There were quite a few players primed for huge 2020 seasons. A summer spent running and refining their game was railroaded by a virus that threatened so much more than just an AFL season.

However, with the green light for the competition to restart, we’re starting to get the feeling that this damn thing just might be salvageable. Hell, if you’re asking me, I think a 17-game season is more than enough in-season time to crown a premier… though I am not a fan of shortening games for faster recovery, particularly as it now seems as though cramming games in at a quicker rate won’t be necessary.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the movement to move the Grand Final to a night game. What’s that old saying about never letting a crisis go to waste? I wonder whether this underhanded chicanery will come back to bit the AFL of its backside at some point this season…

Anyway, we like to be more of a positive site when it comes to footy. No wild conspiracy theories or scuttlebutt here (as long as readership doesn’t completely tank). We prefer to focus on the game itself, and what players can and will bring to the table.

This week, I am looking at a player from each club with a point to prove. The reasons may vary, but make no mistake, the resumption of the 2020 season is just what the doctor ordered for these blokes.

Whether they’ve been written off, suffered a humbling defeat, are coming back from injury, or are having one last crack at things before hanging the boots up, these are the fellas with a point to prove for the remainder of this season.

Let’s move onto the Blues. They’ve got quite a few with a bit to prove.

 

MITCH MCGOVERN

Some of you know I am a Beatles fan – who isn’t right? In one of their songs we get the classic Lennon-McCartney team of pessimism v optimism coming to the fore.

McCartney sings “You have to admit it’s getting better, better all the time.”

And Lennon chimes in with “It can’t get no worse.”

And it is here that we pick up on Mitch McGovern after a shocking 2019 season that commenced with back fractures in the pre-season and ended with career lows in disposals and marks. He was brought into the fold to provide a strong marking target up forward and instead offered very little other than a lack of fitness and a penchant for being where the football wasn’t.

But he’ll be better in 2020, right? Surely Lennon was right? He can’t get no worse, can he?

I’m not sure how Carlton fans felt watching Gov in Round One. He looked trimmer, which has to bode well, but he failed in providing a target up forward, gathering just seven touches and taking four grabs. With both Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay on the sidelines, this was a huge chance for McGovern to put the woes of 2019 behind him.

But there they were again.

Carlton did not get McGovern cheaply. He is on the sort of money I wish I was and he is yet to produce anything like the form that kind of payday warrants. He showed flashes of potential in Adelaide, but he was never asked to carry the load that he is at Carlton. Playing alongside Tex Walker, Tom Lynch, Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins, Gov was the fourth or fifth wheel in the forward set up. At Carlton, more is expected.

And it is up to McGovern in 2020 to start delivering.

So, what would be his pass mark by the end of the season?

An improvement on last year is a given, but how much can we realistically expect? Is a goal and a half per game too much to ask? He won’t be starved of opportunity up there, particularly with Charlie C gone for the year.

One of McGovern’s strengths is his ability to pluck grabs, right? What if I told you he’d taken double figure marks just once in his career? His career-high is 6.5 marks per game and the Blues desperately need that kind of return from him this season.

Carlton has a lot of improvement in them, but does McGovern? This will be the season that makes him or breaks him as a player.

 

PADDY DOW

At just 20 years old, it is probably a little unfair to have high expectations of Paddy Dow at this stage of his career, yet as a number three overall draft selection, the Blues must be pegging some hopes of drastic improvement on the young man wearing the number two guernsey.

I thought he was pretty solid in his rookie campaign, notching 14.20 touches per game and working his way into the Carlton side nicely, playing 20 games. But in 2019, the improvement was minimal, with some stating they’d thought he’d regressed a little. That is a little worrying.

As an outside player, his 64% efficiency was a real worry in 2019 and his start to 2020 (seven disposals at 57% efficiency is not the set of numbers Blues fans would be writing home about.

I suppose it hits home as to his ceiling when the kid drafted the very next season burst out of the blocks to deliver one of the more impressive first years in recent memory. The emergence of Sam Walsh as a future champion of the game in 2019 could work two ways for Dow.

