CARLTON is tossing up whether to shift Mitch McGovern into a permanent defensive role under new coach Michael Voss next season, as the Blues prepare for life without the recently retired Liam Jones.
McGovern has endured a rocky start to life at Ikon Park, kicking just 37 goals from his first 33 games in Carlton colours and being restricted to just five senior appearances last season due to persistent hamstring injuries.
However, it's hoped more time in the backline next season could help to reinvigorate the 27-year-old's career, with the club optimistic he can emerge as an important intercept marking option alongside star defender Jacob Weitering.
Carlton appears unlikely to target any ready-made options during the upcoming pre-season or rookie drafts to replace Jones, despite a number of players being in the market for a new home following the closure of the list lodgement period.
Jarrod Lienert was delisted by Port Adelaide, Ryan Garthwaite was cut by Richmond, Oscar Clavarino left St Kilda and Kaiden Brand was axed by Sydney. Meanwhile, more experienced players like Matt Buntine and Marty Gleeson were also delisted.
But the club is instead focused on finding internal candidates to replace Jones and believes it has already added significant depth to its key defensive stocks following the recent Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period.
Jones stunned Carlton officials on Sunday when he announced his retirement as a result of the AFL's COVID-19 vaccination policy, leaving the team with a sizeable void in its backline after five straight top-10 finishes in the club's best and fairest.
But with Jones set to turn 31 by the start of next season, and with the defender's contract due to expire at the end of 2022, the Blues had already started planning for the future when they targeted a move for Western Bulldogs youngster Lewis Young in October.
The club effectively turned Sam Petrevski-Seton into Young following a three-club trade also involving West Coast and believes the 22-year-old can become an immediate senior regular next season after just 24 games across five years at the Whitten Oval.
Former first-round pick Brodie Kemp made impressive strides late last season, recovering from gruelling knee and ankle injuries to earn his AFL debut and is another expected to take on a more senior role in 2022.
Caleb Marchbank will begin a modified training program after Christmas having sustained an ACL injury midway through last season, while ex-Melbourne defender Oscar McDonald is fit again after sitting out the majority of the 2021 campaign with a back injury.
Collectively, the Blues believe that the returning trio of Kemp, Marchbank and McDonald – along with Young – will add as many as four options to replace Jones that weren't readily available last season.
Carlton is still awaiting approval from the AFL as to whether they can replace Jones' spot on the club's list through the national draft, or whether the additional place will have to be filled via the upcoming pre-season Supplemental Selection Period.