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Carlton forward Jack Silvagni honours his grandfather and Blues legend Sergio after kicking a goal (photo: Getty Images)

AFL 2022: Carlton Blues season preview

Vendetta Sports Media is once again covering Australian Rules Football in 2022. We’ve already taken a look at the prospects of the Adelaide Crows and Brisbane Lions. Today we continue our AFL season preview series with an examination of the Carlton Blues.

Carlton’s home guernsey

Carlton missed the finals for the 8th straight year in 2021. Is 2022 going to be the year that the rebuild of the rebuild of the rebuild finally starts to bear fruit?

Season 2021

13th position: 8 wins, 14 losses, 88.5%.

The Blues drew much media attention at the beginning of 2021 – this was going to be the year that they broke their long finals drought. Not for the first time, Carlton failed to deliver.

On an individual front, there was plenty for the Carlton faithful to be pleased with. Sam Walsh continued his ascension to genuine superstar status, Jacob Weitering established himself as one of the very best defenders in the sport and Harry McKay broke through to kick 57 goals on his way to his first Coleman Medal despite an injury interrupted season. The sky is the limit for all three players.

As a team, however, the Blues just couldn’t coalesce week to week. Carlton would pepper strong victories over Fremantle or Essendon with dramatic collapses against Port Adelaide or Melbourne.

The team’s maddening inconsistency eventually led to a ham-fisted review of the football department and the eventual sacking of coach David Teague, with former Brisbane legend Michael Voss brought in as his replacement.

Key ins: Adam Cerra (Fremantle), George Hewett (Sydney), Lewis Young (Western Bulldogs), Domanic Akuei, Jesse Motlop (both draft)

Key outs: Sam Petrevski-Seton (West Coast), Eddie Betts, Liam Jones, Marc Murphy (all retired), Levi Casboult, Michael Gibbons, Sam Ramsay (all released)

When they had it going, Carlton were an exciting watch in 2021. Led by McKay, their forward line could tear an opposition apart. He was joined by Jack Silvagni and Charlie Curnow (who put two years of injury hell behind him) to form a formidable marking trio. All three are aged 24 or 25 and should form the bedrock of Carlton’s forward line for the next six or seven years. Jack Martin and Matt Owies add a sprinkle of magic to a forward line that will need somebody to replace retired legend Eddie Betts (no real need to mention Betts in a 2022 preview, but any excuse to embed a clip of the great man’s highlights).

Whilst their forward line was very good, Carlton struggled in practically every other department. In midfield, Walsh was incredible in a season where he won his first All Australian blazer and finished fourth in the Brownlow medal. Resident behemoth Patrick Cripps was also very good when injury allowed. Too much was left to those two, however. When the going got tough, the rest of the Blues midfield brigade wilted, which left their defense – ranked 17th in the league – awfully exposed.

Weitering continued his steady rise with another excellent season as a lock down centre half back. His combination with Liam Jones was a joy for those that love stout defending. Much like the midfield, though, the rest of the defense was poor. Adam Saad’s much ballyhooed arrival from Essendon turned out to be a bit of a fizzer – he’ll want to give a better account of himself in 2022.

Carlton have addressed their midfield needs on the off season, trading for former Docker young gun Adam Cerra and bringing in Swans hardman George Hewett as a free agent. Their class and hard bodied games will surely add some steel to the Blues midfield and some desperately needed assistance to Walsh and Cripps.

The defense remains a question mark, though. Lewis Young was brought in as an eventual replacement for the ageing Jones. Unfortunately Young won’t get a season to learn at the feet of the veteran as Jones’ anti vaccination views have led to his untimely retirement and Young’s premature move into the spotlight. Saad will surely return to something approaching his best, but somebody else needs to step up. Can Oscar McDonald finally deliver on the promise that he sporadically displayed as a Blue and Demon?

Prediction: 10th

Carlton are one of the toughest teams in the AFL to evaluate. With genuine match winners in midfield and a potent attack, they can take down practically any team on their day. On the other hand, a lack of midfield depth and a suspect defense can see them get torn apart by lesser teams when their big guns don’t bring their A game.

New coach Michael Voss will surely bring a harder edge to this team, as well their midfield reinforcements. Will it be enough to cover for a less than ideal defense and push the Blues into the finals for the first time since 2013?

This writer says no, not this year.

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