WHEN Caleb Marchbank heard it was more or less ‘defenders week’ on Carlton Media channels, his response was a cheerful one.
“It’s about time we get some recognition, thoroughly deserved. What do you want to know?”
The big question surrounding Carlton - and, in particular, its defence - is how the team is going to cope without Jacob Weitering.
Marchbank doesn’t undersell the impact that Weitering has had on the Blues’ defensive unit in recent years. In his own words, not having the ever-dependable Weitering out there - even in pre-season training - has been “a new experience for us”.
But it's been well established that this Carlton side is all about focusing on the sum, rather than just the parts.
Report card SZN 📝— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) February 8, 2024
Get the latest on how some of our defenders are tracking this summer, courtesy of assistant coach Aaron Hamill.
Marchbank and his fellow backline Blues are looking at it as an opportunity, as they have so often done under Michael Voss in recent seasons.
“It’s something that I think presents an opportunity for us to stand up, for people to take the opportunity and increase their leadership on and off the field,” Marchbank told Carlton Media in the latest Friday Feature.
“There’s an opportunity to look to other people to lead and to drive our standards. Nic Newman has stepped up, Mitch McGovern and Lewis Young have impressed.
“The messages are much the same as last year, in terms of focusing on the team defence and how we can help either our fellow backmen, our mids or our forwards. For us, it’s about the connection and communication, that’s been a real focus point.”
It’s not just in Weitering’s absence which has a bevy of Blues keen to step up.
It’s been a constant feature of Carlton’s summer so far that players are driving the discussions themselves out on the track, gathering and debriefing even prior to a coach’s input. In Marchbank’s eyes, it was a process which started in the middle of last year, at a well-publicised gathering at the house of a recently retired and beloved Blue.
“We obviously had that camp which was player-driven and player-led, and it’s a growth that has continued on from last year. Guys like ‘Crippa’, ‘Walshy’, ‘Weiters’ and ‘Doc’, they’ve driven a high standard for us to chase.
“We know what we need to do to achieve the things we want to, and it starts with us. The ability for us to come in before training and not have the coaches need to tell us what to do or the standards we need to set, it’s a huge focus point.
“It’s made training a better standard from our side of things, which is exciting for us.”
That collaboration extends far beyond just the training track.
As was best demonstrated in the late stages of the 2023 campaign, the Blues were at their best when all forces came together — players, coaches, staff and - crucially - supporters.
And just like how a lot of this pre-season has been about doubling down on things from a football standpoint, Marchbank said that was going to extend off the field as well.
“We certainly couldn’t do it without the fans. We know they’re a loyal and passionate bunch, and they certainly ride the bumps with us — as we saw last year.
“It’s on the back of ‘Vossy’, the coaching staff and the entire footy department. The Club’s culture of embracing everyone and making sure we take them on the journey with us, we can’t get to where we want to go without them.
“Through my hard times, I’ve always had people in my corner. For them to stay loyal and in my corner, it’s been huge: there’s certainly been some tough periods, so fingers crossed it leads to more time out on the park. We’ll go from there.”