The Big Questions – 2024 Carlton Season Preview

I’m sure people have hit you with the jokes plenty of times over the past few months, right?

Yep, we finally smelled what the Blues were cooking, and the team they knew were “coming” for years on end finally arrived.

Personally, I thought they were pretty good slogans at the time, but as is the nature of Australians, when we see something that’s fun and good, we tear it down.

Alas, there were plenty of people upset as the Blues arrived and laid waste to a large section of the competition in the back half of the 2023 season, storming into the finals with a wave of momentum that took them to the penultimate game of the year.

Doing it once was great.

Staying up at that level, or doing it better year after year… that’s a different kettle of fish.

The Blues and their supporters would be confident heading into the new season. The last 12 games before the Preliminary Final saw them travel at 11-1, with the loss coming in a dead rubber last round of the season. En route to the finals, they knocked over the eventual premiers in style. This team is the real deal.

Yet, doubts about their capacity to do it all again still linger. Maybe it is the recent history haunting the team? Maybe it is people not wanting to believe in them? Or maybe… just maybe the Blues don’t care about whether others have doubts. Maybe they know what they’re capable of and are looking forward to rubbing it in people’s faces.

It’s kind of the Carlton way. The Carlton of old. The one people feared. The one people hated.

It’s that time of year, already.

The break after Christmas and New Year is over. The holidays are finished for AFL players, and the hard stuff starts now. Yes, the teams had been training for well over a month prior to Christmas, but as we head into 2024, the ante is upped and the intensity increases.

This is where premierships are won and lost. This is where improvements are made and lists come together. New faces, new colours, old heads with renewed passion… so much feeds into the making of a contender. And as the days tick down toward to the intra-club clashes, practice games, and eventually the real stuff, questions are raised about each team and how they’re going to perform in 2024.

We don’t do things by halves here, at The Mongrel Punt. When we do a season preview, we go all out to make sure it is the best, most comprehensive coverage you’ll receive. We pride ourselves on it. If you are going to read one season preview for your team, or any team, this series provides it.

The way it works is as follows.

Each club has a minimum of 15 questions asked about the upcoming season, their coaches, their players, and their expectations. The answers are not glossed over. We dive deep on each and every one – some singular answers would normally be long enough for an entire column. The first five questions/answers are free for you to consume. The next 10-14 for each club are for our members, including a special appearance from Mrs Mongrel to throw her two cents in the mix.

Isn’t it a bit early for a season preview? Well, I suppose, but do you know how long it takes to write seven thousand words? That’s 18 x 7,000… gets out the calculator… that’s 126,000 words. The average novel is about 85,000 words, so buckle the hell up with these previews.

Also, if there are any issues that arise after the publication of the preview, they will be covered in standalone articles to act as additions to this preview.

You will not read a deeper season preview than this – I guarantee it. This is where we start the run to the new season and believe me – nobody does it better than The Mongrel.




It’s a bit of a conundrum with Williams, as he has promised the earth and delivered an atlas since being recruited from the Giants.

Make no mistake, Williams was initially brought into the club to ease the pressure on Patrick Cripps in the middle. That plan was shelved during his first season when he presented in… less than ideal shape. He lasted a little while in the middle before the Blues saw what was happening and switched him to the position he occupied at half-back with GWS. He remained in that role until he ruptured his ACL in the preseason of 2023.

At 29 years old, time is starting to run a little thin on the career of Zac Williams, and as he approaches what is his fourth season in navy blue, we are looking at a player at the crossroads. Can he be a difference-maker? Or is he just another player on the list, now?

At this point in his career, the recruitment of Williams to Carlton has been a misfire. That’s not to say it cannot be turned around this season, or even next, but you get the feeling that the Blues need something out of Williams to give them a boost as they look to go a step further.

And the clock is ticking.

Supporters who are looking for a glimmer of hope in terms of what Williams can offer would likely have to look beyond his Carlton tenure to find it, and I reckon the temptation to procure his services was planted way back in the 2019 season.

With the Giants struggling in the midfield due to a rash of injuries, Williams made the move from half-back into the guts. In a seven-game period, Williams recorded ten clearances on two occasions and there was a genuine feeling that he had more to offer a team than just playing the role of a half-back flanker.

Sadly, after seeing that in his first game for the Blues (ten clearances), we haven’t seen it again since.

The midfield is looking a long shot now for the version of Williams we’ve seen at this club. Carlton have a powerful on-ball unit already working cohesively. Cripps, Cerra, Walsh, Hewett – it is a combination that works with and for each other, but the half-back line is also congested, with Saad, Docherty, Newman, and Marchbank all earning their places on a weekly basis.

