Blues reach 2009 AFL 'crunch time' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Blues reach 2009 AFL 'crunch time'

By Roger Vaughan 28/05/2009 04:20:05 PM Comments (0)

Carlton have reached that point in the AFL season where expectations crash into reality.

The Blues' 2009 membership slogan, "They Know We're Coming", summed up their bullish attitude to a year where they were expected to break back into the top eight.

But as they prepare for the round-10 opener at Etihad Stadium on Friday night against West Coast, Carlton's season is almost on the brink.

They are ninth, a game outside the top eight and leading a group of four teams on four wins apiece.

Carlton have won only two of their last seven matches and were horrible last Saturday against Adelaide, failing to kick a goal in the first half.

But playing badly against the Crows could prove secondary to the loss of utility Jarrad Waite, who injured his knee in the game and is out for the rest of the season.

Waite's absence will rob the Blues of some invaluable versatility.

"It's crunch time in the season for a lot of clubs," said Carlton assistant coach Matthew Lappin.

"What's happening at the top of the ladder is two clubs are belting or beating everybody, so we need to make sure we're hanging on there.

"We've got to get some momentum ... we're a bit up-and-down and we're looking to fix that, starting this week."

Lappin's argument this week at match committee has been probably one of many debates as the Blues try to re-cast their Waite-less side.

Lappin, the forward coach, would dearly love for teenage ruckman Matthew Kreuzer to spend more time in attack.

But Carlton will need Kreuzer to go against West Coast's Dean Cox, one of the game's top ruckmen.

Kreuzer, the No.1 pick in the 2007 draft, has made an outstanding start to his senior career, playing 29 out of a possible 31 games.

But even a young star can only be in one place at the one time.

"It's an outstanding effort from big `Kreuz', he's a 19-year-old kid who's our No.1 ruckman and he comes up against the opposition's best ruckman, week-in, week-out - and he's holding his own," Lappin said.

"I was in at match committee this morning arguing, trying to get him forward a bit more.

"I'm fighting the midfield coach, we need him at both ends of the ground."

Waite can play across half-back, half-forward or on the wing and Lappin said the key to coping with his absence is several players doing their bit to pick up the slack.

West Coast are a game behind Carlton in 13th spot and are coming off a bad home loss against Collingwood.

But Lappin notes the Eagles pushed Sydney the week before and, just like Carlton, West Coast are hot-and-cold.

Friday night's loser will find the wintry Melbourne weather carries a particularly-bitter chill.

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