With just six weeks remaining until its AFL season opener with Richmond on the MCG, Carlton’s senior list is well and truly intact (touchwood), with only a handful of players subjected to injury-interrupted pre-seasons, the most prominent of them Matthew Kreuzer.
Little wonder Carlton’s Head of Football Andrew McKay is upbeat about the players’ prospects for 2015, in the lead-up to Friday afternoon’s intra-club match at Ikon Park and Friday week’s follow-up Nab Challenge twilight game against West Coast at Mandurah.
“Generally the pre-season’s gone very well . . . it’s been pretty much uninterrupted,” McKay said.
“Obviously we went to Arizona the year before and this year we went to Mt Buller for the camp in late January, so November and December was training uninterrupted at Ikon Park. We have had good numbers at training which has allowed us to complete a lot of the full ground training drills which helps enormously, and we’ve been able to carry that into January.”
Whereas 23 Carlton senior players were subjected to post-season surgeries in the corresponding period last year, you can count the 2014 post-season surgeries on one mitt – “so generally the pre-season’s been pretty good and it needs to be because we have to improve”.
Asked to nominate Carlton’s pre-season eyecatchers, McKay swiftly volunteered the names of Nick Graham, Patrick Cripps, Zach Tuohy, Dale Thomas, Chris Judd, Matt Kreuzer (before suffering a hairline fracture of the fifth metatarsal) and the club’s international rookie Ciaran Byrne.
“We have a ‘Trainer of the Week Award’, which incorporates everything that happens on the track, as well as weights and the like, and each one of those boys have won the award at various stages of the pre-season,” McKay said.
Which begs the question. Will the club declare a ‘Trainer of the Year’, and if so, who would ‘Macca’ be pitching for?
“Maybe there should be such an award,” came the reply, “and if I had to nominate a winner now it’d probably be Ciaran Byrne because he’s shown so much upside having started from so far back.”
Macca’s player pre-season critique by guernsey number, 1-10
Andrew Walker - “We’re managing his knee problem right now and while we had to decrease his workload, we’re very confident he’ll play Round One.”
Troy Menzel – “Troy has had a pretty consistent pre-season. He rolled an ankle at the time of the Buller Camp about a month ago, but it only kept him on the sidelines for a week, but he’s fine and back in full training. He’s a real talent, a player we’d like to see go through the midfield at some stage.”
Marc Murphy – “Marc’s been tracking well. His pre-season’s been solid.”
Bryce Gibbs – “As with ‘Marc, Bryce has been training well. The new responsibility that comes with the vice-captaincy has been great for him.”
Bryce Gibbs and Marc Murphy have both had solid pre-seasons. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)
Chris Judd – “With Chris getting older we’re managing him closely, so he didn’t have a huge pre-season in November and he had a couple of weeks off in December. He’s been training pretty well full-on since January, he’s had an extra day off through the week, and he’s feeling good. He seems to be really enjoying his football at the moment”
Kade Simpson – “Kade hurt an ankle just prior to the training camp at Mt Buller which set him back a week or two, but he’ll play the last couple of NAB Challenge games and will be right for Round One.”
Dylan Buckley – “Dylan’s been a consistent performer throughout the whole pre-season. He’s been training well. He’s right on track, he looked quite exciting last year / running off half-back and we’re looking forward to seeing some real improvement in ‘Dyl’.”
Matthew Kreuzer – “As has been well-documented, Matthew faces 4-6 weeks in a moonboot, then will build up to play early in the season.”
Patrick Cripps – “Another consistent performer through the pre-season and one of the real standouts on the training track. Paddy’s timing wasn’t great last year. He got some good games into him at AFL then got tired given that it was his first season. He then went back to the VFL and broke his leg in the first game. That really put him behind the eight-ball and he really couldn’t crack it for another senior game, but we all look forward to seeing him play a lot more senior games this year.”
Matthew Watson – “A very durable player whose pre-season has been uninterrupted. He finished off last season playing up forward, but he’ll be tried at both ends through the pre-season and we’ll see how he goes.”