22/04/2024
Harry McKay. Picture: Elly McNerney

Harry McKay. Picture: Elly McNerney

On the back of a fairytale run to a Preliminary Final in 2023, the Blues are looking to go one step further this season.

2023 Overview

2023 was a year that Carlton supporters simply will never forget, from four wins and 15th on the ladder in June, to the final four and a Prelim in September.

After going undefeated through the opening four rounds, Blues fans were daring to dream. Then that same team lost eight out of nine games with the only win in that stretch being against the Eagles.

There were calls to sack Michael Voss, strip Patrick Cripps of his captaincy and far more to reset the club again, but they as a club stuck true when no one believed.

The Blues finished the home and away season on a miracle run, winning nine of their last 10 games in the most unexpected in-season turnaround in recent memory.

Then of course, the unforgettable Blake Acres goal in the final minute of the Semi Final against the Demons, to secure a Preliminary Final in Brisbane the following week.

Off-Season changes

The Blues had a fairly busy trade and drafting period which Blues fans have become accustom to every year.

They said goodbye to 2017 top-10 draft pairing Paddy Dow (trade to St Kilda) and Lochie O’Brien (delisted). In addition, Zac Fisher left the club seeking more midfield opportunity at North Melbourne.

Lachie Plowman and Ed Curnow announced their retirements after 145 and 221 games respectively.

The Blues then made two further delistings ahead of 2024 in Sam Philp and Josh Honey.

Carlton then lured in Elijah Hollands (Gold Coast) and Orazio Fantasia (delisted free agent) as their only acquisitions for this season.

The Blues then got busy on draft night selecting Ashton Moir (pick 29), Billy Wilson (pick 34) and Matt Carroll (pick 15, rookie draft).

The Blues did well to stock up on 2024 draft picks, as they look to secure father-son prospects Ben and Lucas Camporeale.

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The Fixture

The Blues have a reasonable fixture for 2024, given they finished in fifth. With that being said, some of their double match-ups will prove quite the challenge.

The opponents they face twice are: Collingwood, GWS, Port Adelaide, Geelong, Richmond and North Melbourne.

They will travel interstate on six occasions this year, in Opening Round (Lions) and Gather Round (Dockers), then rounds 10 (Swans), 12 (Power), 17 (Giants) and 23 (Eagles).

Carlton have seven of their first 14 scheduled games in primetime slots on either a Thursday or Friday night.

FULL FIXTURE: (Melbourne time)

OR: (A) vs Brisbane @ Gabba – Friday March 8, 7.40pm

R1: (H) vs Richmond @ MCG – Thursday March 14, 7.30pm

R2: BYE

R3: (A) vs North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium – Friday March 29, 4.20pm

R4: (A) vs Fremantle @ Adelaide Oval – Saturday April 6, 4.20pm

R5: (H) vs Adelaide @ Marvel Stadium – Saturday April 13, 4.35pm

R6: (H) vs GWS @ Marvel Stadium – Saturday April 20, 4.35pm

R7: (A) vs Geelong @ MCG – Saturday April 27, 4.35pm

R8: (H) vs Collingwood @ MCG – Friday May 3, 7.40pm

R9: (H) vs Melbourne @ MCG – Thursday May 9, 7.30pm

R10: (A) vs Sydney @ SCG – Friday May 17, 7.40pm

R11: (H) vs Gold Coast @ Marvel Stadium – Saturday May 25, 1.45pm

R12: (A) vs Port Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval – Thursday May 30, 7.30pm

R13: (A) vs Essendon @ MCG – Sunday June 9, 7.20pm

R14: BYE

R15: (H) vs Geelong @ MCG – Friday June 21, 7.40pm

R16: (A) vs Richmond @ MCG – TBC

R17: (A) vs GWS @ Giants Stadium – TBC

R18: (A) vs Western Bulldogs @ Marvel Stadium – TBC

R19: (H) vs North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium – TBC

R20: (H) vs Port Adelaide @ Marvel Stadium – TBC

R21: (A) vs Collingwood @ MCG – TBC

R22: (H) vs Hawthorn @ MCG – TBC

R23: (A) vs West Coast @ Optus Stadium – TBC

R24: (H) vs St Kilda @ Marvel Stadium – TBC

What to expect in 2024

It is hard to question Carlton’s legitimacy heading into 2024, after winning two finals in their first taste of September action in a decade.

They have proven time and time again in the back end of 2023 that they are more than capable of winning the big games, it’s just a matter of getting there.

All of Carlton’s superstars namely Charlie Curnow, Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh are all in their prime, making it hard to not see the Blues towards the top end of the table.

Structurally, the Blues are pretty sound. Jacob Weitering has been ruled out for their season opener against the Lions, but they do have sufficient depth despite the severe loss. The likes of Brodie Kemp, Lewis Young and Mitch McGovern have proven themselves as capable intercept defenders.

Further around the defence the Blues have countless options to a point where it may get hard selecting only six in March and beyond.

Zac Williams is set to return from an ACL injury that held him to the stands for the entirety of 2023. Adam Saad and Nic Newman are staples in that defence, which leaves about four players who are fighting for only one maybe two remaining positions.

Up forward, there is no denying that Charlie Curnow may be the hardest player in the competition to stop. Back to back Coleman Medals and All-Australian blazers would scare any opponent.

His partner in crime Harry McKay clearly had his struggles with confidence in 2023, but footage from this pre-season shows his eagerness to make more of an impact on the scoreboard.

At ground level, the Blues are once again filled with depth. Jesse Motlop, Lachie Fogarty, Matt Owies, David Cuningham and Jack Martin all were influential in their finals campaign a few months ago.

Now the addition of Hollands and Fantasia makes that selection all the more difficult and should feature at various points this season.

Jack Silvagni was ravaged with injury in the back half of last season, and has unfortunately gone down with an ACL injury ending his 2024 season before it truly began.

Then taking a look at the engine room for the Blues, any rotation of Cripps, Walsh, Cerra, Docherty, Kennedy and Hewett would strike fear into any opposition.

Out wide the likes of Blake Acres, Matt Cottrell and Ollie Hollands have proven that they provide run all day.

It is a serious midfield group of hard ball winners, hard tacklers, endurant runners and importantly good ball users by hand and feet.

Potentially a collective group destined for something special.

Ladder Prediction: 2nd

Personally, it is hard not to see a successful year at Ikon Park. It is the first time in almost a quarter of a century where the Blues can genuinely consider themselves as premiership contenders.

As long as Carlton can avoid a mid-season slump and resemble more of that dream run like last year, anything is possible.

The Blues, for many people are a top four team or even better. Ultimately, time will tell on whether they have a real sniff at #17.

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