He either feels the pressure to step into the support role for Patrick Cripps subside, with Walsh taking the heat, or he starts to feel the pressure from having a player leap past him in the pecking order, and not just by a little bit.

2020 will see some questions asked of Paddy Dow. Others from his draft have already started to make good on their potential – Jaidyn Stephenson, Aaron Naughton, Liam Ryan and James Worpel have all made significant strides, whilst Dow is still taking comparative baby-steps. And I am not mentioning Tim Kelly in terms of that draft due to his age.

Targets for Dow?

He has two seasons averaging 14 touches per game. That should move up to around 17-18 per game this season if we’re being serious, but more than that, I want to start seeing him hit targets. 70% efficiency is the minimum number for someone who gets over half his footy on the outside.

 

MATTHEW KENNEDY

I’m still not sure what Matt Kennedy is. A slow midfielder? A relatively effective half forward? Where is his best footy played? And what constitutes his “best footy” in this Carlton team?

I feel as though this could come across harshly, as I know he really struggled with an ankle injury in 2018, but last season I was waiting for Kennedy to put his hand up as a viable support to Patrick Cripps, and it just didn’t happen.

Under Bolton, Kennedy looked lost. Under Teague, he was moved forward and had a couple of nice outings where his strong body and good hands resulted in scoreboard impact. His four goals against Gold Coast may have been the light bulb moment for him in terms of his future with the club, but as someone so highly touted – he is a number 13 overall pick – am I wrong to be expecting a little more by now?

He is one player I am a little lost on setting a target for, as I am not sure what role he will play in 2020 for the Blues. I’d like to see him sitting on a half-forward flank and using some bullying tactics inside forward 50 to establish himself as a dangerous option. If that is the case, a goal per game, and a couple of tackles inside 50 per contest would be more than enough to satisfy me… and that is a little bit sad, because there was a time when I expected much more.

 

MEMBERS – The Top 25 Players Of The Last Five Years

 

HARRY MCKAY

So big Harry looked great to start 2019, jumping out of the blocks to drag down 25 contested grabs in the first six weeks of the season. For the mathmagicians out there, that’s 4.16 contested grabs per game.

Now, for context, Tom Lynch led the league in contested grabs last season with 56. His average? 2.24 per game. Others had higher averages, but the best average was Matt Taberner with 2.67.

Harry McKay has the potential to leave them in his dust, and what a boon this would be to the Blues to have their big forward taking control of the air inside 50. Of course, he’d then have to convert, which provides issues in and of itself.

McKay started the season on the injury list and should be right to go by the time the season kicks back into gear, but can he function well as the number one option up forward with Charlie Curnow out for the year?

He didn’t seem to have much of an issue with it in 2019, with his best performance coming in the Blues’ first win of the season. McKay kicked four goals and clunked five contested grabs as the Blues ran over the Dogs, and he did it with Curnow on the sidelines.

It is that sort of potential that should get the Blues excited.

Pass marks?

It’s a lofty target, but three contested grabs per game is something McKay should be able to reach. He has beautiful hands and doesn’t allow contact to faze him in the contest. His goal kicking is an issue, but if he is playing deep, is two goals per game beyond him? How about 1.8 per game?

And no, I don’t mean one goal and eight misses, although from what I saw in 2019, that’s not off the table either.

 

SAM DOCHERTY

For the record, I am a knee operation veteran, myself, so I am really pulling for Doc to get out there and get a complete season… as much as this is a complete season, under his belt.

I know the trepidation with every sudden change of direction, and the lump in the throat that forms when you’re dragged down in a tackle… it takes a long while to get confidence in your body again, and Doc has had it way worse than I did.

We saw some great signs in Round One, with the Blues reverting to the “get the ball to Doc” game plan as their preferred exit from defensive 50. He had nine Rebound 50s in his comeback game, and notched 26 touches as well. Importantly, he pulled up well, and would have elicited a sigh of relief once the game was over.

