Wednesday, 21 March 2012
For Blues skipper Chris Judd, the fitness and form of Matthew Kreuzer and Jarrad Waite comfortably outweigh any Carlton AFL pre-season negatives.
Having missed long stretches of last season, including the Blues' finals campaign, the club's star ruckman and key-position swingman loom as trump
cards in their bid for this year's premiership.
While much focus has been on the Blues' winless pre-season and injury troubles, Kreuzer and Waite's impressive performances against North Melbourne in Sunday's final hit-out slipped by with little fanfare.
But Judd took notice.
Along with the continued development of youngsters such as Chris Yarran, Jeff Garlett and Mitch Robinson, he rated the key pair's performances as two of the pre-season's chief positives.
"If you look at who didn't finish the year for us last year, blokes like Jarrad Waite and Kreuzer are a couple that really spring to mind," Judd said.
"They're like new recruits, but instead of being 18, they're mature-aged players, they've played with the club over a number of years.
"They're going to be exciting for us."
Judd was certain Kreuzer's greatest value lay in the ruck, not attack.
"He's a ruckman," the skipper said.
"Just his work around the ball. We know about his ruckwork, but once the ball goes to ground his follow-up work is as good as anyone in the competition and that's what sets him apart.
"He really gets a lot more opportunities to do that when he's playing on the ball."
The Blues could use the bigger, but less versatile Robbie Warnock as their main ruckman, and play Kreuzer mostly forward, protecting one of their classiest players from having to constantly crash into bigger opponents.
But Judd rubbished the idea of protecting the 22-year-old.
"That's like if you get a brand new pair of rollerskates and you never wear them because you don't want to get them scratched," he said.
"If you draft a No.1 (pick) as a ruckman, who wants to play ruck, I think you let him go and accept that when you're playing a contact sport there's risk with everyone.
"But he's hard as nails and I think he really enjoys that side of it."
Judd said Carlton's pre-season losing streak was virtually meaningless, with keeping players healthy and getting game time into them all that really mattered.
"If you had the option to win all four or lose all four, sure you'd take the option to win all four, but the most important things are those first two points," Judd said, while launching the American Express million point challenge tipping competition.
The Blues have failed on one of those points, with Warnock, Michael Jamison, Nick Duigan, Jeremy Laidler and Andrew Walker all sidelined for the March 29 opening-round clash with Richmond.
But an unworried Judd said the injuries were of the short-term type that "you don't take a heap of notice of when you're at the club".
He was confident Lachie Henderson could perform well on Tigers star forward Jack Riewoldt, in Jamison's absence.