Running mid? Another tall? Blues have cap space to target free agents, trades

Carlton will have space in their salary cap to add talent to their list via free agency and trades at year’s end as they contend for a top-four spot under new coach Michael Voss.

The Blues are among a list of clubs showing preliminary interest in Port Adelaide free agent Karl Amon, assessing the competition as they consider bringing another running midfielder into the group.

Adam Cerra, George Hewett and Corey Durdin celebrate Carlton’s win in round one.Credit:AFL Photos

They are also aware their tall defensive and rucking depth has been tested in the first half of the season through injury and Liam Jones’ unexpected retirement.

The Blues have been active players during the free agency and trade periods over recent seasons. They added Adam Cerra, George Hewett and Lewis Young to their list in 2021 after acquiring Adam Saad, Zac Williams and Lachie Fogarty at the end of 2020. They also recruited Jack Martin and Mitch McGovern while making unsuccessful bids for Stephen Coniglio and Dylan Shiel.

They have done so while selecting players at the top end of the draft, a process that began in 2015 when they took Jacob Weitering, Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow with picks one, 10 and 12, then Sam Petrevski-Seton at pick six in 2016. Paddy Dow and Lochie O’Brien arrived via picks three and 10 and then they used pick No.1 to get Sam Walsh in 2018.

Despite a long injury list, Carlton are building the type of momentum not seen at the Blues for decades. Twenty years have passed since the Blues were hit with draft penalties that crippled the club after it was found guilty of salary cap breaches. Carlton have spent the past two rounds in the top four, something they had not previously done in 10 years.

The Carlton list management team used the opportunity in the early part of the rebuild to spend below the salary cap during the lean years of 2018 and 2019. The Blues banked money for future acquisitions and also front-ended contracts to create space under the cap down the track.

Industry sources suspected, however, they might struggle to compete for talent at season’s end as they have star forwards McKay and Curnow becoming free agents at the end of 2023. But club sources said the Blues had maintained enough flexibility to keep their options open when trade time arrived.

The five-year deal worth $800,000 a year that McGovern signed ends in 2023, while Dow may seek more opportunities at year’s end if he continues to play in the VFL, where his form has been good enough to attract the eye of other clubs.

It means the Blues’ targets will be middle-ranking players in terms of salary who are targeted to fill specific needs. One club source said a shorter injury list and the further development of young players to play certain roles was where the greatest potential for improvement lay.

The Blues were happy to spread Matthew Kennedy’s recent deal over three years and will look to re-sign injured midfielder David Cuningham and Liam Stocker.

Players such as O’Brien and Tom Williamson remain in a fight to be recontracted; O’Brien was impressive when the game was tight against the Giants.

Voss made dramatic list decisions after making finals in his first season as coach of the Lions that proved unwise, but a more considered approach will be taken this time around.

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