JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Deep, dark, navy Blues

Date

Rohan Connolly

<p></p>

FOUR losses from four NAB Cup games and on Saturday smashed by 64 points, and held scoreless for the entire second half against the Brisbane Lions. At face value, it's been a pretty ordinary pre-season for Carlton.

That's the superficial view, anyway. Very superficial. Even a couple of years ago, it would have been enough to spark a whole new wave of hand-wringing and whispering about Carlton coach Brett Ratten's future.

That it hasn't this time is perhaps a measure of a greater maturity about the different pre-season agendas at play for different clubs. But it's also a comment on the position to which the Blues have meticulously built their list since those dark days of seven or eight years ago.

First came the arrival of a potential saviour in Chris Judd. Then the building around him of a quality midfield spearheaded by some precocious talent in Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs, the continued improvement of Kade Simpson, Heath Scotland and Andrew Carrazzo and, more recently, the blooming of Mitch Robinson.

For awhile, it seemed Carlton had deposited nearly all its riches in the centre square while remaining too thin at either end, but then Michael Jamison emerged as a quality key defender and the zippy likes of Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett began to rack up some goals in attack.

Last year was another significant step forward, not only because Carlton won a final after a couple of near-misses, but because it seemed to get the balance of its best 22 just about right, the recruitment of Nick Duigan and Jeremy Laidler significantly stiffening the back line, Chris Yarran adding plenty of run, and even the untimely loss of Jamison through injury producing an unexpected plus in Lachie Henderson's forced but successful shift from attack to defence.

There was another unexpected bonus when struggling key defender Bret Thornton was shifted forward with surprising effect.

Which is all aptly symbolic of the next step Carlton can take in its bid to return to the top four this season, and why the Blues won't be biting too many fingernails over a March pasting in sunny Maroochydore.

If last season was about structure, this season for Carlton might well be about flexibility. In that regard, the Blues look pretty impressive - and ominous.

That versatility used to be just about Jarrad Waite swinging between attack and defence. Then Andrew Walker joined the club, a one-time midfielder or defender last year combining with Betts and Garlett for more than 150 goals. Now, Carlton seems to have options all over the place in all parts of the ground.

Even conservatively, there are about 20 Carlton players who can be used with effect in a range of positions and on a range of different opponents. Waite, whose first hit-out of the year on Saturday showed encouraging signs, Henderson and Thornton are just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Take the ruck, for example. Matthew Kreuzer looms as an obvious No. 1. But he's also a more than capable key forward option if Robbie Warnock hits his straps at the tap-outs. Ditto Shaun Hampson.

That's handy flexibility. And even handier if, as Carlton football manager Andy McKay points out, the substitute rule does end up going from three interchange and one sub to a 2-2 arrangement, forcing ruckmen to rest up forward rather than risk becoming redundant.

That's not even counting greenhorns such as Levi Casboult, Matthew Watson or Luke Mitchell. "Our list is actually reasonably tall now," says McKay. Indeed, there are only three clubs that average more height across the senior list.

"Three or four of them are young and still developing, and obviously people haven't seen much of them, so they instantly think we need some height down back and up forward, but I think that perception is changing now."

It's at least moved on from that obsession only a couple of seasons ago with the "three amigos" of Betts, Garlett and Yarran.

But Carlton's impressive flexibility isn't only about height.

Carrazzo and Robinson can play either as midfielders or defensive forwards. Aaron Joseph as a midfield tagger or an old-fashioned, negating back pocket. Gibbs has proved equally adept midfield or as a defensive sweeper. Murphy can go forward as well as rack up the touches in the pivot.

All of which should make it a lot more possible for Judd - still the key man - to drift forward a bit more, where he's done his share of damage on the few occasions he has been allowed that luxury, as well as give that battered body a breather.

There's even enough cover for the more one-dimensional types. Laidler's loss for the first month or so of the season is a blow, but not a catastrophic one with Paul Bower capable of filling the same role.

Flexibility and versatility will become even more important this year, not only with another looming tightening of the interchange bench, but as clubs look for every possible structural and tactical edge over each other.

