

Overall rating

F. It's harsh – and there have been mitigating circumstances – but it's hard to give the Blues anything else after a season that yielded just two wins.

The coach

Brendon Bolton is not a man under pressure. Clearly, things didn't go the way Carlton would have liked in 2018, but Bolton retains the full support of his superiors and the backing of his playing group. However, the next couple of years are important for him. There's no doubt the team will need to show tangible improvement over the next 18 to 24 months.

'Bolts' has the club's backing. Picture: AFL Photos

The leaders 

There could be a three-way battle forming for the position of Carlton's captain in 2019. Marc Murphy remains the current skipper, but could pass the baton to Patrick Cripps after the midfielder enjoyed a terrific period as stand-in captain throughout the year. Then there's Sam Docherty, who should not be forgotten after a year on the sidelines. He is a natural leader and is undoubtedly one of the most respected figures in the playing group.

MVP

Patrick Cripps: There's no question about this. Cripps is a near-certainty to claim his second Carlton best and fairest after a superb individual season. A bull in the midfield, he continues to front up and is one of the game's best clearance and contested players.

Surprise packet

Zac Fisher: A move into the midfield has given Fisher a chance to showcase his fantastic decision-making and evasive skills. He knows how to find the footy, while he normally uses it pretty effectively as well. He's a really promising talent.

Get excited

Paddy Dow: He's turned into a regular in Carlton's midfield, despite this being just his first year in an AFL system. He can win his own footy, while his burst from stoppages is really exciting. He could develop into a really nice player for the Blues.

Disappointment

Levi Casboult: The Blues hoped he would lead a young forward line, but he's finished the campaign as a regular in the reserves. Casboult managed just 10 games this season, kicking only 12 goals. He could even find himself on the trading block later this year.

Best win

Round 8: Carlton 14.7 (91) d Essendon 10.18 (78)

The Blues had to wait until round eight before securing their first win for the year, but it was worth the wait against the old enemy. Patrick Cripps starred with 27 disposals, while Charlie Curnow kicked three goals, as Carlton overturned a third-quarter deficit to secure victory.

Best individual performance

Patrick Cripps: Round 14 v Collingwood

In a stellar season, Cripps' performance against Collingwood was the pick of the bunch. He won 29 disposals, 20 of which were contested, while kicking three goals. He also won seven clearances and laid nine tackles in a superb individual display.

Low point

A 105-point loss to an injury-riddled Giants side, who outscored the Blues with just 16 players on the field at one stage, was about as bad as it gets.

The big questions

  1. Can they lure the established midfield gun they hope to during the trade period?
  2. How many of the draftees from Bolton and Silvagni's tenure will take the next step?
  3. Will they begin to show tangible improvement next season?

Season in a song

Pain – The War On Drugs

Who's done?

Retirements: Alex Silvagni

Delistings: Nil

Unsigned free agents: Kade Simpson

How should they approach trade and draft period?

Aggressively. The club will dangle the first pick in the NAB AFL Draft, though it remains likely to retain it. Still, there's no doubt it needs to lure some established talent to help shoulder the burden alongside Patrick Cripps – and will need to trade assets in order to do that.

Early call for 2019

The club won't put a win target on 2019, but it should be hoping for five to eight at a minimum. Regardless of how many games the Blues win next year, there's no doubt the club needs to comfort supporters by showing genuine improvement across the board.

Blues fans: what's your season verdict?

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Saturday, September 9. 

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