“WE BELIEVE in Tom.”
With Matthew Kreuzer sidelined through injury, you would be tempted to believe Carlton is at a disadvantage without its veteran ruckman at the centre bounce.
But with third-year Blue Tom De Koning making his first appearance since 2018 alongside fellow big man Marc Pittonet, the Blues’ ruck depth is beginning to reveal itself.
Senior Coach David Teague reflected on the youngster’s impact following Carlton’s hard-fought loss to West Coast at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
“He competed quite well, his ruck and his follow up: we believe in Tom greatly,” Teague said.
“Ruckmen don’t often hit their straps until 24, and we can see what ‘Pitto’ is doing this year.
“We’re really excited and what we’ve loved is the way he’s going about it: the way he’s training, the way he’s preparing for games and if he keeps doing that, he’s going to be a very good footballer for this club.”
Pittonet and De Koning proved a respectable duo against Eagles star Nic Naitanui, with Pittonet racking up 17 hitouts in limited game time while De Koning finished with 11.
Both big men showed strong follow-up at ground level, finishing the day with three tackles each.
“The second half we wanted it kind of 50/50, particularly at centre bounces,” he said.
“Tom’s got a good leap on him so we probably were looking at that and around the contest, Pittonet is probably a little bit stronger but I thought it was more his follow up [that stood out].”
“He competed in the air but then he followed up and he gave us a presence on ground level as well.”
Another key Blue to garner praise from the Senior Coach was returning Blue Zac Fisher, playing his first game since Round 1 against the Eagles.
Like De Koning, Fisher was a valuable inclusion to the side, assuming a small forward role to finish with four goals.
Predominantly a midfielder by trade, Teague said it was a recent shift to embracing the small forward craft that made yesterday possible.
“Zac’s played some midfield football for us. We put it to him that we wanted him to become a small forward,” he said.
“His tackling pressure and he hit the scoreboard, [small forwards] won’t do that every week but when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it.
“If he keeps bringing that effort every week and pressure every week, I think he’s going to be a very good small forward for us and who knows, down the track he might go back into the midfield.”