Premiership Odds: $251 (via TopSport)
In all honesty I really like what Carlton has done during the off-season. They have recruited a new and exciting coach from a successful footballing environment in Hawthorn and they have also picked up some handy players in the draft for the future, but have traded off a lot of their star talent as well as has having key players retire.
This all bodes well for years to come, but 2016 is just too soon. Carlton supporters know deep down it’s going to take at least three to five years before we see the Blues making inroads to the top eight and even Brendon Bolton can’t wave his magic wand and make Carlton a force this year.
He’s a decent young coach, but he’ll find it tough. He won’t have the players he had at Hawthorn when he stood in for a few games in the absence of Alistair Clarkson, and he will be firmly in the spotlight, something he hasn’t had to deal with yet. 2016 will be a learning curve for both club and coach.
The main reason I have the Blues finishing 17th is that I just can’t seem them finishing above any of the other clubs excluding Essendon. Gold Coast should bounce back with Ablett fit, Brisbane have recruited quite well, St Kilda will improve and so will Melbourne under the watchful eye of assistant coach Simon Goodwin.
They may surprise me and finish higher, but at this stage it is doubtful.
Key Player: Patrick Cripps
This kid has got truckloads of talent and it was on show for all to see throughout 2015. Cripps narrowly missed out on winning the NAB Rising star last year, but claimed Carlton’s Best and Fairest award at just 20 years old.
He played 20 games in 2015, averaging more than 23 possessions, and gave Carlton fans cause for optimism with his explosive play around the packs.
Cripps still has a good decade ahead of him to further develop his frightening talent and should be a prime candidate to slot into the Blues’ leadership group, not only off the field, but also on the field.
Rising Star: Jacob Weitering
This could have easily been Cripps himself, but based on last year, he will have a more important role to play, so I’ve gone with the club’s prized recruit and no.1 draft pick, Jacob Weitering.
Weitering played most of his football in defence for the Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup and this is where he should be ushered in at Carlton.
Weitering’s best asset is his intercept marking and confidence in the air and it is how he influences games most. His spoiling is smart and he has a natural competitiveness that comes out on the field.
His endurance is at the top-end (he ran a 15.1 beep test at the NAB AFL Draft Combine) and his pace is solid as well (3.04 seconds in the 20-metre sprint). Weitering caps off his on-field traits with humbleness and dedication off the field, showing leadership qualities.
As the fourth No.1 draft pick on Carlton’s list, the 18-year old has plenty of experience to draw on as he enters his first year of AFL footy.
Under the Pump: Dale Thomas
He has been troubled by constant injuries, limiting his chance to unleash his talent since arriving at Carlton. Having played 157 games for Collingwood, he was a key part of their premiership success in 2010 and their failed shot at back-to-back in 2011.
However, at Carlton he’s contributions are barely visible as he has failed to gain momentum in the limited opportunities he has received.
Daisy’s chances are running out, as he struggles to keep afloat in a team that is in the middle of a transition.
Carlton’s forward six is a growing concern for the club, as they look to improve on their rating as 2015’s worst forward line.
Levi Casboult has shown some promise on occasions, but he’s kicking is simply atrocious and it must be rectified if he has any chance of being effective in the final third.
Carlton barley have any small forwards left, having traded them off for reasons I can’t quite seem to fathom and are now left with draftee Charlie Curnow and second year player Clem Smith as alternative options in the forward line.
Carlton just don’t have enough firepower up forward and it is the main reason I have them finishing second-last.
Cripps ranked in the top 15 in the AFL in contested possessions last year and he will need to reproduce that type of form if the Blues are going to have any sort of success.
However, Cripps needs the support of both Murphy and Gibbs who have almost 400 games of experience between them, but haven’t hit that elite status for many reasons.
Finally, Carlton fans will be hoping Matthew Kreuzer can stay on the park and show supporters what he has promised for so long throughout his career.
What the fixture looks like: Good
Carlton’s fixture may be the best in the AFL having to play just one top eight team from 2015 twice, Sydney.
The wi’ll get favourable match-ups with St Kilda, Essendon and Brisbane twice while not once having consecutive six-days breaks.
They do however play four top eight teams in the first five weeks, but that is countered by seven straight games in Victoria during the middle of the season and a final month that features games against four of the bottom six teams from 2015.