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Bolton preaches patience with Stocker

Squad selection | JLT 2 View the squad for Monday's JLT Community Series match against COllingwood

CARLTON is adamant it will not rush draftee Liam Stocker's development this season, despite the high price paid for the Sandringham Dragons prospect at the NAB AFL Draft.

Stocker's involvement in the landmark live trade between Carlton and Adelaide last November has led to increased intrigue surrounding his progress, but the Blues are determined to not allow the deal to define his maiden season at Ikon Park.

Stocker is currently learning the ropes as a defender, with Carlton coach Brendon Bolton saying the club will take a patient approach with the youngster's growth and not fast-track his rise into the senior team early in the upcoming season.

When asked by AFL.com.au whether Stocker would play any senior footy in 2019, Bolton replied: "I won't categorically say yes or no. It will be an earned right." 

Stocker won the Morrish Medal for the TAC Cup's best player last season, leading to Carlton conducting a live trade on draft night to recruit him to the club.

 

As part of the deal, Carlton and Adelaide swapped their 2019 first-round draft picks for the Blues to move up the order and land Stocker with pick No.19.

Bolton supported the strategy and played down concerns of the trade following Stocker throughout his first year with the club.

"Our recruiting team, we back in where we see players fit," he said.

"We saw Stocker in that top group and we selected him accordingly. Whatever happens in and around that, it's just a story and it's all part of the game.

"The interest in it is great, because that's what live trading is about. It's great for the AFL itself, but for us it's not a distraction."

Stocker revealed after last year's draft that Richmond had challenged him about his lack of endurance in a "confronting" interview with the club, later describing his running as his biggest weakness.

It led to him training with Fremantle midfielder and former Sandringham Dragons teammate Andrew Brayshaw throughout October and November in an effort to improve his fitness base ahead of his first AFL pre-season.

Liam Stocker in action at training. (Photo: Carlton Media)

He has still spent several training sessions away from Carlton's main group on either side of Christmas, working on his aerobic capacity, before lining up for the Northern Blues in a VFL practice match against Port Melbourne last Thursday.

"His engine is still developing," Bolton said.

"I wouldn't compare him exactly to Cam Rayner, but if you look at Rayner over the weekend – he kicked a few goals and in congestion he looks a really powerful player.

"Stocker is the same in terms of his power and his kick. He's just coming to terms with the way you defend as a group."

Stocker played predominantly as an inside midfielder throughout his draft year, averaging 22 disposals, 13 contested possessions and five clearances per game in the TAC Cup.

But it's down back where Carlton expects him to play throughout the formative years of his senior career, which is likely to begin in the VFL with the Northern Blues.

"He's working incredibly hard," Bolton said.

"We've been training him down back in the VFL at the moment, but he's learning team defence. The under-18s don't often play that way and it takes a little bit of time to come to terms with it.

"But he's got a really powerful kick and he's really physical in the contest. Those two ingredients we like, but now he's just learning team defence."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs