AFL

Carlton Fat Club - the new Thin Blue Line

They call it the Fat Club and it is, plainly, the club no one at Carlton wants to be a member of.

As part of making his mark and putting his stamp on Carlton to reinforce that standards had been lifted, new Blues coach Brendon Bolton and his fitness staff have set a higher fitness standard for players.

Trimming the fat: Carlton head coach Brendon Bolton (centre) has implemented higher fitness standards ahead of this season.
Trimming the fat: Carlton head coach Brendon Bolton (centre) has implemented higher fitness standards ahead of this season. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Each player had to have less than 12 per cent body fat – as measured by skinfolds – or be put into the Fat Club to undertake intense training to reduce skinfolds and improve running times before rejoining the main group.

Most clubs have their own arbitrary standards to measure players' fitness levels, but this change at Carlton saw at its worst point this pre-season 10 players in the Fat Club. As of late last week that number had been trimmed – pardon the pun – to one and that player was expected to also leave the club by this week.

Joel Hocking has taken over as Carlton's conditioning coach after being the second in charge to Justin Cordy and David Buttifant before that.

"Definitely the standards and expectations on physical conditioning have been raised from last year," one Blues insider said.

Part of the attraction of Sam Kerridge and Matt Wright – both brought in from Adelaide – was not only their football ability but both were renowned for being elite in the way they trained and prepared.

Some Carlton players have battled with the new levels despite being diligent workers. A player such as Ed Curnow is an elite runner yet has always carried more weight in skinfolds testing so is understood to have struggled to meet the new standard.

Some players found themselves in the group not because of slovenly off-season habits or laziness, but because for various reasons – travel, for instance – they could not keep up weights training and so the percentage of fat increases because the lean muscle is reduced.

Regardless, Bolton has insisted that there is no wriggle room and insisted that players meet the standard or go in the club as part of his way of establishing his mark on the group.

"No doubt a part of it is that it's a new regime lifting the standards and the mark for people to get to but when you finish bottom you have to change something. It's pretty hard to argue your standards were high enough last year when you finish last," the club insider said.

"A lot of the players who have been here a while are in a lot better nick than they have been for a while."

Recruits Lachie Plowman and Liam Sumner, who were traded in from GWS, are both closing on a return to full training after off-season surgery.

Plowman had a hip operation when he first arrived at Carlton, while Sumner had screws inserted in his foot for a stress fracture at the end of the year while still at the Giants and before he was traded.