On that score, Carlton looks well-placed regardless of what its score in the NAB Cup may suggest.

Follow Rohan Connolly on Twitter @rohan_connolly

28 comments

  • They are also flexible about payments. In addition to payments from the club, Judd gets payments from Visy (remember the company whose chief signed an affidavit confessing to a range of price fixing and market maniuplation offences?) that are not included in the salary cap under a one off deal with the AFL that no other club gets. Now THATS flexible

    Commenter
    hey
    Date and time
    March 12, 2012, 8:27AM
    • I would still consider Carlton a bit weak at the bookends. Jamison cannot seem to stay on the park and a key marking target up forward has yet to come to fruition. It is Carlton's pace that has it ahead of opposition and it's abiltiy to move the ball quickly.

      Commenter
      Guru Josh
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 9:16AM
      • Hi Josh,

        Fair enough points. Jamison's availability is obviously going to have a big say in how they hold up defensively. As you say, pace is a big asset for them, and they do have a cracking midfield.

        Commenter
        Rohan Connolly
        Date and time
        March 12, 2012, 10:17AM
    • Soft draw, soft players, soft club, with nowhere near the supporter base claimed by them and the media. 10 million in debt but still allowed to spend outrageous amounts of money as well as cry to the governments for our tax money, what a farce, no other club would be allowed to do this by any sporting governing body anywhere else in the world and the afl and media wonder why supporters from all clubs are always calling them corrupt!
      If Nth were 10 million in debt how quick would the afl get rid of them, but the media can never see a conflict of interest or corruption when it's carltank or essendon or collywobbles or richmond.

      It is a fact the bias bunch in the media protect this criminal afl commission are brought and paid for, no body who doesn't have an "afl journo licence" can comment on the afl!
      What is that called again, when you own and control everybody who makes a comment on or about your origination?
      And it is only getting more omnipotent, which can only be good for the game, can't it!

      Commenter
      Rossco
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 9:54AM
      • Rossco, plenty of us have time for the other clubs. If you missed it, we went into bat pretty solidly for North Melbourne in The Sunday Age yesterday.

        Commenter
        Rohan Connolly
        Date and time
        March 12, 2012, 10:27AM
    • It's hard to judge on NAB cup form as some teams take it a lot more seriously than others. To me Carlton is playing like a team that expects to win rather than a team that is hungry to go and get a win. Whether that will continue in the regular season is anyone's guess.

      Commenter
      Aaron
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 10:12AM
      • Aaron, a lot of guesswork goes on in March! I reckon it usually takes five to six rounds at least to begin to sort the wheat from the chaff!

        Commenter
        Rohan Connolly
        Date and time
        March 12, 2012, 10:19AM
    • I just think you're only as good as your last season, and the Blues beat no one above them for the whole season - had a soft middle part of the year (with their draw) and a brilliant run with injuries. I hear the Blue faithful cry out in horror (what about Jamison, Waite and Kruezer?) - yes, so what? - they all still played over half a season each - but the core playmakers (Judd, Murphy, Scotland, Garlett, Betts, Simpson, Walker, Yarran and Gibbs) - missed just 2 games combined for the season!!! No other club had so many of their A-listers play so many games last year. That will not happen for the Blues in 2012.

      For me - 4th. There are 3 or 4 much better sides out there, and until the Blues start beating them, they aren't a legitimate contender.....time will tell.

      Commenter
      DJCJ
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 11:08AM
      • DJCJ, very good points, and you hit on a hobby horse of mine. For all the science, often the top few teams are so close that it can essentially just come down to luck factor with injuries, draw etc. I dont want to pre-empt our Footy 2012 magazine which comes out on Sunday, but I'm not tipping them to win it. Doesn't mean I don't think they're capable of it, though!

        Commenter
        Rohan Connolly
        Date and time
        March 12, 2012, 1:05PM
    • I'm actually very curious about this Visy deal. Rohan, to the best of your knowledge is Judd paid a retainer by Visy? If so what is exactly is this for officially? Was this sanctioned in a one off arrangement by the AFL? If Martin or Cotchin were given any extra money by Jeep or Bingle I'm sure there would be a lot of noise made about it. Outrageous if true.

