Carlton Blues list build, long-term contract extensions, trades, free agents, analysis, latest

It’s been a slow burn for Blues fans after witnessing a lengthy rebuild — and some of the club’s darkest days.

But the long 10-year wait to return to the finals stage would’ve all felt worth it for moments like last weekend in a famous semi-final win over Melbourne, to now ultimately, be back in flag contention and an AFL powerhouse once more.

That long road back — that saw the club load up on top-end draft picks — has gone hand-in-hand with a host of other important list calls, particularly in recent years in culminating with the club’s rise back up the ladder.

Watch every match of the 2023 Toyota AFL Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo Sports. Join now and start streaming instantly >

Perhaps more importantly than anything has been a retention spree of key stars on long-term deals — which is half the battle — in reflecting the club has formed an environment where people wanted to be.

In the last three and a half years, the club has consolidated that.

The first key signature secured late in the 2020 season was Jacob Weitering, who signed a four-year extension until 2025.

The following year, skipper Patrick Cripps turned his back on the pull to return to Western Australia to sign a monster six-year extension until 2027.

Cripps celebrates after the semi-final win (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)Source: FOX SPORTS

That felt like a critical juncture given how starved of success Cripps had been.

Then in 2022, the Blues locked away maybe their most talented player since Chris Judd, with Sam Walsh re-signing on a four-year extension until 2026.

It came after Patrick Dangerfield declared at the time he’d offer Walsh a 10-year, $10 million deal to lure him to the Cattery.

Walsh has elevated his status over the last fortnight with two monster finals performances, playing more of an inside-outside game to average 31 disposals, 13.5 contested possessions, 18.5 uncontested possessions, 510 metres gained and seven tackles.

“We know he’s a star of the game. But he’s a younger player and hasn’t had an opportunity in finals … he’s just been incredible,” Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown said of Walsh on Fox Footy’s On the Couch.

“His first two finals games … you have players with opportunities to elevate themselves, and he’s done this no doubt about it.”

Demons legend Garry Lyon believes Walsh and Giants star Tom Green have gone past Port Adelaide duo Connor Rozee and Zak Butter as big-game players.

“I know that’s harsh and you think it’s knee jerk, but Sam Walsh and Tom Green have gone bang bang, massive finals,” Lyon told On The Couch.

“When you want to do your ratings and rankings for the start of 2024, they go bang bang, on the back of that.”

Later in 2022, the Blues capped off some sort of year of contract extensions, with twin tower forward stars Harry McKay (seven-year deal until 2030) and Charlie Curnow (six-year deal until 2029) recommitting to Ikon Park.

The pair have combined for the last three Coleman Medals.

It made for an intriguing situation this year, where Tom De Koning was out of contract and due for a bumper pay rise as one of the most promising ruckmen/key talls in the game, with several clubs circling him.

Given their limited funds after locking away the aforementioned key stars, it seemed inevitable De Koning would depart, while Marc Pittonet’s four-year extension signaled the club had planned for that as insurance of sorts.

There was a view that had Carlton resigned to De Koning being the one they’d have to let go.

But De Koning in July signed a new two-year deal with the Blues to take the 23-year old through to free agency in 2025 in more affirmation of the club’s positive direction under Michael Voss.

Like Walsh, De Koning announced himself as a big-time performer in last week’s epic semi-final triumph over Melbourne as the No 1 rated player in the game including kicking two crucial first-quarter goals after the Blues were on the canvass early.

While De Koning has only shown flashes in the past — and is yet to really be handed the keys to the No. 1 ruck role — former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is extremely bullish about his prospects.

Ben McKay to be offered 7-year deal? | 00:42

“He can be anything,” Buckley said of De Koning on On The Couch.

“He really made the impact seven or eight weeks ago when he and Pittonet were tag teaming.

“His competitiveness, not just at the aerial ball, but to get from contest-to-contest. His drive and want to compete and the intensity he competed at, that’s when you add that extra layer as a ruckman.”

So while retaining such names might’ve seemed obvious, it’s been a delicate balancing act from a salary cap perspective while being active in the trade space — and successfully recruiting several key pieces.

In fact, it’s quite remarkable the club hasn’t been forced to squeeze anyone of note out given the vast amount of talent on the list.

It includes 11 Blues from the semi-final win — Adam Saad, Nic Newman, Mitch McGovern, Sam Docherty, Blake Acres, Lachie Fogarty, Pittonet, Adam Cerra, Matt Kennedy, Caleb Marchbank and George Hewett — recruited from rival clubs.

All have great and unique stories, but Acres’ might be the most relevant right now given his finals heroics — kicking the match-winning goal in consecutive games.

And like most of those names, he came at a bargain-basement price, costing the Blues just a third-round pick in the trade with Fremantle last year.

“We say it all the time, reputations are made in this month of footy,” Lyon said.

“Blake Acres recruited to Carlton, I’m going: ‘OK, he’s got nice elements to his game.’

“He walks out of this finals series now, we’re going: ‘Hey, this is a serious footy player who’s impacted a big final’.”

Put it all together and you have a list budding in talent, hence the looming selection heartbreak for this week’s preliminary final against Brisbane as Carlton prepares to welcome back McKay and Jack Martin.

It was also evident when the club got through a tough stretch late in the season amid widespread injuries where they were widely written off.

Like any great list build, the Blues have used all mechanisms in the draft, trade and free agency to stockpile talent, and crucially, retain it.

Former list boss Stephen Silvagni was crucial to forming the core prior to his departure at the end of 2019, while his replacement, and incumbent, Nick Austin and national recruiting manager Michael Agresta deserve equal credit, too.

“Look at this team that won on the weekend and are charging into a prelim. Two of them — Saad and Cerra cost first-round (picks),” Lyon added.

“Williams and Hewett were free agents and that’s it. You’ve got (Matt) Owies, who was playing basketball, (Alex) Cincotta there playing in the back pocket — I was reading today he was laying a deck when Lukey Power rang him.

“(Silvagni) would have a fair bit to do with it. There’s a saying about victory has a thousand fathers, but whatever it is, well done.

“This is where you get your pay off and no one talks about list managers at this time of year. That is a great reflection on whoever has picked those names.”

The Post Carlton Blues list build, long-term contract extensions, trades, free agents, analysis, latest Originally Posted on

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top