WITH the Christmas tree well and truly back in storage and New Year's resolution excuses already coming in strong, it can only mean one thing. 

Footy is just around the corner. 

Carlton will once again open the 2021 AFL season in its traditional game against the Tigers on Thursday March 18 at the MCG. 

With pre-season set to resume later this week, here's who you should be keeping an eye on in 2021. 

03:17 Mins
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Saad completes journey to Carlton

Adam Saad sat down with Carlton Media to discuss his future plans as a Blue.

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1. Adam Saad: 

One that probably goes unsaid, but the new Blue's arrival at Ikon Park brought with it unbridled levels of excitement. 

The 26-year-old joined the Blues during the 2020 AFL Trade Period and is set to use his breathtaking speed, elite ball-use and proven defensive brilliance to help Carlton's fast ball movement off the backline. 

Saad, who averaged 80 per cent disposal efficiency by foot and finished in the top 10 in the competition for metres gained in 2020 has been flagged as the ideal replacement for the retired Kade Simpson, with his game style likely to complement that of co-captain's Sam Docherty. 

With 109 games already under his belt, the Coburg native will bring valuable experience to the Blues' back half.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

05:20 Mins
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Highlights | Williams joins All of Us

Enjoy the best of new Blue, Zac Williams.

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2. Zac Williams: 

If you guessed that Saad was going to be on this list, you probably already knew that Zac Williams was also going to feature. 

Having joined the Blues through free agency, the dynamic Williams is set to use his poise, toughness and speed through both the midfield and out of defence. 

The 26-year-old has a proven ability to dominate across multiple positions, with his competitive hunger sure to see him add an extra element of excitement to the Carlton 22. 

Similar to Saad, Williams will bring over 100 games of experience to the Blues and be looking to reclaim his form from the 2019 season which saw him ranked number one at the Giants for metres gained. 

02:00 Mins
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2020 in review: Walsh on his stellar second season

Sam Walsh looks back on his award-winning 2020.

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3. Sam Walsh: 

There were no signs of second-year blues for Sam Walsh in 2020, as the young star took his game to another level. 

Heading into the season as the 2019 NAB AFL Rising Star and 2019 AFLPA Best First-Year Player, Walsh's 2020 season was under the spotlight from the football world to see if he could replicate his stunning form. 

Included in the leadership group in just his second season, Walsh did exactly that, playing every game and emerging as a genuine match-winner in the second half of the year. 

With more midfield experience under his belt, as well as a Mark of the Year award for the trophy cabinet, Blues fans should be excited to see where this young star takes his game next. 

02:33 Mins
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2020 in review: King's verdict on breakthrough year

Emerging tall Tom De Koning reflects on his 2020 season.

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4. Tom De Koning:

It was a player that Blues fans had been waiting to see take to the field and, it's fair to say, that the wait was worth it. 

After an unfortunate run with injury kept him waiting for nearly two years, De Koning was able to get some consistency in performance and selection, playing all of his seven games in the back-end of the season

The retirement of Matthew Kreuzer at the end of 2020 will only provide the 21-year-old with more chances to develop his talent and launch the new era of Carlton's ruck attack. 

01:08 Mins
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CR | Fish kicks four

Zac Fisher returned to the senior side in style with four goals against West Coast.

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5. Zac Fisher:

A persistent syndesmosis injury saw Zac Fisher spend much of 2020 on the sideline. 

However, when he did return in Round 11, the young Blue didn't miss a beat. 

Moving from his traditional role in the midfield, 'Fish' found his new home in Carlton's forward line kicking four goals in his first game back in Round 11. 

The 22-year-old's natural speed, evasiveness and slickness with ball in hand saw him quickly become an important member of Carlton's forward line and is something to keep a close eye on in 2021.