AFL

The Jacob Weitering Conundrum: Should he stay or should he go (back)?

 

Let’s start by saying this is a wonderful position to be in from a Carlton perspective.

The Blues moved Jacob Weitering forward to fill a key position hole and while he’s been serviceable, it’s clearly not the spot for him.

He’s kicked seven goals for the year, including three in round one against the Tigers, but has been beaten by experienced defenders in recent weeks and isn’t able to have consistent impact on games.

As a second year player, this isn’t the end of the world. He’s still 19 and learning to play at senior level, but considering this is a full season playing out of the position he was drafted to play, it can’t be helping his development.

Another factor is the unexpected rise of some of Carlton’s depth forwards in the VFL, pushing for the position Weitering is filling.

Kristian Jaksch only played the one game in 2016, but has kicked 10 goals for the Northern Blues, including five on the weekend against Casey.

To put that in perspective, only four AFL listed players have kicked more than him in the VFL this year and Jaksch has spent a lot of time in defence.

Liam Jones has also had a resurgence at state level. The former Bulldog has had a complete change of role and is now being used around the ground and in the ruck.

He’s only kicked the two goals for the year, but his contested marking has been on another level and he was best on ground in the Blues’ win over Williamstown, playing primarily as a ruckman resting forward.

Then there’s Harry McKay who the Blues snared with pick 10 in the 2015 National Draft. McKay is very much a long-term prospect, but he’s kicked seven goals for the year and would probably transition well to the better ball-use of AFL footy.

The Blues even have ruckman Andrew Phillips who has shown the ability to take big marks and kick goals if they want to go down that path.

So it’s an easy fix. Bring one of them in and throw Weitering down back, no?

It’s not quite so simple, because Carlton’s backline has become a settled unit this year, thanks to some clever recruiting.

The Blues essentially moved on Zach Tuohy to bring Caleb Marchbank to the club, a move that’s already paying off.

Marchbank has a Rising Star nomination to his name and has immediately become a reliable intercept marking player.

Fellow ex-Giant Lachie Plowman joined the Blues last season and despite a poor game against the Saints, has been excellent this season with his ball-use.

Plowman is averaging 15 disposals at over 90 per cent efficiency and takes the best small forwards most weeks.

Then you have the key defenders in Sam Rowe, who has only conceded 13 goals this year, and Alex Silvagni who has become a key pillar out of nowhere.

Silvagni was picked up in the rookie draft and has repaid the faith by keeping Lance Franklin and Tim Membrey to one goal each and putting on some brilliant chase-down tackles.

Carlton has also found players in draftees Tom Williamson and Harrison Macreadie who have both played well down back this year in different roles.

As a unit, they’ve conceded fewer points this season than Adelaide and Geelong, so why would you change anything?

The problem for Weitering is the Blues are now settled down back without him and have plenty of players knocking on the door for his spot up forward.

Carlton could potentially get a better output from someone else at centre half forward, but you can’t just drop Weitering.

The former number one draft pick is probably due for a rest as he appears to be playing sore, but he’s in the team every week otherwise, even if the Blues persist with him up forward – which they probably will.

The fix may be bringing in another key forward alongside him and Levi Casboult to give them some help and take the pressure away from Weitering.

Weitering has been effective as a lead-up player between the arcs and using someone like McKay or Jaksch deeper could free him up to be a more transitional player and not the inside 50 target.

Charlie Curnow is touted as a key position player, but the former number 12 pick has shown great potential as a more mobile forward pushing up the ground.

If you’re going to have any issue as an AFL side, this is the one you want to have and it’s certainly something worth keeping an eye on as the season unfolds.

 

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