Docherty showed plenty on return, and it may be a little bit of a stretch to state that he could return to his All-Australian form so quickly, but a conservative estimate of making the AA squad of 40 may be a little more realistic. What do you think?

The bloke knows footy, and he is now able to work with some players that are able to get the job done at a high level. Cripps, Murphy, Walsh, Weitering, McKay… things are not the doom and gloom forecast they were when he last pulled on the navy blue, and having a weapon like Docherty to deploy on your half back line must make David Teague smile.

22 touches per game at over 75% efficiency are the sort of numbers that’d make Carlton fans ecstatic. And all 17 games played.

 

JACOB WEITERING

Weitering’s time is now.

Over the last couple of seasons, I have watched the boy become a man, and in the opening game of the 2020 season, we saw him up for the challenge of playing on one of the most dangerous forwards in the game – Tom Lynch, and we saw him take the Tiger to school.

Many have predicted that Lynch will go onto win this season’s Coleman Medal, but against Weitering, he was futile.

Here are his half time stats – Zero marks. Zero goals.

The Tigers were buoyed by Jack Riewoldt, and it was lucky for them, as Weitering owned his duel with Lynch, pulling in eight intercepts and making ten big spoils. He was the number one ranked player in our weekly defensive rankings – oh yeah, we’ve got them coming back for members. Here’s the link if you want to jump on board early.

 

An All-Australian nod is in Weitering’s future, but a realistic goal is to first make the squad of 40, and I think he has the capacity to do just that this year. In a 17-game season, he has already made the big first step. 16 more to go, and 16 more victims.

 

EDDIE BETTS

I’ll admit right now that I was not a fan of the statistics of Eddie in 2019. I thought he got a heap of cheap goals and had a bit of flat-track bully about him.

He has the chance to turn that around as part of the Eddie Betts retirement tour.

Betts opted to go back to Carlton over relocating to the Gold Coast, and still has the ability to be a solid contributor to the Blues up forward. Given that Michael Gibbons was Carlton’s best small forward option in 2019, a short term tenure for Eddie is a significant upgrade at the position.

But does he have enough left in the tank to get the better of the best small defenders in the game?

Eddie kicked 37 goals in 2019 – it would have been enough to lock him in as Carlton’s leading goal kicker. Anywhere near that kind of output in 2020 would be absolutely outstanding, but I think 30 goals is a realistic option for the old fella.

He’s got 16 games to get there, given he missed Round One, he needs 1.87 goals per game to make it. And I want to see them come when they’re having an impact on the game – a few less goals when the result is a foregone conclusion won’t hurt his reputation, but a few more in close contests will enhance it.

 

LEVI CASBOULT

I’ve mentioned Charlie Curnow going out a couple of times… and it gets an entire section of its own below, but how this impacts the role of Levi Casboult will be a point of interest in 2020.

Casboult was used primarily as a defender in games last season, and was quite bloody good in the role! Without the pressure of having to take grabs and kick goals, he was able to run in straight lines and attack the contest almost unimpeded. The result made big Levi look like a million bucks!

He recorded 10+ spoils on four occasions last season, but with Curnow a no-show in the forward line, will Levi be asked to move closer to goal again? He kicked two in the opener, but if McKay can get back, and McGovern can pull his finger out, having Casboult attack the long ball across half-back makes for a handy option.

 

LIAM STOCKER

Forever known as the man at the centre of one of the more interesting trades in the history of the league, it might be a while before Stocker makes Carlton either the winners or losers of the trade that saw them trade away/swap their future first-rounder to get their hands on him.

Complicating matters further, the Crows then on-traded that pick to GWS, who drafted Lachie Ash before anyone could bid on Tom Green, allowing them yet another two stars in the making on their list. They know how to build a list in Greater Western Sydney, huh?

So, do we end up weighing up who won the trade by seeing whether Stocker, Ash, or the Crows eventual pick (pick six), Fischer McAsey turns out the best? Or is it all a little too hard and we should just forget about it? Personally, I like Ash.

