THE DIFFERENCE 12 months makes. The difference 12 weeks makes.

When Michael Voss sat down last year after his first season at Carlton, it was on the back of what he called a transformational year. The Blues could be buoyed by the progress made in his first year at the helm, even if they had an empty feeling of being knocked out of September action before they even made it there.

This time around, there was a different feeling about Carlton. At the midway mark, things looked dire — there was a “storm on the outside”, as Voss likes to put it. And then there was a nine-goal quarter, blue skies broke through and the only team old Carlton knows took a new generation for a ride they’ve never been on.

That brings us to this point. There’s a new narrative about the Blues come the end of 2023. It’s not ‘what might have been?’. It’s not ‘what were they doing?’. It’s not ‘will things turn?’. 

It’s now ‘what’s next?’.

Voss wants his players to hold onto that feeling. As he told them in his final team meeting before the off-season: “this year, it can’t be about the hurt, it’s got to be about the hunger”.

“For a long period of time, the Club’s had a lot of hurt,” Voss told Carlton Media.


“At the end of last year, we were talking about marginal gains — about 0.6 of a per cent, about one point. But to me, it was about the three games: that’s a much better thing to shoot for. We weren’t short by 0.6 of a per cent, we were short by three or four games.

“We went about this season, and we’re still short by two or three games. If we look at the home-and-away season and putting ourselves in the position we need to, rather than playing Brisbane in Brisbane, we’re playing that game at the MCG.

“There’s still work to be done, I’m quite realistic about that. And I’m not putting that forward because there’s hurt off the back of that, I’m putting it forward because the things we were able to do should help fuel us over the next period of time. It should give us something to shoot for.”

For the first time in a long time, Carlton fans would’ve been watching on Grand Final day and the thought would’ve come across their minds — ‘we could’ve been there’. It was a prospect that seemed a world away back in Round 13, and one which they dared to dream about after Charlie Curnow put the Blues five goals up in a preliminary final.

Voss himself doesn’t want to get drawn into that.

How the final seven quarters of the season panned out - the ones his team were involved in at the Gabba, and then between the Pies and Lions on the last Saturday in September - should serve as a reminder of what lies ahead for this team.

He utilises a saying that formed part of the internal message throughout the whole year — “start at zero”.

“The reality is preliminary finals can make you feel like you’re so close, but you’re still so far away. I don’t get too wrapped up in the emotional part of it — that’s where I flip my coach hat on pretty quickly.

“I’m really pleased that our players got to experience that feeling though, because there is a feeling that we are so close but still so far away. That’s where we’ll start again.

“If you don’t, if you don’t put in the hard work, somebody is ready to pass you. Nobody’s giving it to you.”


Voss does give himself the chance to reflect, of course. It’s not all about what’s to come.

More than most other years, the Blues allowed themselves to stop and smell the roses for brief moments in time, savouring their successes and enjoying themselves in the company of teammates. You just need to look at some of the scenes of Voss on the bench at the full-time siren to see what it meant to him.

Even if he concedes that him “carrying on like an idiot” made his kids embarrassed of him.

On the whole, it was the Club’s - not just the team’s - collective buy-in to be ’Stronger Together’ on the unthinkable journey to September that Voss singles out.

“I’m more proud of what we’ve become more than what we achieved. I feel like that’s been a significant thing,” Voss said.

“What we’ve become is a connected football club. We weren’t just a connected team, we’re a connected club. When you go through that transformation, you’re in a much better place.

“Why that’s important to us is because it’s part of our purpose. Acknowledging the fact that there’s a generation we want to impact, that’s the journey we’re on. 

“Those messages over that period of time may seem really small and insignificant, but they had a really big say on what we wanted to create and what we wanted to contribute towards. To those that sent messages, it’s a big thank you for us, because it really did kickstart a more intense focus of bringing the outside in and sharing their stories as well.”

So, after all that, that question comes up again — what’s next? After the self-doubt, self-reflection and self-belief, where does this team go?

A key part of Voss’ vernacular since he returned to senior coaching was about this team dictating its own journey. So much so that when he stood in front of the Club’s new players and staff at induction night in 2021, he brought with him ‘Out of the Blue’ — the history book of the Carlton Football Club. His message?

Write your own story.

What’s the next chapter for Michael Voss’ team?

“What we have done this year is we’ve put moments into that book. There’s no doubt that’s well and truly in there, on those pages. What our job is going to be is leaving the next part unwritten.

“There’s going to be a lot of conversations about where we’re going to finish and the expectations of us as a football team. Our job is to not forecast anything. Our job is to not expect anything.

“The next part is not easy. What I can say is we’re going to be working our backsides off to make sure we’re getting the best out of ourselves and giving ourselves the best chance.

“It’s to leave those pages unwritten for what’s coming next. We’ll start writing it when we start.”

Onto the next chapter.

For the full interview with Michael Voss, watch the video in the player above.