THE MOVE to Carlton didn't just help Lewis Young's footy.

An introvert by nature, Young remembers his first days in navy blue as understandably intense. There were new names to remember, new teammates and coaches to win over, and a place in his new side to claim for himself. For the softly spoken and humble defender, it was a more daunting prospect than some might care to admit.

But it presented Young with an opportunity. He set himself daily goals that, to some, might seem small. But on a personal level, they were significant. Whether it was introducing himself to someone new, or trying to go for lunch with a different person every day, each experience helped him spread his wings just that little bit more.

Developing into a better footballer wasn't necessarily the end-goal of his attempts to become more comfortable in his new surroundings. But, with Carlton's burgeoning intercept king currently in the midst of a career-best stretch, it has had a pleasing effect on his performances as well.

Lewis Young at Carlton's team photo day on February 15, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"For me, it's been small things. Being such a shy person, it's going out of my way to say good morning to someone or to sit down and have lunch with someone. It might sound silly, but it's a big thing for me," Young told AFL.com.au from Ikon Park this week.

"It's something I've been working on since I was drafted. I came in as a very quiet kid, and I am still quite a quiet personality, so I've had to try and bring out that extroverted version of myself.

"Something I figured out – probably only recently, but I wish I'd learned it a couple of years ago – is that if you can come out of your shell a bit, you actually play better yourself. You just feel more confident."

Last Saturday, as Carlton recorded what senior coach Michael Voss later described as a "signature win" over a Fremantle side entrenched in the AFL's top four, Young could be seen barking orders to his younger teammates in his newfound role as the leader in the club's depleted backline.

Carlton's Lewis Young and Fremantle's Rory Lobb in action in round 15 match at Marvel Stadium on June 25, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

For Young, that might have seemed a foreign prospect to a more reserved version of himself just a few seasons ago. But now, at 23 years of age and ready to emerge as one of the League's best intercept defenders, it's a role that comes almost naturally.

"Being a quiet personality off the field and then being able to flick a switch on the field, it's almost impossible. But if you're helping someone else, you feel like that's on you as well. You're not always too worried about a mistake here or there," Young said.

"It's something I've only picked up recently. But if I can come out of my shell and help my teammates, it really helps me. Being able to do that for about eight months now, it's put me in a position where I feel comfortable enough to tell people things on the field and give them feedback – whether that's good or bad.

"Then, going back to my teammates, we're all learning to be really good at receiving feedback. Being comfortable receiving feedback, it makes you more confident to give it in a way. I've just felt like my teammates around me have made me feel so empowered to be able to do that.

"In hindsight, I wish I'd learned that five years ago. But I'm glad I've learned that now. That's been a massive piece of advice from (senior coach) Michael Voss and (backline coach) Aaron Hamill, they've taught me that and that's what is coming out in my game I believe."

00:50 Mins
Published on

Carlton carve up the corridor to end in Young goal

Lewis Young gives the Blues a glimmer of hope after completing this coast-to-coast team play

Published on

Through unfortunate circumstances, Young has almost become the last man standing in Carlton's under-siege backline. A series of injuries to the club's top-tier key-position players has decimated the Blues' defensive stocks and has forced a significant reliance on the former Dog's availability and improvement.

In many ways, it has shone a deserving spotlight on Young's importance. Not only has he enjoyed a series of outstanding performances this season, particularly over the last month in the recent absence of the in-form Jacob Weitering, but he's done it while enduring a revolving door of defensive partners.

In his last four games, Young has amassed 55 spoils (ranked No.1 in the AFL) and 35 intercept possessions (ranked No.5). He's done it while partnering Weitering against Collingwood, Caleb Marchbank against Essendon, Sam Durdin against Richmond, and then Brodie Kemp against Fremantle.

This week, with Weitering, Marchbank and Durdin still sidelined, he'll again be joined by Kemp in tackling one of the game's best young key forwards as the club faces St Kilda and its spearhead Max King in its annual 'Carlton Respects' match.

Not only have the continual spate of defensive injuries impacted the Blues' preparations for such encounters on a week-to-week basis, but they have also heaped additional responsibility on Young's shoulders and have been an early test of his more extroverted personality.