Williams has gone from prized recruit with a guaranteed spot to a bloke with three years left to run on his deal, a point to prove, and plenty of competition in the position he plays his best footy.

Yes, this is a player at the crossroads of his AFL career. He has always had the potential to be a great player, and he has shown it in very short, sharp bursts, but the Blues need something more from him. Hell, he has another two years to run, following this one. Sooner rather than later would be great.



When the Blues re-signed Marc Pittonet for four years during the 2023 season, there was a feeling amongst footy fans that Carlton may have been covering some bases in case Tom De Koning decided to pack his bags and head down the highway to play with his brother.

I have to admit, I did wonder about it, myself.

However, with De Koning displaying maturity, and perhaps seeing where this Carlton team is heading, he re-signed with the club, himself, and will be with the Blues for two years, at least.

Of course, he then becomes a restricted free agent and will be at the peak of his powers, but that is a story for another time. Right now, the number one ruck spot in the Carlton team is up for grabs, and De Koning is no longer a skinny kid looking to make a mark – he is a legitimate contender to be the number one man at Carlton as early as this season.

What De Koning lacks in bulk (he is listed as just five kilograms lighter than Pittonet, but the eye test says a bit different), he makes up for in athleticism. He has been able to jump over opposition rucks when they permit him a run at the footy, and that, in itself, gives him an edge, as the opponents tend to try to block his path – a tactic umps were hot on in 2023).

Where Pittonet is a workhorse that will give you ten-or-so touches per game and add 25 hitouts, De Koning is capable of being much more. He has excellent hands, and can sneak forward to become a marking target, or drift to half-back as an interceptor without breaking too much of a sweat. Much more mobile than Pittonet, he is the hit-and-run ruckman, whilst Pittonet is the stand-and-fight one.

You can use both to great effect, but there can only ever be one number one ruck. One big bull in the paddock.

Last year, Pittonet was that bull, averaging 70% of centre bounces in games he played, whilst De Koning attended just 51%. I reckon that might start to move to about level this year as the Blues start to explore different looks in the middle.

The run and marking of De Koning? Or the size and strength of Pittonet?

Different strokes, different scenarios, and different combinations for both guys, but by the end of the 2024 season, I reckon TDK may be doing amazing things for the Carlton system.

And yes, that is definitely showing my age.



Haven’t I already rambles on about Jacob Weitering a month or so ago in a standalone article?

Yeah, but he deserves more.

That he has not been an All-Australian to this point of his career is a travesty. He was our 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, here at The Mongrel, and after an average 2022 (for him) was once again at the pointy end when it came to the most effective key defenders in the game in 2023.

To illustrate just how good Weitering was (without too much credit afforded him, of course) he achieved something in the finals series that has only been recorded six times prior.

In the Preliminary Final, Weitering recorded what we here at The Mongrel like to call the Defensive Triple-Double, where a player records double-figures in three of the main defensive statistical categories. He returned ten one-percenters, ten intercepts, and collected 11 rebound 50 disposals as the Blues leaned heavily on him, just as they have done for the past few years. He stood up, accepted the challenge, and recorded this output against one of the highest scoring teams in the league.

And yet, as the 2023 All-Australian team was announced two evenings later, he was not on the stage accepting his blazer. Again, overlooked.

Weitering has received the credit from inside the club; he took out the John Nicholls Medal twice – in 2020 and 2023, which probably means more to him than any external praise, but for supporters, things are a bit different.

We all want to see others recognise just what our great players mean to our team. Sure, people realise how good Weitering is when he shuts down their key forward, but given the lack of coverage the bloke gets, he may as well be the invisible man when it comes to the AFL Media.

Does this change in 2024?

I’d love to say it will, but we all know it won’t. Weitering is unassuming. If he worked in sales, you know you’d see his name at the top of the list when it came to closing sales, but you wouldn’t hear a word about it from him. He does what he is supposed to, does it at an exceptionally high level, and carries on like he has been there before, and he’ll be there again.

And he will be there in 2024, as the Blues make their challenge.

Pity the All-Australian selectors will likely bypass him in order to play with whatever new shiny toy drifts into their eyeline.



Blake Acres had his breakout season for Fremantle in 2022. At that stage of his career, it was almost as though you could see the penny drop for him as he took his game from that of a run-of-the-mill wingman to one that gave the best a run for their money.

At St Kilda, he always struck me as a bloke who ran three-quarter pace for most of the game. Maybe that was his running style – you know, those blokes who glide more than they run? However, once he hit that 2022 season, he was no longer gliding. You could see his repeat efforts and the results were evident. He was putting in the big ones and the Dockers fans loved it.

