27/02/2024

Ollie Hollands and Jedd Busslinger have been linked to Carlton in the 2022 AFL Draft. Photos: Vic Metro and WAFL

Carlton is back in the first round of the AFL Draft for the first time since 2019, entering the 2022 draft at Pick 10.

Since taking Brodie Kemp and Sam Philp at picks 17 and 20 respectively, after two years of trading aggressively and building through Free Agency, the Blues are back in the night-one action with plenty to think about.

Michael Voss’ side went ever so close in 2022 to breaking their finals drought, with a season derailed by constant injuries to critical parts of the ground at different stages of the year. But with the biggest names on the list all signed up long-term, the 2022 Draft for the Blues is about continuing to add to the already talented list while filling glaring holes.

Carlton’s draft hand: 10, 29, 49, 64 and 74

READ: AFL Draft Power Rankings: The top 50 prospects in 2022

First pick dictates the next-best strategy

Carlton has been linked heavily to outside runner and mad Blues fan Ollie Hollands for several weeks now. The Blues are on record saying they are looking to add some outside speed and run to compliment its loaded inside midfield brigade.

Already adding winger Blake Acres through the Trade period, Carlton will continue looking to bolster their speed through the middle of the ground and outside run as the key area of the list that needs bolstering. The 183cm brother of Gold Coast Suns midfielder Elijah looks to fit the bill.

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Western Australian speedsters Ed Allan and Elijah Hewett could be other outside options the Blues could look at with both those players in contention to be selected in the first round.

The Blues have also been linked to Western Australian Jedd Busslinger at their first pick. The 196cm key defender from East Perth, regarded as one of the best defenders in the draft, could be an option if the Blues opt for the ‘best available’ option with their first pick.

With Jacob Weitering, Lewis Young, Caleb Marchbank, Mitch McGovern, and Sam Durdin all on the list already as key defenders, the Blues don’t necessarily need another key defender for the now, but Busslinger might be too good to pass up.

If Carlton does opt for Busslinger at 10, Then the Blues will have their eyes on a pair of runners in the second round. Jaxon Binns and Jason Gilbee, both elite running wingers loom as targets for the Blues to add to their running stocks.

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In a draft where the first half dozen picks are set, the Blues selection, currently at 10 falls in a range where there could be a surprise that could fall into their lap with a potential slider. Carlton will also be keeping a close eye to see who slips out of the top 10, hoping that one of Cam Mackenzie, Mattaes Phillipou, or even Elijah Tsatas slips through.

Trade watch?

As they have made a habit of since its inception into the AFL Draft, the Blues will be one of the clubs on live trade watch. List Manager Nick Austin has been open in the club’s desire to take four selections in this year’s draft to replenish the young talent on the list. With eyes firmly on gaining an extra second-round selection.

The Blues will listen to offers to slide down and get an extra pick but will be reluctant to trade out their future first-round selection in next year’s draft. The Sydney Swans, currently armed with picks 14 and 17 are looking to get into next year’s draft and could be one club open to a pick swap with the Blues as they hunt for an extra selection.

Shore up the ruck

Injuries to big man Marc Pittonet in recent seasons have meant that Tom De Koning has had to shoulder a big load. The 23-year-old ruckman has played 32 games and while he’s shown signs of growth, is yet to fully take the leap and cement himself as Carlton’s number-one ruckman.

Pittonet’s injury woes meant that Carlton again had to deploy Jack Silvagni as the pinch-hitter ruck throughout the season, even having their captain and eventual Brownlow Medalist Patrick Cripps chipping in stints in the ruck at stoppages around the ground.

With ex-volleyballer, and mid-season recruit from 2021 Alex Mirkov still developing, the Blues must find another ruckman to add to the list to alleviate the strain. Hudson O’Keefe, the 202cm ruck from the Oakleigh Chargers is a young ruck with plenty of upside, but also plenty to work on who the Blues could look at here with its third-round selection (currently 49).

Peel Thunder product Jackson Broadbent is another young developing ruckman in the pool who should be available later in the draft or even at a rookie selection on Wednesday.

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Though overlooked for the national combine, Broadbent tested well at the WA state combine to go with his 15-match season for the Peel Colts, including a strong Grand Final performance, notching 17 disposals and 23 hitouts.

Carlton also will find a spot, most likely on their rookie list for veteran midfielder Ed Curnow. Curnow, who was confirmed to be going around again at the Blues at the conclusion of the Trade Period by Nick Austin, was on the list of players to nominate for the draft and looks to be moving from the primary list to the rookie list.

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