Ladder Position: 5th
Win/Loss: 14/7 (1 Draw)
After two consecutive Elimination Final exits in close encounters, Carlton finally managed to snare that elusive finals win in prolific fashion against rival Essendon. The win was the club’s first finals victory since 2001.
Carlton emphatically responded to claims that their forward line was too small to be consistently damaging. For the first time since Brendan Fevola departed the club in the 2009 trade period, a player posted over 50 goals in the one season; Andrew Walker converted 56 goals in his breakout season as a lead-up forward, Eddie Betts kicked a career-best 50 goals and Jeff Garlett just missed out on the half ton with 48 goals to his name.
With the focal point of Carlton’s line-up, the midfield, continuing to provide consistently effective performances, the Blues were able to focus on developing both the defence and forward lines. Forward prospect Lachlan Henderson made the transition to defence after key defender Michael Jamison was struck down by injury and found his feet against some of the best in the business, and Chris Yarran cemented himself as a gut-busting rebound defender. Up the other end of the field, Andrew Walker claimed the club’s leading goalkicker award while Bret Thornton claimed vital goals late in the season.
The combination of a solid core group of players and strategic drafting has put Carlton in a prime position for a top four finish. After making finals for three years in a row, a club with a history as rich as Carlton will be aching to improve its lowly record of one win from four finals appearances.
Chris Judd – No points for originality, but it’s hard to look past one of the greats of the modern game. There’s no point reeling off his personal achievements – we already know how good the man is – but with age slowly becoming a factor, Judd now faces a new challenge as he looks to lead the Blues in a successful campaign.
Marc Murphy – With Chris Judd claiming the opposition’s number one tagger, Murphy has a golden opportunity to win the lion’s share of the football. With precise delivery and incredible ball skills, Murphy could solidify himself as one of the best midfielders in the competition.
Michael Jamison – In what is expected to be a huge season for the club, Jamison will be required to continue his defensive efforts against the opposition’s best key forwards, as he has done in previous years. With pace to burn and a big body, Jamison won’t make it easy for the best forwards in the business to get a clean grab.
Mitch Robinson – Just the presence of Robinson is enough to put off the opposition, but Mitch is much more than just a menacing face. His inspirational tackling skills are enough to turn games around, but with great disposal and an eye for goal, Carlton has a real treat in its possession.
Chris Yarran – Having made the transition from crumbing forward to rebound defender, Yarran wasted no time implementing himself on the competition with his trademark runs out of defence. Possessing that goal-poaching ability as well as sensational speed means Yarran can be used in a number of roles.
Kane Lucas – Although Lucas had a season ravaged by injury in 2011, the up-and-coming midfielder has all the traits to slot into the senior side as a gut-busting winger. His ability to claim the football and run with it is not to be underestimated.
On paper, Carlton has all the qualities of a premiership team. However, converting potential to success has been the Blues’ biggest challenge in recent years and will again stare them in the face in 2012. If all gels together on the field, there’s no saying what Carlton could achieve.