When he up and left Freo, it was one of the departures that hurt the club. A few of the others, I didn’t rate, but Acres left a gaping hole in that team, and added so much to the Blues in his first season.

He had an…. ‘eventful’ start to his Ikon Park tenure, when he dropped mark at half forward in the Round One draw against the Tigers. That possession, had he taken it cleanly, could have propelled the Blues to a win. Freo fans were laughing, but it would soon be Acres with a smile on his face.

As the year progressed, his importance to the Carlton team grew. He folded back into defence every week, often outpacing his direct opponent to take a relieving mark, or make a vital spoil. He was also involved in a couple of last-gasp wins for the Blues, as he ran the length of the ground to be involved.

Acres averaged a career-high 23.04 disposals per game at a time when he was unfamiliar with the game plan, his teammates, and the surroundings. It was the season of a professional player who now takes his footy seriously. What can 2024 provide?

Acres finished fourth in our 2023 Robbie Flower Wingman of the Year Award, behind Josh Daicos, Errol Gulden, and Nic Martin, but there is no reason he couldn’t win it in 2024. He has developed the tank to match the desire, and has given the Blues a reliable, hard-working soldier on the outside to complement the powerful Blues midfield.

A jump in disposals, up to about 25-26 per game would almost do the trick. It would likely see an increase, even a slight one, in his Inside 50 and Rebound 50 numbers, which are factors in the way the award is calculated on a weekly basis.

Blake Acres grew up in his last year at Fremantle, but in moving to Carlton and improving again, he demonstrated that he is a force to be reckoned with on the wing. If he can elevate just a little more, the Blues will become that little harder to stop.



It’s almost a little ridiculous that I am asking this question?

What do you do with him? What do you do with a proven goalkicker? What do you do with one of the best contested marking players in the game? What do you do with a Coleman Medallist?

You let him play his game, mate. That’s what you do!

Yeah, Harry struggled at points in 2024.

Yeah, Charlie Curnow has emerged as a superstar of the competition.

And yeah, maybe two bulls in the same paddock lock horns now and again, but it is the job of the coaching staff to work out how best to have these two working in tandem, and I reckon they’ll come to the same conclusion.

The forward fifty is the domain of Curnow at the moment. Back-to-back Coleman Medals gives him the right to own it, although his form in finals was a real cause for concern (three goals in three finals is NOT the return you want from the superstar forward of the team).

That leaves the role of lead-up forward for McKay, and whilst it might feel as though it is a demotion, this is a role that can be pivotal for the team.

Those who have read my work in the past would be familiar with the term ‘Get out of Jail’ mark. Back in 2022, against my better judgement, I decided to watch every game of the year to chart which players took these GooJ marks. I assessed them as being big marks down the line, only taken between the fifty metre arcs, and only on slow plays – not lace out passes, but big marks that opened the game up. McKay was a contender all season.

The beauty of a player that can regularly pull off these marks is that he breaks down the defensive zone. When a player takes one of these grabs, you can see the pieces move all over the field, particularly if you’re at the venue. Midfielders start to scramble back to protect their defensive 50. They are no longer trying to get a turnover and pump the footy back inside their own attacking 50 – they go into defensive mode. In effect, the person that can drag these types of marks in is a momentum changer,

And that is the role Harry McKay could excel in.

2023 was a year Harry would likely prefer to forget. He was not himself, lacked confidence, and it showed whenever he got within range of goal. His self-belief eroded, but he remains a colossus. He just needs to start looking in the mirror and realising it.

So, let’s assume McKay starts roaming a little further up the field. What does his year look like?

Whilst averaging two goals per game would be nice, playing further from the goal works against that. He averaged 1.38 in 2023. 1.5 would be nice on the proviso the following stat increases occur, as well.

I’d like to see Harry go +3 in disposals. Working further afield should present more opportunities to remain involved in live play. He averaged 11.76 in 2023, a career-high. He has another level to go to, here.

It’s contested marks that I want to see the big improvement.

McKay was ranked seventh in the league with 2.24 per game in 2023. Know who was number one? Your old mate, Charlie Curnow.

A Harry McKay that can start to get close to three contested grabs per game draws a huge crowd. If he draws a crowd, less players flood back. If less players flood back, Charlie has more room to operate.

And if Charlie Curnow has more room to operate, it spells bad news for the opposition.

Get Harry up and running, have him explore up to the wings, use him as the Get out of Jail option, and reap the rewards.

It’s not rocket surgery, is it?


And that concludes our free section of this season preview. The next five thousand-or-so words are for our members. I told ya, nobody dives in like us. You can join if you like?


As mentioned above, the first five questions are free – the next 14-15 are for our members. Yep, I believe my work is worth twenty-five cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine. You’re welcome to join and keep reading