The Way-Too-Early 2013 Preview: Carlton

CARLTON

Oh Carlton.

They may be the Blues, but they are the Kings at finding inventive ways to trip over themselves, to the amusement of everyone but their fans. First it was the spectacularly bold ‘They Know We’re Coming’ Membership slogan in 2009, which was ripe for parody after a 7th placed finish. The following year they decided to step it up again with the super antagonistic “Can You Smell What the Blues are Cooking?” The smell, apparently, was eighth place on the ladder. They toned it back a notch on the membership front, and instead turned to coach Brett Ratten to deliver 2012’s bold pre-season message, and didn’t Ratten deliver, guaranteeing a top four spot in 2012 a mere week after the 2011 season had finished. Honestly it’s like pouring gasoline on yourself, giving already lit matches to children, telling them not to play with it, then being surprised when you find yourself alight.

The 2012 season started well enough for the Blues with five wins from their first six outings, including a commanding sixty point victory over Collingwood, a result that seem to legitimise the Blues as finally being a serious flag threat. Just as the media anointed them as the early season darlings, their season unravelled as spectacularly as it had started. Marc Murphy hurt his shoulder in a colossal clash with Patrick Dangerfield in round eight, and from rounds 7 to 16 the Blues could only manage two wins. Chris Judd continued his evolution into a pantomime villain by pulling on Leigh Adams’ arm, while Mick Malthouse spent the season on 3AW and Channel Seven refuting any suggestion he was interested in coaching Carlton while simultaneously winking at the camera, mouthing his contact details, and basically being about as subtle as a giraffe riding on the back of an elephant while playing a vuvuzela. A small resurgence toward the end of the season was crushed in totality following a disastrous loss to the Gold Coast in the penultimate round of the season, to the joy of pretty much everyone. Make no mistake, 2012 was disastrous for Carlton. The good news for Blues fans is they are well positioned to make an immediate recovery in 2013.

2012 Key Statistics

Carlton 2012 Offensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Disposals

357

9th

Contested Possessions

142.3

tied 9th

Clearances

39.4

4th

Inside 50s

53

9th

Marks Inside 50

13.4

tied 2nd

Hitouts

42.6

6th

Goals

13.6

tied 9th

 

Carlton 2012 Defensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Points Against

87.5

9th

Inside 50s Conceded

47.4

6th

Marks Inside 50 Conceded

9.4

3rd

Tackles

69.1

4th

 

Carlton 2012 Offensive/Defensive Differentials

Total

Competition Rank

Inside 50s Opponent Differential(Total Inside 50s minus Total Inside 50s conceded)

122

5th

Marks Inside 50 Opponent Differential(Total Marks Inside 50 minus Total Marks Inside 50 conceded)

86

2nd

 

What are they great at?

One area that is surprising is the amount of marks inside 50 Carlton take, given their often highlighted lack of above average key forwards. It isn’t as if they are taking as many marks as they are due to the ball being in that area all the time either, as they are average when it comes to getting the ball inside 50. I have a theory as to why Carlton have such a high marks inside 50 rate.

I suspect Carlton take a lot of marks inside 50 due to two main reasons. The first is delivery from the midfield. The likes of Judd and Murphy are very good at raising their eyes and actually hitting a target when entering the forward half, rather than senselessly bombing it and hoping for the best.

The second reason is because Carlton lacks a typical tall forward target, they put even more time and effort into hitting up small forwards like Betts and Garlett on the lead. Taking marks inside fifty is particularly difficult when you are a foot shorter than most of the defenders occupying that space. In light of this, I suspect these small forwards typically lead toward the boundary, rather than centrally where there are likely to be a lot more bodies and thus harder to take a clean grab. Unfortunately, taking marks in these areas results in tougher set shots, which may help explain why Carlton finished 9th in terms of goals per game despite their extremely high marks inside 50 rate.

Not only do Carlton’s midfielders demonstrate their worth when it comes to hitting up targets, they are also among the competition’s best in terms of clearances thanks to Judd, Murphy, and Carrazzo. Tackling is another strong point, finishing 2012 with the fourth best tackle rate.

