‘I reckon they’ll miss’: Buckley can’t shake his doubts over Carlton

Former Collingwood coach and champion Nathan Buckley has expressed doubt about Carlton’s credentials in 2023, predicting that the Blues would miss finals.

Buckley said the Blues were “bloody good” at their peak, but questioned how they would fare if they couldn’t get the game on their terms.

The former coach suggested that Carlton relied heavily on a Plan A, which was a stoppage-based game and aerial supremacy in the forward line. The Blues have two of the best key forwards in the AFL in attack in Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow.

Having missed the finals after a final round disaster in which they blew a lead to arch-rivals Collingwood, Carlton are widely tipped to play finals and some pundits believe that they are capable of contending for the premiership, having shown the capacity to trouble and beat the best teams last year and with the star power of Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh, McKay, Curnow and Jacob Weitering filling key positions and prime midfield slots.

Buckley acknowledged Carlton was a dangerous team with high capabilities, but still felt they would miss finals – in what would make a full decade without finals.

Nathan Buckley has doubts about the Blues.Credit:The Age

“I reckon they’ll miss (finals),” Buckley told The Age, speaking at the Fox Footy season launch.

“Their best is bloody good.

“I think their plan A is really good. I just don’t know – I don’t know if they don’t get it on their terms that there’s enough capacity to win more than one way. Like clearances and aerial out of the front half looks it’s it.

“I’m interested to see how that pans out.”

Buckley assessed that Carlton, Collingwood and the Bulldogs were teams that had a wide spread of where they might finish, with injuries the key to how those sides fared this year.

“I think the Dogs, Carlton, Collingwood have quite a big spread again. You know, their difference between how their seasons can look will be marginal on whether they have availability of personnel for long enough … potentially their depth is not quite there.”

“It looks like there’s going to be less movement in the middle of the ladder.”

Buckley, who fancied Melbourne, Geelong and the Brisbane Lions as contenders for the flag, along with Richmond, also wondered about Fremantle’s capacity to make the top four.

“Their first half of the year was enormous and their second half was run of the mill. So I think they be marginally better from a talent perspective but I think it’s going to be hard for them to get to 15 wins again.”

Buckley thought Port Adelaide would play finals, but questioned how far they could rise. “Big jump from 10 wins, I think they’ll make finals.”

He said of his old team Collingwood: “Only a couple of points away from being in the last game and they were winning lots of close games. They’ll be thereabouts.”

Buckley was clear cut, however, in his view that Melbourne, the 2021 premiers, were primed for this year after two finals losses and injuries last year.

“Their 2022 year … they just came off. They realised how hard it was after winning the flag and achieving what they were able to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out bloody hungry and started the year off. They started the year off well last year but they weren’t playing great footy, they were just finding a way. And they had a different back six, every week.”

Buckley said the Lions, who have recruited superbly in picking up Jack Gunston, Josh Dunkley and draftee Nick Ashcroft – had not finished the season strongly last year, when they ground out victories in two finals. “The way they’ve recruited … You’ve got to think they’ve only ground out those last couple of games. But their finals win against Melbourne was two teams who were really struggling at the time. One of them had to get through.”

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