Carlton could welcome back cult hero and competition favourite Eddie Betts on Thursday night in front of an increased capacity MCG for his first game in front of his beloved home Navy Blue faithful in 7 years.
The last time Betts played on the MCG in front of Carlton fans was way back in 2013 when Carlton famously upset Richmond in the 2013 Elimination Final. The last time Carlton made the finals.
But in what could be his 200th appearance in Navy Blue, the fan favourite and competition leader is firming to take his place for the first time in season 2021 in what will be an early-season litmus test against Collingwood.
The 34-year-old played a half in a VFL practice match against Richmond last week, kicking 2 goals as he continues to take steps in recovery from a calf injury that disrupted his pre-season.
Carlton coach David Teague remained coy when asked about the veteran small forward’s inclusion in the final 22 but has confidence in Betts that should he be picked and when he gets picked, he can perform and is apart of Carlton’s best team.
“I think he’s [Betts] in our best 22 if he’s fit. He’s unfortunately missed a fair chunk, so right now it’s that balancing act. Some guys got in there and played their role. You’ve got to work out when you go to your best 22, or when you get him to the stage where he’s playing his best footy to come in.” Teague said.
“I thought Lachie Fogarty, Marc Murphy, Zac Fisher, Michael Gibbons … those guys have been playing well down there. Matt Owies is another guy who is a small forward playing really well at the moment.” indicating that competition for spots is strong.
Teague confirmed that boom off-season recruit Zac Williams will take his place for the first time in Carlton colours after serving his one-match suspension after making high contact with Hunter Clark in the AAMI Series match against St Kilda.
“to have Zac back in there, he’s tough he tackles, he’s very smart with his ball use particularly in traffic,” Teague said with excitement.
“When the heat is in the game he makes really good decisions and in both of his [Pre-Season] games against St Kilda and Essendon he played his role really well for us.
Teague has always said he is a student of the game and a coach at heart. In his second full season as senior coach at Carlton, through no fault of his own has already coached through a number of different iterations of the game when you boil down the overall laws and rules.
With the new rules taking shape this year across the AFL competition and the VFL competition, and the condensation of the games last season, coaches and players alike are still adjusting to the new styles of games being played and the different tactics being employed by different clubs.
“There’s been change” Teague said.
” I actually watched a fair bit of the games over the weekend looking for trends and there were lots of differences. Teams were trying to keep it off and chip it around. Teams were trying to play on quickly and get it forward quickly.
“It will be interesting to see how the trends of the game evolve over the next few weeks”
Teague joined his coaching counterpart Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge in expressing his dislike for the added density rules at VFL level, saying it just adds more time and unnecessary change to that competition and can hinder the development of younger players
“I’ll be honest, I watched the game the other day and I didn’t enjoy it,” Teague said.
“Stopping the game all the time … it’s a different game at the moment. I understand that the VFL, at times, is there to trial things. But it’s very hard. Will this rule be different? Because you’ve just changed four things, you don’t know which one is the one.”