I know it was only the JLT Series, but what I saw at Ikon Park on Thursday night was exciting to say the least. It was a rather balmy, hot night and the fans were there to see not only the seasoned players, but the ones picked in the 2018 Draft and of course, Walsh.
Watching the Draft and Walsh’s package, you could see that he had an old footy head on a young body, and Thursday’s match proved just that. His strength, agility, the way he moved around the ground and the foresight to see what was ahead in the game, shows how much of a footy star this player will be, and he’s only 18! For his first real taste of senior-level footy, he achieved 28 disposals, 5 less than the legend that is Crippa! That alone is pretty impressive! His ability to read the play, and even when things just didn’t go right, he followed through and tried again. This is something that at his age and inexperience, cannot be taught in such a short time of training, and with even senior level game time on the big field that is the AFL season, will only develop more and he will become a real scary force on the field – for the opposition.
The other newbies at the club didn’t disappoint, such as Newman with 20 and Setterfield with 19. But the most surprising one was Gibbons who though only had 9 disposals, kicked 3 goals, alongside 2018 fledgling player Cunningham, who had 15 disposals and 3 goals. It was Cunningham and two other seasoned players of Carlton, that really impressed me the most: Cunningham being one and both Weitering and Silvagni the other.
Weitering in 2018 was floundering in the back-line, but this year, he is much more dynamic around the ground and willing to take on the game. Even though he had 15 possessions, his presence in the game was felt and all for good reasons. Then there was Jack Silvagni. He has been a bit underwhelming of late, but over the break, he was not afraid to go after the tackle and the ball. I re-watched the game and his effort is heaps better than it was last year. I know some may say, still not good enough. I disagree. I personally think he will be a late-bloomer player and given his subsequent development over the summer, under the guidance of Andrews and the other coaching staff, I do feel he will progress and get better and better and become the player he wants to be and the one we hope he can be.
The team look and feel different this year and it showed on the ground. Even though it’s the JLT Series and it really means nothing compared to the actual AFL season, it gives the new players a chance to show the coaching staff and the fans who they are as players. This game showed how seasoned players who in the past just did not show their full potential or any potential are actually becoming not only better players, but seem to be more confident in their abilities and skill. The signs are there for a club that was at the bottom of the heap in 2018 to now be building the blocks to rise up.
It may not mean that Carlton are now “the team to beat” just yet, but we can see the fruits of the past since Bolts took control, finally taking hold, and it looks good. There can be no doubt now as to the direction the coaching and footy department are taking in ensuring to get Carlton back on the winning board and up the ladder. We saw this on Thursday and even though it is only the JLT Series, the signs are there. Oh, and by the way – we beat Essendon!