Depending on your perspective, 2017 was a highly successful year for Carlton. Wins over Collingwood, Essendon and Sydney in the first half of the year, followed by a stunning upset over GWS coming out of the bye, showed that there is true promise in this squad. Matthew Kreuzer and Sam Docherty produced career-best seasons, Caleb Marchbank showed he will be a star of the competition and Sam Petrevski-Seton was sublime off no-preseason.
On the flip side, the Blues finished with a 6-16 record with the fourth worst percentage in the league – both regressions on their 2016 season. It’s looking like a long road back to the top
FB: Caleb Marchbank – Liam Jones – Lachie Plowman
HB: Kade Simpson – Jacob Weitering – Tom Williamson
C: Dale Thomas – Patrick Cripps – Zac Fisher
HF: Sam Petrevski-Seton – Jack Silvagni – Darcy Lang
FF: Charlie Curnow – Levi Casboult – Matthew Wright
R: Matthew Kreuzer – Marc Murphy – Ed Curnow
INT: Paddy Dow – Jarrod Pickett – Matt Kennedy – Ciaran Byrne
EMG: Aaron Mullett – Sam Kerridge – Harry McKay – David Cuningham
Best 22 analysis
The key name missing from the Best 22 above is 2016 John Nicholls’ medalist and 2017 All Australian, Sam Docherty. He’s a star, one of the first picked, but will be unavailable for the entire 2018 season.
There are a fleet of talented youngsters ready to break into this side: Lochie O’Brien, Jarrod Garlett, David Cunningham, Jarrod Picket. Right now, Ed Curnow beats them out with his experience around the ball, but that position could change by season’s end. Harry McKay will also get early opportunities, but he’s not quite best-22 on anything but talent at this stage and the Carlton forward line looks a little unbalanced with an extra tall in the mix there.
Round 3 v Collingwood @ MCG
A third-round bout against the old enemy will be an important litmus test for the rebuilding Blues, who will see this game as winnable. The Carlton supports are an impatient bunch, and they will likely enter this game 1-1 (they’ll struggle in the season opener against the reigning premier, but should topple the Suns in Round 2). Collingwood are likely to be in the bottom reaches of the ladder as well in 2018, so this will be a great chance to see exactly where the Blues are at.
Round 11 v Sydney @ SCG
The Swans are tipped by many to be right in the mix come the business end of the season, and on paper this matchup looks like a potential bloodbath. Carlton away at the SCG, the Swans likely to be rampant, and the week before the bye, this could be very ugly. An interesting backstory to this clash is that the Blues beat the Swans the first time they faced off last year, in a game that put Sydney 0-6 and meant that their season was unrecoverable from that point on. Yes, the Swans got their revenge in Round 23, but they won’t have forgotten. If Carlton can keep this under 10 goals, it will be a good sign.
Breakout Player – Charlie Curnow
Everyone’s backing Charlie Curnow in for a monster season, and with great reason. He’s talented, athletic, 194cm and about to cross the 50-game barrier. He’ll play forward and run through the midfield, and has an ability to impact games in a significant way. 40+ goals in 2018 is a realistic possibility but the upside is almost unlimited.
Fantasy Gold – Marc Murphy and Kade Simpson
Marc Murphy will continue to be undervalued in draft leagues for no good reason. He should finish 2018 as the Blues’ top fantasy scorer in all formats, and back him in to break the inevitable tags.
Kade Simpson also likely has one more good season in him, particularly as he’ll be the main man coming out of defence with Sam Docherty missing in action.
Ladder prediction – 14th
I’m tipping modest improvement for the Blues in 2018, but it will be another year of consolidation, rather than significant growth. They should miss the bottom four, but only just.
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