Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is Carlton.
- Ladder position: 16th
- Win-loss ratio: 7-15
- Percentage: 84.5
Carlton Football Club AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
The Blues were another club who made a coaching change during 2019 and then appointed the man they put in charge on a caretaker basis. Brendon Bolton’s time at the Blues was brought to an end after a Round 11 defeat to Essendon, with Carlton having just one win to their name at point. David Teague inspired an upturn in form, though, and the Blues went on to win five of their next seven games as the club’s crop of elite young talent started to shine. They lost three of their last four, but Teague’s Blues showed enough to suggest they will improve further in 2020.
Teague’s first game in charge was not looking great, with the Blues trailing the Brisbane Lions by 37 points at one stage of a Round 12 encounter at Docklands. The Blues dug deep, though, and produced a stirring comeback, kicking eight goals to three in the second half to record a memorable 15-point victory. Patrick Cripps was absolutely outstanding, winning 38 disposals, eight clearances and kicking four goals, while fellow young gun Sam Walsh – named the 2019 AFL Rising Star – won 32 disposals. Ed Curnow added 30 himself and his younger brother, Charlie, kicked three, as the Blues finished full of running.
A 93-point loss to Greater Western Sydney at Giants Stadium in Round 9 was particularly ugly, with the Blues blown away in a terribly one-sided first half. Carlton managed just three scoring shots to the main break and trailed by 74 points, with GWS already having 13.9 on the board. The Giants eased off a little in the second half but still won very easily, with Jeremy Finlayson kicking five goals for the victors. Five Giants had 30 disposals or more and the margin could have been bigger if Coleman Medallist Jeremy Cameron did not have an off day. Cameron kicked 0.4 for the match. Even Cripps had a quiet day, winning just 12 disposals, as the Blues were thrashed in a result that heaped further doubt on Bolton’s ability in the senior coach role.
The best and fairest
In a surprise to absolutely no one, Cripps won his third John Nicholls Medal, the inspirational 24-year-old putting together another outstanding year of football at the Blues. The co-captain averaged 28 disposals per game in 2019, of which 17 were contested, nine clearances and six tackles. He finished ahead of Ed Curnow, while improving defender Lachie Plowman was third.
Cripps was one of the major fancies heading into the 2019 Brownlow Medal and he finished in a tie for third, winning 26 votes in a season he was also named as the AFL Players’ Association Most Valuable Player, an award voted on by his peers. There was not much love for other Blues players on Brownlow night, with Marc Murphy and Walsh next best with six votes each, in a tie for 59th.
Cripps started in the centre of the All-Australian team but unsurprisingly, he was the only Blues player named in the 40-man provisional squad. The midfielder needs more support in 2020 if the Blues are to make a serious push for a finals spot.
The goal kickers
Harry McKay topped Carlton’s goalkicking in 2019, booting 26.30 from 20 matches. McKay will surely spend much of the summer working on his conversion in front of goal. Mitch McGovern played just 16 games but managed 22 goals, while Charlie Curnow kicked 18 goals from 11 matches.
The reason to be hopeful
Carlton’s list is still full of top young talent and the likes of Cripps, Walsh, Plowman, Jacob Weitering, Sam Petrevski-Seton and Charlie Curnow should only continue to improve. The Blues still have the experience of Murphy and Kade Simpson to rely on, and the return of Sam Docherty to full fitness would help. The Blues can get a lot more out of their forward line, too, and the off-season arrivals of Eddie Betts and Jack Martin will add some class to Carlton’s best 22. Teague made a good impression as a coach in 2019, too, and Carlton should be setting their sights on 10 wins in 2020.