Jacob Weitering sits injured on the bench during Carlton's clash against Collingwood in round 11, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's funny how it all works out. I'm in this position at the moment where a lot of guys around me have gotten injured unfortunately. But that's the way footy is. You develop relationships … 'Marchy' had been in rehab for a long time, 'Durds' had been there for a week and 'Kempy' had been playing in the VFL a lot," Young said.

"I hadn't played a lot of games with those guys and that's probably the main thing I had to work with them on. We had to get that connection. It's quite a simple thing to do, just communicate and be there for one another. But it is also quite complex because you don't know each other's small attributes that pop up in games.

"That's one thing that I've really had to work on, and they're the same coming in to play with me. They have to come in and learn those small things as well. But if everyone can get their role right, then you play to your strengths."

For Young, the improved patch of form comes after virtually having to re-learn some of the key elements of playing in the backline after the last off-season's trade from the Western Bulldogs.

It's easy to forget that Young played two finals for the Dogs last year on the club's way to securing a Grand Final berth against Melbourne, but did so in an unnatural ruck role forced by the ongoing absence of veteran Stef Martin.

Lewis Young (left) grapples in the ruck with Essendon's Sam Draper during the elimination final on August 29, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Initially drafted as an intercepting defender from Sturt in South Australia, Young spent 24 games across five seasons at the Whitten Oval being thrown around in a variety of different posts that culminated in being asked to challenge Sam Draper and Oscar McInerney in September.

He crossed to Carlton – essentially in exchange for Sam Petrevski-Seton after a three-way deal that also involved West Coast – as a means of "rejuvenating his career". The Blues liked his ability to play in the backline, and Young liked the idea of going back to the position where he felt most comfortable.

But there was teething pain. Young hadn't played in the role where he'd made his name for quite some time and was even leapfrogged in the Carlton pecking order throughout the season's early stages by rookie Oscar McDonald.

But a season-ending back injury to McDonald, as well as further long-term injuries to fellow defenders Mitch McGovern and Luke Parks, opened the door for Young. After a solid stretch in the VFL side, he has now played 11 of the last 12 senior games – missing one after entering the AFL's health and safety protocols – and hasn't looked back. A spot in the Blues' backline is undoubtedly his to keep.

Lewis Young receives his debut jumper from Wayne Johnston ahead of Carlton's clash against Hawthorn in round three, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"The biggest thing I had to go back on was playing on my instinct. One of the things I'm quite good at is reading the ball. My instincts are quite good to read the ball and see the game pretty well," Young said.

"Even earlier this year, when I wasn't in the AFL side, I wasn't doing that as much as I'd like. I was just nervous coming into a new team and trying to earn respect. Once I came out of my shell a bit and started playing on my instincts, it really helped me. The last couple of weeks, that's shown in my game.

"I haven't been overthinking things. I've done a lot of work with our psychologist here, Dr Tarah Kavanagh, who worked with me on cutting the game up into pieces. If you make a mistake, you move on. You cut that piece out and you go to the next piece of the pie. It might be a quarter, it might be minutes in a game, a goal, whatever it is … you cut it up and you go back to playing on your instincts."

But for Young, even that short period in the VFL earlier in the season was used as an opportunity to grow. As much as he's enjoyed his football at his new home, he's enjoyed the journey so far just as much.

Lewis Young spoils Brody Mihocek during Carlton's clash against Collingwood in round 11 on May 29, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"More than anything, when I came to Carlton, I had this dream idea that I'd walk in and play 100 games in a row and that me and Jacob Weitering would form the best backline ever," Young laughed.

"You have all of these dreams, so that really gave me a kick up the bum. If I couldn't do things to the ability that I needed to, I wouldn't be playing. There wasn't really a line in the sand moment, it was just the build-up of a few things.

"Coming to a new club, I can't understate how hard it is. You've got to come in and learn all of the players and their attributes and try to get involved with the coaches. It's quite a big step. So, mentally for me, it was quite an intense period there. I feel like I might not have had the balance right between working on my relationships and playing. I had that a bit off.

"I felt like that period where I wasn't getting picked and I was playing in the VFL helped me grow. If anything, it was actually a blessing in disguise. No one wants to be missing out, but at the end of the day it made me feel more comfortable at the club."