      Commenter
      Tiger Tom
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 11:21AM

      More comments

      Comments are now closed

      Related Coverage

      2014 Home and Away

      Round 1
      Fri, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
      COL 46 vs FRE 116 Report Stats
      Sat, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
      GWS 99 vs SYD 67 Report Report Stats
      GCF 87 vs RIC 69 Report Stats
      Sun, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
      CAR 87 vs PTA 120 Report Stats
      Thu, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
      GEE 119 vs ADE 81 Report Stats
      Fri, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
      NTH 60 vs ESS 99 Report Stats
      Sat, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
      HAW 139 vs BRI 91 Report Stats
      STK 68 vs MEL 51 Report Stats
      Sun, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
      WCE 134 vs WBU 69 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 2
      Thu, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
      RIC 98 vs CAR 86 Report Stats
      Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
      ESS 86 vs HAW 90 Report Stats
      Sat, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
      STK 95 vs GWS 88 Stats
      PTA 127 vs ADE 73 Report Stats
      FRE 87 vs GCF 39 Report Stats
      SYD 69 vs COL 89 Report Stats
      Sun, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
      BRI 68 vs GEE 93 Stats
      MEL 30 vs WCE 123 Report Stats
      WBU 54 vs NTH 83 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 3
      Fri, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
      HAW 137 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
      Sat, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
      WBU 100 vs RIC 98 Report Stats
      ADE 71 vs SYD 134 Report Stats
      GCF 114 vs BRI 61 Stats
      WCE 83 vs STK 58 Report Stats
      COL 76 vs GEE 87 Report Stats
      Sun, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
      GWS 79 vs MEL 47 Report Stats
      NTH 97 vs PTA 90 Report Stats
      ESS 138 vs CAR 57 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 4
      Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
      RIC 72 vs COL 110 Report Stats
      Sat, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
      CAR 58 vs MEL 81 Report Stats
      PTA 159 vs BRI 46 Report Stats
      GWS 83 vs WBU 110 Report Stats
      GEE 107 vs WCE 32 Report Stats
      GCF 49 vs HAW 148 Report Stats
      Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
      SYD 48 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
      STK 50 vs ADE 136 Report Stats
      FRE 113 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 5
      Thu, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
      BRI 63 vs RIC 106 Report Stats
      Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
      COL 93 vs NTH 58 Report Stats
      SYD 92 vs FRE 75 Report Stats
      WCE 56 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
      ESS 65 vs STK 81 Report Stats
      Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
      ADE 137 vs GWS 72 Report Stats
      MEL 78 vs GCF 86 Report Stats
      WBU 91 vs CAR 119 Report Stats
      Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
      GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 6
      Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
      COL 83 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
      STK 79 vs BRI 82 Report Stats
      FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
      Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
      GCF 134 vs GWS 94 Report Stats
      CAR 92 vs WCE 89 Report Stats
      MEL 38 vs SYD 69 Report Stats
      Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
      WBU 83 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
      RIC 52 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
      PTA 107 vs GEE 67 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 7
      Fri, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
      CAR 70 vs COL 104 Report Stats
      Sat, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
      HAW 175 vs STK 30 Report Stats
      GWS 97 vs PTA 132 Report Stats
      ADE 67 vs MEL 70 Report Stats
      BRI 44 vs SYD 123 Stats
      ESS 73 vs WBU 65 Report Stats
      Sun, 04 MayTimes shown AEST
      NTH 77 vs GCF 120 Report Stats
      GEE 81 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
      WCE 54 vs FRE 73 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 8
      Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
      SYD 107 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
      Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
      PTA 94 vs FRE 76 Report Stats
      BRI 57 vs ESS 65 Report Stats
      MEL 83 vs WBU 99 Report Stats
      Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
      WCE 188 vs GWS 77 Report Stats
      Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
      STK 69 vs CAR 101 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 9
      Thu, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
      ADE 76 vs COL 55 Report Stats
      Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
      ESS 64 vs SYD 114 Report Stats
      Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
      RIC 74 vs MEL 91 Report Stats
      NTH 125 vs BRI 38 Report Stats
      FRE 96 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
      Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
      STK 87 vs GCF 125 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 10
      Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
      GEE 111 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
      Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
      GWS 41 vs RIC 154 Report Stats
      COL 109 vs WCE 101 Report Stats
      PTA 100 vs HAW 86 Report Stats
      Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
      GCF 119 vs WBU 74 Report Stats
      CAR 81 vs ADE 76 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 11
      Thu, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
      SYD 148 vs GEE 38 Report Stats
      Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
      STK 54 vs COL 140 Report Stats
      Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
      MEL 75 vs PTA 95 Report Stats
      BRI 98 vs CAR 91 Report Stats
      ESS 104 vs RIC 54 Report Stats
      Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
      ADE 109 vs GCF 77 Report Stats
      WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
      HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
      WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 12
      Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
      GEE 107 vs CAR 102 Report Stats
      Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
      HAW 123 vs WCE 79 Report Stats
      PTA 129 vs STK 59 Report Stats
      WBU 87 vs BRI 95 Report Stats
      GWS 66 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
      Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
      GCF 74 vs SYD 109 Report Stats
      FRE 90 vs ADE 50 Report Stats
      NTH 116 vs RIC 88 Report Stats
      Mon, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
      MEL 28 vs COL 61 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 13
      Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
      CAR 90 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
      Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
      RIC 85 vs FRE 105 Report Stats
      SYD 98 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
      WCE 103 vs GCF 100 Report Stats
      BRI 80 vs GWS 125 Report Stats
      ADE 109 vs NTH 73 Report Stats
      Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
      GEE 133 vs STK 37 Report Stats
      COL 98 vs WBU 106 Report Stats
      ESS 77 vs MEL 78 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 14
      Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
      RIC 51 vs SYD 62 Report Stats
      Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
      PTA 128 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
      HAW 115 vs COL 86 Report Stats
      GCF 118 vs GEE 78 Report Stats
      FRE 105 vs BRI 22 Report Stats
      ESS 101 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
      Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
