Despite the Blues winning one less game in 2017 than they did last year, Dan from The Sportress is one of many who feels there is plenty of positives to come out of the season. “For me I think Carlton fans should be really happy with how they performed,” Dan told The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav. One pundit in agreement with Dan is Sudi Chandrasekharan, the AFL Editor at RealSport101.com. “If you can turn around Liam Jones and convert him into an almost All-Australian defender, then you’re doing something right.”
Highly spirited and disciplined, the Blues were highly competitive throughout the season. A very deliberate style of play, where they placed a premium on retaining possession of the ball meant that Carlton were very rarely blown out of any contest. With the likes of Sam Docherty, Liam Jones, and Kade Simpson down back, they have the building blocks of a great defence but problems finding goal scoring avenues remain. With Leading Goalscorer Levi Casboult recently resigned to a new two year deal, it would appear that the Blues expect him to be part of the solution to this problem. The true solution however may be time, with Charlie Curnow looming large as the long term answer to the team’s woes going forward.
If Sam Docherty wasn’t already a genuine star of the AFL competition when named in the 40 man All-Australian Squad in 2016, he is now after his 2017 season. Already recognised by his first All-Australian blazer this year, The Sportress expects that his performances will also see him earn his second John Nicholls Medal as Carlton Best & Fairest. An architect of a large portion of Carlton’s rebound from defence, his right foot is a lethal weapon with his ability to find targets on the way out of defensive 50.
While Docherty is a deserving of favouritism for the Best & Fairest, there will be strong competition from Matthew Kruezer and Bryce Gibbs who both had very strong seasons. After requesting a trade to Adelaide in the off-season Gibbs put to bed any question of his commitment with a number of huge performances. His efforts against Gold Coast in Round 13 were particularly note worthy. Running himself to physical exhaustion he accumulated 43 possession, 7 clearances and kicked 2 huge goals all while laying 10 tackles in a superhuman display.
With just five final series appearances to offset four wooden spoons, the 21st Century has been without question a dark time for the Carlton Football Club but bright days appear to be on the horizon. The biggest indicator of this fact is the Blues record haul of Rising Star Nominations in 2017. The club’s bumper crop of youngsters was recognised with five nominations for Charlie Curnow, Jack Silvagni, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Caleb Marchbank and David Cunningham. Dan from The Sportress perhaps summing it up best, “It just feels like time doesn’t it”, he told The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav. “It just feels like 1, 2 or 3 years and their young players will be stars.”
Having defeated three Top Eight teams during the season, 2017 had it’s fair share of high points for the Blues. Despite this, for Carlton fans the biggest highlight might have been the end of the club’s long run of outs against Hawthorn. Late in the season with pundits questioning the direction of the club, the Blues squared off against a Hawks team that still harboured Finals ambitions. On a big night for the club where the 1987 Premiership team was honoured for their feats 30 years ago, the modern day Blues proved too strong for the Hawks ending both a 12 year losing streak and Hawthorns finals hopes.
Under coach Brendon Bolton the Blues appear to be headed in the right direction for future success. While there may still be a couple of seasons of pain ahead, the development of the club’s young guns appear to indicate that it will be this pain will be the foundations upon which the future will be built.
Check out The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav Podcast where the boys looked ahead to the finals and passed judgement on the Blues and all the teams that have already begun planning for 2018.