Chris Judd flies high at training. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
AS HE dashed about the field at training, it was clear to all that Jeremy Laidler is enjoying his football once again.
Laidler, a clever defender who can play on key and small forwards, had a wretched 2012 campaign, dislocating his left knee three times within four months.
His season ended in late June when he was hurt while playing in the VFL, his first match in nine weeks after he had had surgery following the round-four loss to Essendon. He had earlier been hurt in the NAB Cup.
Jeremy Laidler. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Laidler's absence helped to cruel the Blues' campaign, one which began with big expectations but would soon degenerate and spark a coaching change.
This change not only led to the hiring of Mick Malthouse, but also his long-time friend, lieutenant and premiership teammate Robert Wiley, who is a respected coach in his own right.
Wiley, instrumental in the rise of Chris Judd during their days at West Coast, has joined Carlton as the director of coaching and development, and his analytical skills are second-to-none.
After a demanding session on Wednesday, Wiley was effusive about Laidler's progress.
''Jeremy with his knee injuries - we couldn't be happier with the way he has gone about his business,'' Wiley said. ''He is a quality player and a good leader. He gives great instruction out on the field. Having him out there with the younger players is really important.
''So, again, that was Mick's message when he came here, he wanted to make sure the squad was healthy so that we have lots of opportunities and options when we are picking a side.''
Wiley was also delighted with the progress of another defender, Simon White. He had arthroscopic surgery at the end of 2011, endured a disrupted pre-season and only broke into the senior team in round 19, playing the final five matches.
''I don't think he has had a pre-season in the three years that he has been here,'' Wiley said.
There has been debate in recent years whether big men Matthew Kreuzer, Robbie Warnock and Shaun Hampson could all play in one team. The Blues had felt Kreuzer was at his best when he was predominantly in the ruck, while the same was felt of Warnock, who is less versatile than the former No. 1 pick. Hampson played as a forward under former coach Brett Ratten.
The Blues have signed Warnock to a three-year extension, so it appears he is a key part of their plans and a balance will need to be struck with Kreuzer.
''I think the one good thing about the three players - they are all athletic, mobile,'' Wiley said.
''Obviously in the past, you just have to look at the way [Malthouse] selects sides, those three players can certainly play in the one side.''
Wiley said the Blues had embraced Malthouse's game plan built around attacking via the relative safety of the boundary, one which has carried him to three premierships.