With five games in 2019, Stocker cut his teeth by averaging 13.6 touches per game and looked impressive at points.

Normally, he would be a name that flew under the radar, but that trade really put his name out there – the Blues liked what they saw and swooped. Now the young fella should start to deliver.

13-14 games and around 15 touches per game would be just what the doctor ordered to help aid his development, and it’d be nice if he could play in a win sooner rather than later, starting his career 0-5 for the Blues.

 

CHARLIE CURNOW

Yep, the bloke out for the season has a bit of work to do.

Curnow has had four knee mishaps in the past year and three of them have happened away from the footy field. So how does he have a point to prove? I reckon if you don’t think he has, you’re an apologist.

He has an obligation to get himself right for 2021 now and should return for pre-season in the absolute best shape of his life. He injured that knee playing basketball, falling over at home which I always find absolutely dubious, and lifting weights as part of his rehab.

He needs to get serious, get healthy and get back to the club for the 2020 season with zero health issues for them to worry about. This season had the potential to be a wasted year for everyone. It turns out it is just a wasted year for Charlie Curnow at this point, and it is a damn shame to see that kind of talent go to waste.

I’m not a Carlton supporter, and if I am disappointed, I can only imagine how they must feel.

 

JACK MARTIN

He may have already made a bit of a point, with a blistering third quarter blast against the Tigers in Round One that dragged the Blues back into the contest, but word from the Gold Coast is that Jack Martin loves the start of seasons, and then he tapers off as the season drags on.

It’s up to him to refute those claims via the way he plays the game.

It’s no secret that Martin checked out of the Gold Coast season last year, and had one foot out the door of the place for the second half of the year. He averages 20.4 touches over the first ten games and came home with 14.33 over the last six games.

Now at Carlton, the challenge for Martin is not to go out and boot four goals in a quarter in match winning performances every week… although I am sure Carlton supporters would love that. The challenge is to maintain a high level of performance in every aspect for the entirety of the season.

If at any time you’re described as someone who checked out, the emphasis is on you to disprove it, and Jack Martin has that in front of him at Carlton this season, particularly if the Blues struggle at any stage. It’s then that he needs to be at his best.

 

SOME OTHERS

There are a few others I’ll be watching with interest. I am not at all sold on Cam Polson, Lochie O’Brien (I know he’s 20) or Will Setterfield as yet. Setterfield, in particular, is a former number five overall pick, but after a knee injury, is yet to demonstrate that he’ll be as good as Blues fans hope he will.

Organic improvement is the key to any club. Big signings are great, but it is when three or four kids become men that it makes a huge difference. That’s where the Blues are with these three. Maybe throw Tom Williamson in the mix as well. If two of them jump out of the box, the Blues will be so much better off. If none of them do… well, it is hard to carry four blokes in a developing side.

Jack Silvagni would be my one other one. He shows flashes here and there and had a few very solid outings last season, but where is his best position? From the outside looking in, and as someone who watches about 60% of the Blues’ games, it’s a genuine question – I don’t know.

Is he the mid-sized forward the Blues need? Could he play the role of tagger, allowing Ed Curnow more freedom? Curnow is an underrated ball winner, and is often underrated by the AFL media. I’m sure he’d relish some freedom. How about half-back? Wing?

Silvagni reminds me of a Bangladeshi all-rounder. Good for 20-30 runs and might pinch a wicket here or there, but he is not going to make a ton and win the game, or claim a five-wicket haul. Particularly against a really good side. He seems a Jack of all trades, and sadly, a master of none.

 

The Blues will be able to spend the first four weeks of the restart in Victoria, with a trip to Kardinia Park the only travel required. Still, heading there is no picnic. We will find out a lot about this team by the time this section of the fixture is completed. With a loss already under their belts, the Blue are probably looking at a best-case scenario of 2-3. Much of bettering that expectation relies on the players mentioned above taking the bit between their teeth and making 2020 their year.

 

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