Carlton will take on Richmond at the MCG on Thursday night, March 14. (Image provided by Carlton Media and Jonathan Di Maggio)

The Blues have now shifted their focus to their yearly Round 1 matchup against Richmond, after today announcing that they have signed a four-year extension with major partner Great Southern Bank.

Following a stunning one-point victory over the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba last Friday, Carlton will go in as heavy favourites against a Tigers side that struggled badly at stages in their 39-point defeat to the Gold Coast Suns.

Head coach Michael Voss was confident on Monday morning that the Blues will be able to focus on the task at hand, and carry their sensational form into the Thursday night matchup.

“We’ve got a very important game coming,” he said.

“We go into [the game] being able to make sure that we perform at the level that we have or we want, and there are still things out of that [Brisbane] game that we need to get better at.

“We have to take that progressive mindset into this game and just find areas that we need to improve. There was plenty to walk away from that game and say we can get better.

“I think I can certainly appreciate that [the Tigers] have got a style of football that is extremely damaging.

“They’re obviously trying to learn a slightly different way, with the way they want to play under Adem (Yze’s) guidance, and what I have seen over that period of time is a pretty dynamic style when they get it going.”

Speaking on the field condition ahead of the first MCG match of the year, Voss was quick to confirm that he believes the field of play will be in good shape for the opening bounce, unwilling to speak ill of anything that a Taylor Swift concert may have caused over the past month.

“My daughter is a Swiftie, so I’m not allowed to denigrate anything about the experience,” Voss said.

“I’ll just say I’ll back them in, that they’ll get it done.”

CEO Cook felt assured there would be more than enough time for the ground to be ready.

“It’s happened two or three years in a row where the turf has been changed over, so it’s not new,” he explained.

“I had a look at the grass with Stuart Fox (MCC CEO) about a week ago and it looked pretty good… so I haven’t got an issue with that at this point.”

With both Voss and Cook signing new deals over the off-season, they will be important parts of Carlton’s development over the coming years.

The new extension with Great Southern Bank is something Cook feels is a further indication of the strides they continue to make at the club.

“This announcement today is a major achievement for us,” Cook said,

“We have stability and we have commercial growth at the same time, so it means a lot to us.

“It’s about exposure… it’s about our community and the impact we have in the community.

“We’re striving for a ‘Stronger Together’ brand at Carlton between our supporters and our players, and so all of those things come together under this partnership which we’re very proud of.”

Voss echoed Cook’s words with his own view on what the extension means for the club.

“It’s a powerful statement,” Voss said.

“There’s been a lot of really significant moments for our club and this is another one.

“To be able to have a co-major be able to sign up for another extended period of time, just sort of says that… it’s more than just the team on the field. We’re trying to create a club that’s really stable [and] really united.”

The renewed sponsorship deal with Great Southern Bank will see them remain a major sponsor of the Blues until at least the end of 2027. (Image provided by Carlton Media and Jonathan Di Maggio)

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The announcement was a positive one on Monday, after the devastating news that hit Carlton over the weekend where we found out that veteran Sam Docherty had unexpectedly suffered a third ACL injury in his career at the Blues.

Voss and Cook both expressed the shock they felt at the news, but were emphatic in their support for Docherty and their belief that he will come back better than ever in 2025.

“We’re all so disappointed,” Cook said.

“He’s just had so much bad luck really in terms of his injuries and his illnesses [that] he’s had.

“He’s as strong and as mentally tough as you’ll come across.

“He will be very supportive of the other players. He’ll play a role in our football club… I think both at AFL and AFLW level, and we’re looking forward to seeing him rehab and come back in another year’s time.

“He’s going to be missed. He’s a loved person to us,” Voss added.

“We understand the real challenges he’s had in his life in most recent times. Sam’s not looking for any sympathy at all, he’ll get on with it and be a real pro about his rehab, but he’s been a really important person to us and it won’t quite feel the same without him being there with us.

Voss went on to take a trip down memory lane, remembering his first home and away game as Carlton coach and how Docherty’s goal in that game epitomised what he brings to the club.

“Obviously a couple of years ago, we had that magnificent moment where he kicked that goal,” Voss said.

“I reckon in that moment you’re not a Richmond supporter or a Carlton supporter, you’re almost sitting as one in the stands together and just applauding a great moment because of what he’d actually been through.

“You can see how much he’s loved by the players in that particular moment and the response he got, so that sort of speaks to him as a person.

“He’ll be around the club and I’m sure he’ll bug the hell out of me as a coach for the next little while and pose lots of questions. He’s going to be a great support and a great mentor for a lot of our emerging players coming through for our team.”

The Blues will look to continue their brilliant start to the 2024 AFL season when they face Richmond at the MCG on Thursday night.

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