CARLTON's thrilling eight-point victory over long-time nemesis Hawthorn shows the club is heading in the right direction, coach Brendon Bolton says.
Entering Saturday night's game at Etihad Stadium, the Blues had not beaten the Hawks since round six, 2005, their losing streak standing at 14 games.
But after jumping Hawthorn with a four-goal-to-one opening term, the Blues answered all of the challenges the Hawks threw at them to hold on for their sixth victory of 2017.
Bolton was buoyed by his team's ability to close out the match given their struggles in close games this season. Seven of the Blues' defeats in 2017 had been by 20 points or less, a number of which they had led in the last quarter.
Bolton said those losses had been "great experiences" for his young playing group, with Saturday night's win proof they had learned from them.
"Hawthorn were pressing heavily and we turned that ball over across half-back and held on to the ball, that's good maturity for a young group," Bolton said.
"We still had half a dozen first and second-year players out there which shows that those past losses, although tight, they're learning from and that's been our message all year. You've got to be in it to learn what to do.
"I think what today does it just gives the '87 premiership team that were here, our members, our club, our players just a little bit of emotional nourishment that they deserve for their efforts over the course of the year."
The Blues will head into their round 23 game against Sydney needing to win to match last year's return of seven victories in Bolton's first season as coach.
Asked whether the Hawks win showed his team had improved since 2016, Bolton said Carlton's focus was squarely on its long-term future.
"Two years ago, Hawthorn won by about 138 points against Carlton, last year 19 points and this year we win by eight. It's been 12 years since Carlton have knocked Hawthorn over so it shows that we're headed in the right direction," Bolton said.
"We've got a lot of work to do still. We're two years in, but we're making decisions really, really clearly, not about where we want to finish in terms of the bottom of the ladder, but decisions that are for the long-term in the future.
"That's why we keep putting Zac Fisher out there, that's why Sam Petrevski-Seton starts in the middle, that's why Charlie Curnow is playing centre half-forward in his second year, because all those decisions are about the long-term."
Bolton praised Jed Lamb's shut-down role on Hawk James Sicily, saying Lamb had played "a very disciplined role" in nullifying the in-form defender over the first three quarters.
The Blues coach was also encouraged by the "glimpses" small forward Jarrod Pickett showed in a breakthrough performance.
Pickett, 2014's No.4 draft pick, had 16 disposals, kicked 2.1 – including the Blues' final goal – and kept Hawthorn's defenders honest all night with his electrifying pace.
"This year has been really good learning for him about what does it take to be a professional footballer. His body is now in a space where he can hold up at AFL level, it's got to go to another level, but some of his pace is exciting," Bolton said.