Even more surprising than their success at generating marks up forward is their ability to restrict the opposition from doing the very same back. Carlton conceded the third least amount of marks inside 50 per game. This puts them amongst the very best defensive sides like the Dockers, Eagles and Swans, despite not having remotely the same “name” level defenders as those three clubs.

What are they good at?

Carlton was good, but not great, it two areas: Hitouts and Inside 50s conceded.

The Blues would hope to be at least above average in the ruck department given how much they’ve invested in that area. Pick 24 in the 2008 National Draft (Nic Suban) was sent to Fremantle in exchange for Robert Warnock, while the year before Carlton used the first pick in the draft to take Matthew Kreuzer.

Both have been riddled with injury so far in their careers at Princes Park, preventing the Blues from getting the most out of their investment. Despite this, these two, alongside Shaun “my girlfriend is shown more times during the telecast than me” Hampson, have performed well enough for Carlton to be considered above average in the ruck department.

What do they need to improve?

All the stats seem to indicate that Carlton generally put themselves in good positions, but fail to then take full advantage. We’ve already touched on the disparity between their marks inside 50 and goals scored, but there is a similar one defensively as well.

While Carlton was very good at preventing marks being taken by opposition forwards, their defence as a whole failed to take advantage of this. Despite their elite ability to minimise marks, and their above average ability to restrict the opposition from getting the ball forward (6th for inside 50s conceded), they gave up 87 points a game, placing them right in the middle of the competition for points against per game.

What are they bad at?

Statistically, Carlton isn’t bad at anything. Their worst ranking in anything was ninth, which is higher than their finishing position in 2012.

 

Points of Interest in 2013

Matthew Kreuzer

Kreuzer is one of the more intriguing Blues for two reasons, his injury issues, and his position.

After a promising start to his career Kreuzer did his ACL in early 2010. ACL related injuries generally keep you off the field for at least a year, but in most cases, particularly in taller players, you don’t see the complete physical recovery until two seasons have passed since the injury occurred. This is ominous for the rest of the competition, as 2013 will mark the passing of that two year period, and he performed reasonably well toward the close of last season. Playing predominately as the lone ruckman, Kreuzer registered 38 or more hit-outs in three of the final six games. As his fitness improves, expect significant increases in his possession count, if he stays in the ruck

The ‘if he stays’ is an important qualifier here. The ruck is clearly Kreuzer’s best position, but Carlton has shown a willingness to put him up forward and make him a focal point in the past. If Warnock can manage to string together some games and show himself capable of handling the number 1 ruck mantle, the Blues may opt to do so again in order to cover one of their perceived weaknesses.

Jarrad Waite

I once wrote that there isn’t a single player whose value increases in the eyes of the football public whenever he doesn’t play like Waite’s does. While his abilities are probably overstated during these absences, his impact on Carlton’s scoring prowess is not.

Carlton Per Game Scoring Shots 2012
Games with Waite 29
Games without Waite 24

The Blues averaged five more scoring shots per game, and four more goals per game when Waite was in the side. He gives the forward arc structure, provides a tall target, and can help force the ball to ground where Carlton’s smalls excel.

This is fine when he is fit and healthy. The problem is he is rarely fit and healthy.

Jarrad Waite Games Played 2008 – 2012

2008

21

2009

9

2010

16

2011

12

2012

11

A healthy Waite makes Carlton a much more fearsome outfit, and he is critical to their top four dreams. It’s hard to picture them finishing that high if he can’t manage more appearances than he has over the past four seasons.At nearly 30 years of age, it’s hard to see Waite ever managing to play a full season again. Word is he has already strained his calf during pre-season training. This is a real shame. With young Levi Casboult coming into the side late last year and impressing, the Blues could have a very nice duo to build the forward line around. Casboult would especially benefit from not having the opposition’s number one tall defender on him, as well as not having the pressure of being the number one target up front.

