Carlton has continued its strong approach to 2021 AFL Trade period, picking up Lewis Young from the Western Bulldogs in exchange for pick 52.
Taken with pick 49 in the 2016 AFL Draft, Young joined the Western Bulldogs as the club looked to versatility, pinpointing the then-17-year-old’s speed, agility and contested marking ability as handy acquisitions.
Since his AFL debut in Round 17, 2017 – a 20 point win against Carlton where he amassed 21 disposals (which remains a career-high) – Young has found himself out of favour at the Dogs in the seasons that followed.
Playing 24 games across five seasons, 2021 was the year where Young found the most game time, featuring in nine matches for the red, white and blue – however, he was named the medical sub in Round 18.
Despite these appearances and his contribution to the Bulldogs’ late-season form and finals campaign, he was dropped ahead of the the eventual runners-up’s preliminary final, making way for Stefan Martin.
Young is the type of player who has shown glimpses of form in all areas of the ground, but it’s down back where he has shown a lot of promise, with varied stints in the ruck, his 201cm frame helping provide a chop-out when needed.
The backline is the position where the Blues will most likely use his services, but it leaves the option open for that much-needed adaptability for a side looking to compete well this season and beyond.
Where will Young be best utilised at Carlton?
With the flexibility Young has shown from his time at the Dogs, he could slot into the Blues’ defence, or alternatively, work in tandem with some fellow young rucks at the club.
Young was drafted, and played most of his first few years at the Dogs, as a primary, key defender. While he played seven games towards the backend of the 2017 season, he was still competing for similar positions with experienced defenders such as Marcus Adams, Zaine Cordy and Fletcher Roberts, a concern that transcended into the following seasons.
Regardless, when it was his time to shine on the big stage, Young took his opportunity with both hands and proved a handy acquisition for a Bulldogs side with pressure on them to defend their 2016 premiership.
Known as an interceptor more so than a one-on-one defender in his early years, Young outlined his capabilities in the defensive 50, matching up on strong opponents, but keeping them to a small amount of impact. In 2017 and 2018, he averaged eight defensive pressure acts – two-thirds of his 12.05 defensive acts average across the ground.
At the Blues, he may be facing a similar worry to his place in the best 22, especially in the backline where he’ll be competing for spots in a side that boasts Liam Jones and Jacob Weitering. The pair have each held up the defensive unit together since 2016 as intercepting, rebound defenders.
This year though, Young was utilised more in the ruck following varying reasons for omissions to the likes of Tim English, Stefan Martin and Jordan Sweet.
Across the 2021 season, he attended 24.8 ruck contests a game and won 31.8 per cent of those battles, coming up against some of the premier ruckman in the competition including North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein and Sydney’s Tom Hickey.
A strength of Young’s too is his hitouts to advantage, finding 28.2 per cent going to a teammate. Even so if he forced a scramble at the ball, he would show his capability to follow-up and insert himself into the contest again, either as a contested ball winner, or a link-up player on the outside.
Similar to a potential stint in the backline at Carlton, Young will be competing for a number one or two ruck spot with Tom de Koning and Marc Pittonet who have been the one-two punch at the club.
However, this season there was only an overlap of four games where the pair of de Koning and Pittonet played together, meaning there might be a greater chance for Young to extend on this year’s form in the middle of the ground, and work alongside one or both big men.
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How valuable will Young’s finals-side experience be to the Blues?
Carlton has not seen finals action since a 2013 semi-final against Sydney in a year where it gained its spot in the top eight following the effects and fallout of the Essendon supplements saga, originally finishing ninth. Since then, it’s been finishes mostly in the lower half of the ladder, including an 18th-placed finish in 2018.
On the other hand, the Western Bulldogs have made finals in the past three seasons, and Young has experience in those big games.
He appeared in the team’s 2019 elimination final loss to Greater Western Sydney, and this year, was selected for the elimination and semi-final wins against Essendon and Brisbane respectively.
In 2019’s elimination final, Young impressed with 11 disposals with eight one percenters and eight rebounds.
However, it was 2021 where he truly showed he belonged, amassing a career-high 18 hitouts in the elimination final where he contributed 10 one percenters, backing up the form the following week with 10 hitouts, six one percenters and a career-high five tackles.
The experience from being within a club who’s had a proven record in finals, and Young himself appearing in three finals will be a valuable addition.
Of the current Carlton list, six players have featured in finals with Zac Williams the most decorated, appearing in 11 finals ranging between 2016 and 2019 with Greater Western Sydney.
Ed Curnow (two finals with Carlton in 2013), Mitch McGovern (three finals with Adelaide in 2016 and 2017), Nic Newman (three finals with Sydney in 2017 and 2018), Oscar McDonald (three finals with Melbourne in 2018) and Adam Saad (one final with Essendon in 2019) round out the squad with experience in finals.
Young’s experience in multiple positions around the ground – used as a defender in 2019 and a a ruck/defender in 2021 -, will be beneficial to deliver and provide an expertise for new Blues coach Michael Voss, and the club overall, no matter his position.
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