      GWS 100 vs CAR 92 Report Stats
      STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
      MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 15
      Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
      GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
      Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
      HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
      STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
      FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
      SYD 106 vs GWS 60 Stats
      BRI 70 vs NTH 66 Report Stats
      Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
      WBU 91 vs MEL 85 Report Stats
      ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
      COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 16
      Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
      NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
      Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
      RIC 79 vs BRI 54 Stats
      GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
      GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
      MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
      PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
      Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
      CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
      WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
      GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 17
      Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
      ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
      Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
      MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
      NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
      WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
      BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
      SYD 122 vs CAR 51 Report Stats
      Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
      RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
      ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
      FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 18
      Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
      CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
      Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
      STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
      GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
      Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
      PTA 72 vs MEL 69 Report Stats
      WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
      Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
      WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
      Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
      BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
      HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
      Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
      COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 19
      Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
      FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
      Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
      SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
      Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
      ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
      RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
      GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
      NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
      Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
      MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
      HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
      COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 20
      Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
      RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
      Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
      GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
      CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
      HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
      PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
      GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
      Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
      BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
      STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
      WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 21
      Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
      CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
      Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
      SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
      GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
      ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
      COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
      ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
      Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
      NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
      MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
      FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 22
      Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
      PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
      Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
      NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
      ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
      GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
      WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
      HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
      Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
      BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
      WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
      RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 23
      Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
      COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
      Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
      CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
      FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
      SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
      NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
      GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
      Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
      GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
      ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
      WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
      View All Fixtures
      AFL Finals Round 1
      Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
      HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
      Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
      SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
      NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
      Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
      PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      AFL Finals Round 2
      Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
      GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
      Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
      FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
      View All Fixtures
      AFL Finals Round 3
      Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
      SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
      Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
      HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      AFL Finals Round 4
      Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
      SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      AFL Home and Away
      Overall standings
      Team P W L D % Pts
      Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
      Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
      Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
      Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
      Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
      North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
      Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
      Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
      View all
       
      Featured advertisers