For former AFL heavyweights Carlton and rookie coach Brendon Bolton, the 2016 season is all about learning.
Learning how to train again.
Learning how to work together as a club.
And most importantly, learning how to win.
It’s just that those victories might not be reflected in the win-loss tally.
The Blues are starting again after a tumultuous 12 months and Bolton says success won’t be measured by their ladder position.
“Success is developing a whole club, a united club,” Bolton told AAP.
“Giving our first-year draft players an opportunity, and that might be little sprouts, but it’s success.
“Creating a gameplan around collective offence and collective defence, that’s going to take some time but when we see that over a quarter, two quarters, that’s success.”
Bolton’s multi-faceted definition of success won’t please the Blues fans looking for a quick fix.
And it shows how far Carlton have fallen.
What’s different about the 2016 “reset” is that Bolton has lifted expectations off the shoulders of the much-burdened players.
Nobody outside the club expects them to be any good.
As for their own expectations, they aren’t telling.
Bolton says the playing group will set their own targets but keep them to themselves – in stark contrast to former coach Mick Malthouse’s declaration that he “couldn’t see a game they would lose” on season’s eve last year.
Under Bolton, Carlton are, quietly and modestly, getting down to business.
The 26-year-old coach says he hopes his sides will show their togetherness through a new game style and learning style.
With a wealth of talent in need of development – including 18 players yet to debut for the club – Carlton hope the learning approach bears fruit.
The Blues have traded away a host of established names – Chris Yarran, Lachie Henderson, Tom Bell and Troy Menzel included – to bring in a new generation of talent.
Top of that list is No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering.
The Blues hope they have a ten-year key defender in the Mornington Peninsula product and he’s one of at least three first-year players nominated by Bolton likely to begin their AFL careers on the opening night of the season.
“Weitering’s got a more mature body so he might get an opportunity early,” Bolton said.
“Charlie Curnow has put in a really strong pre-season and David Cunningham has shown glimpses.
“Our timing on when we bring people in will be well-thought through.
“For the others, let’s hope for our members they see some of our future get a little taste this year.”
Bolton is bullish on new recruit Sam Kerridge and reigning club champion Patrick Cripps.
He’s also hopeful of seeing improvement from key forward Levi Casboult and rebounding defender Sam Docherty, who have put in top pre-season efforts.
So while there’s no getting away from the potentially painful season ahead, Bolton said there would be progress worth celebrating at Princes Park.
“Losing is not the way or the accepted way,” he said.
“You build a resilience and a united front over time.
“Win, lose or draw, there’s learnings to take away from it and we’ll do that every week.”
Coach: Brendon Bolton
Captain: Marc Murphy
Last five years: 5-10-6-13-18
Premierships: 16 (1906-08, 1914-15, 1938, 1945, 1947, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1979, 1981-82, 1987, 1995).
Key five: Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy, Matthew Kreuzer, Levi Casboult, Kade Simpson.
One to watch: Jacob Weitering. Yes it’s unfair to expect too much of any player, just because they were selected at No.1 in the national draft. But such is Carlton’s pressing need for key-position talent that the 195cm, 94kg Weitering will be pitched into senior action from the get-go.
Ins: David Cunningham (Oakleigh U18), Charlie Curnow (Geelong U18), Andrew Gallucci (Williamstown, VFL), Jesse Glass-McCasker (Swan Districts, WAFL), Daniel Gorringe (Gold Coast), Sam Kerridge (Adelaide), Matt Korcheck (international rookie), Jed Lamb (GWS), Harry McKay (Gippsland U18), Andrew Phillips (GWS), Lachie Plowman (GWS), Jack Silvagni (Oakleigh U18), Liam Sumner (GWS), Jacob Weitering (Dandenong U18), Matthew Wright (Adelaide).
Outs: Tom Bell (Brisbane), Andrew Carrazzo (retired), David Ellard (retired), Tom Fields (delisted), Cameron Giles (delisted), Lachie Henderson (Geelong), Nick Holman (delisted), Blaine Johnson (delisted), Chris Judd (retired), Troy Menzel (Adelaide), Fraser Russell (delisted), Brad Walsh (delisted), Robert Warnock (delisted), Matthew Watson (delisted), Chris Yarran (Richmond).
B: Zach Tuohy, Michael Jamison, Jacob Weitering
HB: Dylan Buckley, Sam Rowe, Sam Docherty
C: Dale Thomas, Bryce Gibbs, Andrew Walker
HF: Kade Simpson, Levi Casboult, Blaine Boekhorst
F: Jason Tutt, Andrejs Everitt, Nick Graham
R: Matthew Kruezer, Patrick Cripps, Marc Murphy
I: Simon White, Ed Curnow, Sam Kerridge, Cameron Wood
Predicted finish: 18th
Betting (William Hill)
To win the flag: $501
To make the top eight: $15