Carlton is heading down an intriguing path. To say they are rebuilding is an obvious statement, but it’s the way that they are doing it that speaks volumes about where they rate themselves in terms of developing talent.
It’s clear that the Carlton recruiting team have taken the course that Stephen Wells implemented at the Cats, although admittedly it was to a lesser extreme. Picking the players that they want much earlier than they’re rated is a trademark of Geelong recruiting. Jackson Thurlow, Harry Taylor and Darcy Lang all follow that system. A good recruiting team will pinpoint who they want, and take them if they back themselves to be able to develop them well.
Going through Geelong’s draft history, and there are barely any ‘risky’ picks in terms of Dayle Garlett types. Perhaps it comes to how well the players perform in their interviews.
Carlton took their first steps a few years back, identifying Troy Menzel, and taking him because they knew they could develop him. Then they backed that up by taking Patrick Cripps a good 20 picks before he was expected to land.
This year, they’ve become even braver. Trading away pick seven was gutsy, but perhaps it was clear that the Blues were not confident that Sam Durdin or Peter Wright would have been the right choice.
Instead, they believed that Kristian Jaksch would thrive in a different developmental system. Like Josh Caddy at the Cats, the Blues went all in on someone who had almost stagnated at AFL level, and believed that developing them under Mick Malthouse would be better than going down the best available path in the draft.
Now here is where Carlton’s tactics get to the boom or bust stage. Liam Jones, Jason Tutt and Matthew Dick have all showed great signs at times. Clearly, the success of Sam Docherty and Andrejs Everitt made the Blues believe that the recycled path is a successful choice.
There gets to a point where a club overdoes the recycled player plan, like the Tigers, and instead of rejuvenating the list, its the young players who miss out on lists spots in favour of tried and tested older players. Carlton must be sure they have the right intake of quality youth. They’ve done that in the past two seasons, and they should do so again this year, but the allure of Sydney and Hawthorn’s success down that path cannot blind them.
Finally, the Blues must nail this draft. GM Andrew McKay has indicated that they will be after a midfielder at pick 19. If they take a risk on Corey Ellis or Connor Menadue or even somehow get a slider, then pick 19 will be a success. It might be a mistake to go for Connor Blakely at 19, as they already have Cripps and Nick Graham.
At 28, it starts to get a bit dicey. A small forward would be excellent. If somehow, the Blues could land Ellis and Jarrod Garlett, then their draft would be an automatic A. If they ended up with Touk Miller as a small midfielder / forward, then Shane Rogers should also get a tick.
Ultimately though, the Blues are going to have to wait at least two years to judge whether these new tactics are viable, as the football landscape is changing. Overpaying young recruits is almost a certainty in the next few years, and it will be intriguing to see how a club taking an alternative route will work out in the long run.