AFL Finals: Carlton team preview

7 September 2011

Written by: GIULIO DI GIORGIO

Home and Away review

The Blues finished the home-and-away season in fifth position on the ladder with 14 wins, seven losses and a draw. Carlton attracted its fair share of criticism throughout the season, mainly for failing to beat this year’s top-four sides: Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn and West Coast.

Overall, however, the Blues have finished the regular season on par with where they’re at in their development. And after the disappointment of being knocked out in the first week of the finals in consecutive years, Carlton will be hoping to turn around its fortunes this week against arch-enemy Essendon.

Key finals player

Michael Jamison

The key defender sustained a knee injury in the side’s Round 14 clash against the West Coast Eagles in June. He subsequently underwent surgery for a torn meniscus, and was sidelined for well over a month.

After being recalled for the clash against Hawthorn in Round 22, Jamison was sent back to the Blues’ VFL affiliate club, the Northern Bullants,  to regain form and fitness. The 25-year-old played a half on Casey Scorpions full-forward – and former Carlton player – Brendan Fevola.

Jamison is integral to the Blues’ back line due to their lack of tall defensive options, and if fit to play, will complement defenders Nick DuiganJeremy Laidler and veteran Heath Scotland – all of whom have had great seasons.

Jamison was a late withdrawal against the Saints last weekend, but the club insists the full-back will be fit and ready for this week’s all-important elimination final.

Why Carlton can win

Should the Blues overcome Essendon this week, their next opponent will be the loser of the Collingwood-West Coast clash. Carlton-Collingwood matches are always hard-fought battles, while the Blues won’t mind travelling over to Perth either.

They generally play well at Patersons Stadium, and Brett Ratten’s men are accustomed to larger grounds which tend to suit their style of play – counter attacking moves, quick transitions, forward thrusts from the back line and attacking ball movement into an open forward line with small forward allies Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett.

The odds are against the Blues, but they should be able to cause some major damage in September, so write them off at your peril.

Why Carlton can’t win

A top-four finish would’ve been ideal for Carlton, especially with the bonus of a double chance.

History suggests that teams who finish outside the top-four don’t progress too far in the finals. In fact, since the introduction of the eight-team finals series in 1994, only one team – Adelaide – has won the flag after finishing the regular season outside the top-four. So history is against the fifth-placed Blues in that regard.

There’s also a mountain of pressure from club officials and supporters to win a final. Carlton has previously bowed out in the first week of the finals after being eliminated by the Brisbane Lions in 2009 and the Sydney Swans last year respectively.

In February this year, Carlton president Stephen Kernahan was quoted as saying the Blues must ‘get to the second week of the finals’.

Carlton will be hoping to win its first final since 2001, when they beat the Adelaide Crows in an elimination final at the MCG.

So there are enormous expectations and old stigmas attached with the Blues – something they must overcome.

Best possible result

After two failed attempts in the past two years, it’s time for the Blues to win their first final in a decade, starting this Sunday in the elimination final against Essendon. They’ve met the Bombers twice this season – their Round 4 clash finished in a pulsating draw, while the Blues annihilated the Dons in their most recent encounter in Round 18 by 74 points.

Carlton will face Essendon this Sunday from 2.40pm at the MCG.

Check out the rest of upstart’s AFL team previews here.

Giulio Di Giorgio is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is part of upstart’s editorial team. You can follow him on Twitter: @gdigiorgio