IT WAS another year to forget for Carlton.
Costly defeats to North Melbourne, Collingwood and Gold Coast defined the year as the Blues limped through an eighth consecutive season without finals football. It leaves the club in a state of flux yet again.
Senior coach David Teague will go through a series of consultation meetings this week to decide his future, while football boss Brad Lloyd is also expected to find himself under pressure. Assistants Brent Stanton and John Barker have already departed.
Prepare for a busy off-season at Ikon Park.
Carlton finally got the most out of exciting 204cm key forward Harry McKay. Having shown glimpses of immense potential before 2021, McKay finally found rhythm to kick 58 goals and claim the Coleman Medal. That was despite missing three games through injury and coming from the field with concussion in a fourth. Now, the Blues just need to find a way to pair McKay with fellow gun attacking options Charlie Curnow and Mitch McGovern.
The same failings of the past couldn't be corrected in 2021. The club was smashed out of the middle and finished the year among the worst clearance and contested sides in the competition, while its inability to defend in transition proved an issue all year. The result was the Blues shipping the second-most points against of any team in the competition, behind only the Kangaroos.
What a year it was for Sam Walsh. Playing full-time through the midfield, the former No.1 pick emerged as one of the League's best players after averaging 29.8 disposals, 4.8 clearances and 4.5 tackles per game. Pencil him in for a first ever Blues best and fairest.
Having spent a year out of the game, and after not being selected for the first five weeks of the season, Liam Stocker found confidence, continuity and form in a small defender role. The 2018 first-round pick enjoyed some big jobs throughout the campaign and improved as the year went on. Now to make the midfield move in 2022.
Having arrived as last year's most high-profile free agent signing, Zac Williams missed three of his first seven matches before being shifted into a defensive role to find form and confidence in round 10. He impressed across half-back, but the club had originally identified him to fill an important midfield void this season. The Blues still have confidence he can be an elite onballer. He needs to prove that in 2022.
A gritty round 16 victory over Fremantle saw Carlton hold its opponents to just one behind in a tense final term, with Sam Walsh capping a terrific performance with a brilliant late goal from the boundary. It kickstarted a run of three Blues wins in four matches and, at that point, looked to have put finals football back on the agenda.
The season came grinding to a shuddering halt in round 19, when wooden spooners North Melbourne piled on seven unanswered goals in a rampant third quarter to end Carlton's finals hopes. The Blues conceded 13 second-half goals in a performance that brutally exposed the side's repeated defensive failings.
How should they approach list management?
It's a tricky one. The club is expected to take the first steps away from its five-year list rebuild of 2015-19, with first-round picks Sam Petrevski-Seton, Lochie O'Brien and Brodie Kemp all uncontracted and with the future of Paddy Dow also clouded. It has cap space to target Fremantle gun Adam Cerra, but will need to part with pick No.6 in order to make a deal happen. It desperately needs midfield depth, an area that Cerra could help in, with Sydney free agent George Hewett also on the radar. How it balances those numerous decisions remains to be seen.
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Early call for 2022
Carlton simply must improve, but so much of it relies on who is in charge. A decision on senior coach David Teague still hasn't been made, with the club gripped by on-field instability. Whoever takes the reins next season has a big job in front of them. Finals football will be expected.
3/10. It was more of the same from Carlton, with uncertainty littered throughout Ikon Park all season.