Chris Judd

I am very interested in seeing Judd duke it out against Daniel Craig in the next Bond instalment.

Mick Malthouse

The long awaited savour, or Dennis Pagan 2.0?

By any measure Malthouse is a significant upgrade on Brett Ratten. The only question here is one of motivation. Is Malthouse returning to coaching because Carlton is too good an opportunity to pass up, or is it more because he wants to stick it to Eddie? One can’t help but feel at least part of the return has to do with the latter. I guess it is good motivation in the short term, but spite doesn’t lend itself to longevity. Malthouse has clearly jumped on board with an eye on the flag with the team Carlton already has. The question here is whether or not he’s prepared to sit through another rebuild if this side falls short over the next three years, or if he’ll instead call it a day the second that reality becomes apparent.

In the immediate term Malthouse provides benefit, and Carlton are clearly in win now mode. Let’s be honest, would Carlton have lost that game against the Suns with Malthouse at the helm? He wouldn’t have allowed it. He would’ve scared the living hell out of everyone at three quarter time. Players would’ve been sitting in the forward pocket plotting name changes and methods of escape, asking questions like ‘Is there anywhere I could go where he won’t find me?’, ‘How long until he hunts me down?’, and ‘Will it be worse because I ran?’ (The answers, by the way, are ‘no’, ‘four hours’ and ‘yes’).

2013 Outlook

In 2012 Carlton were at such a level statistically that it is almost impossible to have finished 10th. They weren’t dominant, but they definitely should’ve found themselves in that 5 to 8 finals bracket.

Their two biggest problems were making the most of the opportunities their good play, both offensively and defensively, created, and losing games against “inferior” opposition. With Malthouse at the helm, it’s hard to see those inexplicably poor performances rearing their heads as often as they did in 2012. Finals will be the bare minimum expectation in 2013, and I’d expect internally they’d be disappointed if they didn’t snare a top four berth.  Waite’s health is critical to this. If he can stay on the park, then the Blues will give the top four a shake. If he can’t, then the 5 to 8 range is more likely. Recent history says you can’t rely on more than half a season from Waite, so with this in mind I think fifth or sixth is the most probable outcome for Carlton in 2013.

I will note though, since the 1995 season, at least one team that finishes in the top four failed to make the finals the year before in all but two years (2009, 2010). Last year Adelaide did it. This is a remarkable trend, and one that bodes well for the likes of Carlton. They are so clearly the early season favourites to continue this trend. It’s almost too obvious.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. They’re good at beating the Tigers in the Season Opener, that’s what they’re really good at. What’s going to be the call when they’re denied that flying start?

  2. Dave Nadel says:

    ” The only question here is one of motivation. Is Malthouse returning to coaching because Carlton is too good an opportunity to pass up, or is it more because he wants to stick it to Eddie? ”

    I don’t think it is either. All the great coaches in the last 50 years (i.e since Norm Smith) have won FOUR premierships – Barassi, Hafey, Jeans, Parkin, Sheedy and Matthews. Mick has won three. He should have won four – indeed he should have won more premierships at both West Coast and Collingwood. Mick is acutely aware of the history of the game and would clearly consider that he belongs in the same group as the six coaches that I have mentioned above. Had the Pies beaten the Cats in 2011 I think Mick would have retired happily. But he wants that fourth premiership and Carlton is his last chance.

  3. Neil Belford says:

    Chris Judd is sending exactly what message ??? Any ideas.

  4. Tony Robb says:

    Great stuff Adam. Agree with most analysis other than some few exclusions Carlton cannot win a flag with Garrett and Yarren Both exciting when things go well Both go missing when it gets tough On a brighter note The delisting of Brett Thornton is five years to late but at least it has finally happened
    Cheers
    TR

  5. Would I be right in assuming the Essendon analysis has been temporarily spiked (pun intended)…?

  6. “I suspect these small forwards typically lead toward the boundary…”

    Looks like Mick’s going to have an easy time implementing his game plan.

Leave a Comment

*