Blues ruckman Matthew Kreuzer is being groomed for more time up forward, in a bid to help fill the void left by departing forwards Jarrad Waite and Jeff Garlett.
Kreuzer is entering his eighth season at the club, but in that time has never had a full pre-season. This was especially applicable last season, where the ruckman only managed one game before breaking down with a foot injury.
However, his uninterrupted pre-season to date has seen him undertake a program with the intention of giving him a bigger role up forward.
The issue here is whether Kreuzer can actually play as a key forward: history will suggest that this isn’t the case.
Kreuzer has never kicked more than 15 goals in a season, and seems unable to make an impact when used as a key forward.
Confusingly, the apparent need to transition Kreuzer into a full forward is rather unnecessary and unfounded. Carlton’s trading and drafting has put them in a position where they don’t need to play Kreuzer forward.
New recruit Liam Jones seems likely to get the first crack at replacing Jarrad Waite up forward and, alongside Levi Casboult and Lachie Henderson, the Blues forward line will be more than tall enough.
Adding Andrew Walker, Troy Menzel and Dale Thomas into the mix suggests that their forward line doesn’t need Kreuzer.
Compounding that, Cameron Wood was serviceable last season but he has far from stolen Kreuzer’s mantle as number one ruckman, while Rob Warnock certainly hasn’t either.
Kreuzer should slot back into the Carlton side in round one as the main ruckman, with Casboult and Sam Rowe capable of relieving him when need be.
Kreuzer’s best games in the navy blue have been as the sole ruckman. Like Paddy Ryder, Kreuzer thrives when he is allowed to play in the ruck without having to share time with someone like Warnock.
When fully fit, Kreuzer is one of the best ruckmen around the ground as is his ability to help out his midfielders at ground level. That is the type of role he should be used in next year, allowing him to get 15 to 20 disposals a game.
It could even be argued that he’s better as a midfielder than he is as a forward. Of course, all ruckmen need to rest forward at times, and Kreuzer is certainly capable of that.
However, using him primarily as a key forward for any length of time hasn’t worked in the past. Given he thrives as a sole ruckman, the Blues aren’t in a position where they have to play him forward.
It will be interesting to see whether they carry out this plan to play him forward more often in 2015, as history suggests a fit Kreuzer is much more effective in the middle instead of up forward.