A DECADE ago, Sam Docherty first ran out in his boyhood Navy Blue. 

In his opening few years, he struck up an on-field partnership with Bryce Gibbs, the experienced Carlton midfielder who not only took Docherty under his wing, but often the one who he’d swap roles with on game day.

Docherty was the apprentice back then — but now he’s the master to another Navy Blue No.4.

Thursday’s match simulation may be a sign of things to come in 2024 for Docherty, Ollie Hollands and the Carlton midfield. The second-year Blue was one of the team’s most impressive performers on the day, spending more time as an inside midfielder after he found a home on the wing in year one.


As Docherty told Carlton Media in the latest Friday Feature, it’s something which the duo have spent a large part of their summer dedicated to.

“I was flipping inside for 'Gibbsy' when I first got to Carlton, and now I’m flipping out to the wing so Ollie can get some time in there. It’s great,” Docherty said.

“The relationship with Ollie is something we’ve been building over the whole pre-season, being able to maximise his strengths with his run. It’s something we’ll definitely explore.

“As a club, we’ve got to figure out the best way to utilise him and grow his game. He’s a great kid, he loves learning and he loves getting to work — it’s been really fun working our way through what that relationship will look like throughout the year. 

“Where it lands, we’ll see. We had the first look at that against Geelong, and he played really well: hopefully that can continue on.”

It’s the latest chapter in Docherty very much becoming Carlton’s Mr. Fix It under Michael Voss. Long touted as a possible inside midfielder, even during the days of winning a John Nicholls Medal and All-Australian selection as a dashing half back, Docherty is now - officially - calling the midfield his home.

But that’s not to say he’s out of the equation in any area of the ground.

And for the veteran, he’s more than happy to keep it that way.

“The majority of my footy will be in the midfield this year, being able to give the team different looks from a structure point of view, that’s what we’re adding into our game.

“It’s good fun. It’s reinvigorated me towards the back end and providing some new challenges. I’ve enjoyed it: where that lands me, who knows, but it’s definitely testing my ability to wrap my head around a lot of runs and where to run and where to play.

“My role is filling the gap where’s needed, trying to use my experience wherever the Club needs me. Whether that’s inside, wing, half-forward or half-back, I’m not too fussed: I obviously played the majority of the game inside with a little bit of wing against the Cats.”


That versatility and flexibility in-game is something which Docherty expects to continue, not only throughout the pre-season, but also when the season proper rolls around. 

He does expect the magnets to continue to be switched around, particularly against Melbourne in next week’s AAMI Community Series clash as the final dress rehearsal before Carlton heads to the Gabba for Opening Round.

“There’s elements of experimenting, that happens in pre-season. I think there’ll be parts of that which we take into the season, there’ll also be parts which we might not like.

“These practice games, as much as you like to create a winning culture, you would’ve seen that half the time in the game there were no centre bounces and we were on the wing, practicing different stoppages and stuff. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes we’re working through in terms of how we set up and what’s our best fit.”