“IT MOTIVATES us to know that when we put on the jumper, we play for something bigger.”
“We’re pretty privileged here at the Carlton Football Club.”
When asked what it was like to receive a wave of Navy Blue support in 2023, the above were the respective responses of Adam Cerra and Jesse Motlop — and they weren’t alone.
Few could describe Carlton’s 2023 AFL campaign as anything but a rollercoaster, given the promise it held after an unbeaten first month, the despair of sitting in the bottom four at the midway mark and then an almighty rise that culminated in a preliminary final.
When things were tough, the Blues brought the outside in, finding a purpose in providing joy to a long-suffering fanbase and inspiring the next generation which turned up to Carlton games in incredible numbers. For just the second time in their history, Carlton’s average home attendance exceeded 50,000.
“There was a really important moment, getting some of the messages which we played back in team meetings this year . . . to those that sent those messages out, it’s a big thank you from us, because it really did kickstart a more intense focus of bringing the outside in and sharing their stories as well,” AFL Senior Coach Michael Voss said.
“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.”
It’s clear the impact was felt not only in the stands, but those running out on the ground every week.
Sam Walsh spoke of how the thousands of Bluebaggers who travelled to the Gabba created “a soccer atmosphere” that provides an edge in the biggest games. Captain Patrick Cripps believes it’s a two-way relationship, where fans can be proud of their team but also support in a manner which assists the team during the big moments, creating “the energy that helps us as well”.
Mitch McGovern said what they felt in 2023 will leave the team hungry for more.
“It’s more motivation. We’ve had a taste of it now, we know what it’s like, we know how the Bluebaggers get behind us — it’s definitely a driving force to get back.”
This year was Blake Acres’ first helping of the support of the Carlton faithful, and he may have received the two biggest cheers of the lot for his goals in the elimination and semi finals. While that passion inspired him, another element of the Carlton fanbase - embracing his nickname of ‘Sheriff’ - brings a smile to his face.
“The fans have gotten right behind it — it got a bit louder in the finals, chirping it a fair bit. I love it, it’s great for the fans and it gives me a bit of a giggle out there.”
One of the few players at IKON Park who had finals experience this year was Nic Newman, but even he concedes that his previous taste of September action couldn’t have prepared him for what was to come in his fifth season in Navy Blue.
“It was an amazing build-up, seeing the Carlton fans in the streets. I’ve never seen so many hats and scarves and so many people proud to be Carlton supporters. That was the cool part of it.”
For Jack Silvagni, who was a fan the last time the Blues were in finals in 2013 and was regrettably once again in the stands this time around due to injury, he’s certain that everything that happened in 2023 will love long in the memory for Bluebaggers everywhere.
“I know how the fans feel and how starved of success we were for a number of year . . . the first couple of weeks were some really close, hotly contested games, and games that footy fans - particularly Carlton fans - will remember for years to come.”