Eyecatchers: Caleb Marchbank

Carlton has eight ex-GWS players on their list and Caleb Marchbank may be the best of them. The Blues essentially gave up Geelong’s first round pick to get him to the club and if the pre-season is any indication, they’ve found a 200-game key defender. Carlton’s backline is quite tall with Lachie Plowman, Jacob Weitering and Sam Rowe, but during the JLT Series, they gave Marchbank the second tall forward and even in their 90-point loss to the Saints, he was one of the better players for the Blues.

The 20-year-old had to deal with a lot of injuries at the Giants which limited him to just seven games in his first two years after being taken at pick six in 2014 National Draft. He’s struggled with shoulder, ankle and back injuries primarily, but a full pre-season at the Blues and some JLT Series form should give him confidence heading into round one. Marchbank differs from Carlton’s other key defenders in Rowe and Plowman by being more of an accumulator of the ball. He averaged 19 disposals and seven marks across the three JLT games and while his disposal needs a bit of work, he gives the Blues a marking option across half back.

Obviously, only playing seven games means there isn’t much history to go on, but Marchbank was rated among GWS’ best players in the NEAFL most weeks in 2015 and in his junior days for the Murray Bushrangers was able to go forward when needed. Given Carlton’s need for players who can hit the scoreboard, it isn’t impossible we could see him swung forward at stages. Many at the Giants rated Marchbank as a player in their best 22 last year, but an ankle injury in round two kept him down for the majority of the season.

From an AFL Fantasy standpoint, Marchbank is certainly popular, sitting in 16,753 teams. The defender is priced at $205,000 and a lack of rookie defensive options makes him an easy pick. Scores of 85 and 88 against Melbourne and Fremantle show he can score and be a suitable option for the last on-field spot in your backline. With Weitering set to be moved forward for substantial parts of games, the door is opened up a bit more for Marchbank to get more of the ball and we saw this in action against Fremantle where he gathered 22 disposals.

Don’t expect him to be a player who averages 80 across the season though. He is a key defender and that will hurt his scoring capability. At his price, anything over 65 would be acceptable and somewhere in the low 70s probably seems like what you should expect from Marchbank in 2017. It should be a big year and a baptism of fire for the new-Blue, but Carlton has certainly gotten themselves a good one here.

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