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Carlton want AFL lift sooner not later

Last year's AFL wooden spooners know they're going to get better but they want improvement to land in 2019, not later.

Carlton want AFL lift sooner not later

Last year's AFL wooden spooners know they're going to get better but they want improvement to land in 2019, not later.

SAM WALSH of Vic Country runs during the U18 match between Vic Country and Vic Metro at MCG in Melbourne, Australia.
SAM WALSH of Vic Country runs during the U18 match between Vic Country and Vic Metro at MCG in Melbourne, Australia. Picture:Photo by Robert Prezioso/AFL Media/Getty Images

It might not be fair but Carlton's season could live or die on the back of an 18-year-old without a senior game to his name.

No pressure, Sam Walsh.


But if there's a reason for believing in the Blues this year, it's because of the midfielder, taken at No.1 in the national draft after Carlton's horror campaign last term.

It's normal to play down expectations of teenage talent but Carlton haven't even bothered with Walsh.

High performance director Andrew Russell, himself a boom recruit, says Walsh is as "prepared as any first-year player" he's seen.

And he's seen a few, having spent the past decade working with Alastair Clarkson's perennial premiers at Hawthorn.

David Teague, the club's forward-line coach, has "never seen application (from) a first-year player" like Walsh's.

Blues football chief Brad Lloyd almost but not quite favours a bet each way.

"You always need to manage expectations on 18-year-olds but he's been extremely impressive," he tells AAP.

"He's got natural abilities and is a really hard worker along with it.

"He's a very strong character. We couldn't be more impressed."

Walsh is the only draftee likely to debut in round one but he'll be joined by a very handy bunch convinced to swap clubs for Princes Park.

Mitch McGovern and Alex Fasolo add experience and much needed marking targets to Carlton's forward line.

McGovern, who joined from Adelaide, is plainly in the Blues best 22, forming a high-flying marking trio with Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow.

Ex-Magpie Fasolo will try to join them as soon as possible.

Nic Newman is likely to play on the AFL's opening night against Richmond given the heartbreaking ACL injury to Sam Docherty that will rule the newly-minted co-captain out for a second straight season.

And Will Setterfield could very well win a place in the Blues midfield against the Tigers after joining from GWS.

Extraordinarily, he is one of six ex-Giants on the books - several other former GWS draftees have also come and gone - after the expansion club's list manager Stephen Silvagni returned to the club of his playing days in the same role.

Silvagni, who has overseen four drafts with Carlton to mixed results, is one of several off-field Blues set to come into sharp focus during 2019.

Brendon Bolton, entering his fourth year as senior coach, has just 15 wins to his name at Princes Park.

The Tasmanian was expected to oversee a bottoming-out but there's a limit to how many losses a coach can rack up in the pursuit of a rebound.

AFL great Chris Judd is coming up on two years as the football director on the club's board.

And Lloyd, who has joined from fellow strugglers Fremantle to replace Andrew McKay as the club's football executive, is a fresh face but won't be denied scrutiny.

Lloyd is hoping the appointment of Russell can lift standards.

"He's been outstanding, everything we'd hoped he'd be and more," he said.

"We feel like we're building a really good playing list and our next phase is building them up. We can do that with Andrew Russell but also through natural growth of the talented young playing list."

That natural growth - from players like Sam Petrevski-Seton, Zac Fisher, Lochie O'Brien and Paddy Dow - would want to show itself soon if Carlton are to be a force.

After the first three rounds against Richmond, Port Adelaide and Sydney, they will be lucky to have a premiership point.

The next two weeks are critical, with winnable matches against Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs.

After that comes four straight against 2018 finalists, with the highly-rated North Melbourne also in the mix.

There are reasons to be excited about Carlton in 2019.

Chief among them is a midfield with Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy and Walsh.

But there's only so much development a club can take without reward, making this season critical for the Blues to stop talking about wins and start mounting a few.

CARLTON

Coach: Brendon Bolton

Captains: Patrick Cripps and Sam Docherty

Last five years: 13-18-14-16-18

Premierships: 16 (1906, 1907, 1908, 1914, 1915, 1938, 1945, 1947, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1995).

Key five: Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy, Charlie Curnow, Matthew Kreuzer, Kade Simpson.

One to watch: Sam Walsh. The No.1 draft pick looks ready-made for senior football, boasting an inside-outside game beyond his years. If he can live up to expectations and slot in next to Patrick Cripps and Marc Murphy in the midfield, the Blues will climb the table.

Ins: Alex Fasolo (Collingwood), Hugh Goddard (St Kilda), Mitch McGovern (Adelaide), Nic Newman (Sydney), Finbar O'Dwyer (Murray Bushrangers), Matthew Owies (Category B rookie), Will Setterfield (GWS), Ben Silvagni (Oakleigh Chargers), Liam Stocker (Sandringham Dragons), Sam Walsh (Geelong Falcons).

Outs: Ciaran Byrne, Jesse Glass-McCasker, Sam Kerridge, Jed Lamb, Cillian McDaid, Aaron Mullett, Cam O'Shea, Sam Rowe, Matt Shaw, Alex Silvagni, Matthew Wright (all delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Caleb Marchbank, Liam Jones, Kade Simpson

HB: Dale Thomas, Jacob Weitering, Nic Newman

C: Sam Walsh, Patrick Cripps, Zac Fisher

HF: Paddy Dow, Charlie Curnow, Ed Curnow

F: Sam Petrevski-Seton, Harry McKay, Mitch McGovern

R: Matthew Kreuzer, Lachie O'Brien, Marc Murphy

I: Lachie Plowman, Andrew Phillips, Will Setterfield, Matthew Kennedy

Predicted finish: 16th

AAP


AAP




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