Carlton exploded out of the blocks in season 2022 and looked every inch like a top-four side for the first half of the season. At their best, they were scintillating and irresistible, yet as the season wore on, things took a turn.
Injuries and form hit them at the worst possible moment, stalling their momentum and bringing them back to the peloton chasing the top four.
They finished just outside the top eight, with a couple of winnable games being the difference in the end between a finals run and a season that ended in frustration. While not the ideal scenario for Carlton fans, there's no doubt this club is heading in the right direction.
Key position defender depth was an issue that blighted the Blues this season. The loss of Liam Jones has hurt and injuries to key position personnel decimated their backline, resulting in their season veering off course.
Jacob Weitering is so important to this team, some depth in this area to support him is essential. While the Blues have the likes of Lewis Young, Lachie Plowman, Caleb Marchbank and Mitch McGovern in this area, every one of them has had his injury concerns.
Without a reliable option to take the pressure off Weitering, the Blues were exposed at times and in the mid-season draft were forced to give lifelines to the likes of Sam Durdin. That's not to denigrate Durdin, more to highlight the disastrous spate of injuries they copped.
While the injury curse in the backline caused headaches, the Blues have other areas they could address. Ruck depth appears to be one where they could come up short if things go wrong.
There's no doubt Tom De Koning will be a star and Marc Pittonet is serviceable but they could use some experienced grunt in the ruck and around the ground to give their A-grade midfielders first use.
Should injury hit one of these two the Blues are pretty light on with reinforcements to call upon, so a reliable ruckman with a big tank fits the bill.
Finally, they're lacking a wealth of small-forward craft at the moment. With two of the most exciting big men in the game, the forward line is already seriously dangerous, however an extra dimension would make them top-four contenders.
This is nothing new for the Blues, it's an area they have wanted to address for a while. They took the first steps in the right direction by drafting Jesse Motlop, who looks exactly like the player they need. Perhaps just a bit more experience is what's required.
Here are four options the Blues would love to steal in an exercise that takes salary caps and other restrictions out of the equation, and a verdict one which player is most needed.
SEE ALSO: IF RICHMOND COULD STEAL ONE PLAYER
1. Sam De Koning
The younger De Koning fits a need and his age profile is perfect, not to mention that his brother is already at Carlton.
After a breakout year where he established himself as the brightest young defensive talent in the competition, he'd be on most clubs' wish lists.
Given he can lock down or play as an intercept defender, De Koning has the versatility that the Blues could depend on and build around, while at just 21 years old he is a premiership player and already looks like he'll be a star of the competition for the next decade at least.
For one so young, his stats make for impressive reading. In his 23 games in 2022 he averaged 5.2 marks per game, 2.5 rebound 50's and is ranked 10th in the competition for total intercepts. Those are numbers any club would love.