Of Carlton’s list when Stephen Silvagni took over in 2015, only eight players remain in the navy blue heading into 2020.
Marc Murphy, Kade Simpson, Matthew Kreuzer, Patrick Cripps, Liam Jones, Sam Docherty, Ed Curnow and Levi Casboult.
In his five years with the Blues, Silvagni reshaped the club’s list from top to bottom, but even more importantly, he steadied what was a stretch of historically bad drafting.
Carlton had some success early in the decade, finishing fifth in 2011 and were even premiership favourites three weeks into 2012 – bet you don’t remember that!
They would miss the finals that year and quickly spiral downhill following another finals stint in 2013 under Mick Malthouse.
The Blues had nobody to blame but themselves for their fall down the ladder, with the club’s drafting between 2009 and 2014 crippling the list.
In that time period, Carlton drafted with first round picks Kane Lucas, Matthew Watson, Josh Bootsma, Troy Menzel, Patrick Cripps and Blaine Boekhorst.
Cripps obviously aside, the other five played a total of 144 games for the club. Three were delisted, Bootsma was sacked for breaching the AFL’s code of conduct and Menzel traded to Adelaide.
Evidently, they sacrificed five years of first round picks to the football gods to find their current captain.
The Blues botched pick after pick between 2009 and 2014, resulting in a lack of depth and a gaping hole in their list that still affects them now.
They made so many draft errors in that time period that you could legitimately make a side of 22 out of them.
In preparation for the #AFLDraft, I have produced a team made up of Carlton’s draft failures 2009-2014. Probably the most sustained period of terrible drafting any club has ever had. pic.twitter.com/5ZxCBQsG11
— Nic Negrepontis (@NicNegrepontis) November 23, 2017
Silvagni was well aware of Carlton’s draft mistakes. He even told SEN in 2018 that the Blues did not really take the draft seriously until his arrival in 2015 – a little nugget that is rarely mentioned.
“Before three years ago, Carlton never embraced the draft, never embraced the draft – we’ve gone to it the last three years and that’s where you go get your talent,” Silvagni said on AFL Nation in 2018.
“I can’t remember Carlton ever doing it where you’ve got multiple picks in the first round.
“If you have a look at what our build is about, 2009-2015, I think there’s five players left on our list out of those drafts – Levi Casboult, Ed Curnow, Sam Rowe, Nick Graham and Patrick Cripps.
“That’s where the difficulty sort of sits at the minute, with that core of 22-28 age group, we really haven’t got a lot of quality players in that age group to carry out young kids through.”
This perfectly encapsulated the task in front of Silvagni when he took over in 2015. No young talent to work with, a club that did not take the draft seriously enough and a stagnant list that was aging fast.
He has had access to 11 first round picks in his time at the club and putting aside the two 2019 selections, none appear to be busts.
They had a clear strategy under SOS, wanting to hit four drafts hard, rebuilding the list through talented kids, while journeymen players held the club together in the meantime.
Silvagni’s first draft in charge was 2015, with the clear plan to bring in key position players first, allowing them time to develop.
They grabbed Jacob Weitering with pick one, Harry McKay at pick 10 and Charlie Curnow at pick 12. They would come back at the end of the first round as well, selecting midfielder David Cuningham.
Weitering had a breakout 2019 season and was one of the club’s most consistent performers, McKay led the club’s goal kicking and Curnow could be anything – if he gets his body right.
From there, Silvagni clearly wanted to inject young midfield talent into the squad, drafting Sam Petrevski-Seton in 2016, Paddy Dow and Lochie O’Brien in 2017 and Sam Walsh in 2018, all with top 10 picks.
Petrevski-Seton has impressed for the Blues across multiple positions and has quickly become the player the club trusts most with ball in hand.
Dow had a down second year, but has shown glimpses across his 39 games. The jury remains out on him, but it is also way too early to write off such a highly rated midfielder.
Walsh’s first season speaks for itself, winning the NAB Rising Star.
Silvagni has benefited from holding picks inside the top 10, but nailing those selections is an art in itself. One many clubs have struggled with in the past.
Whether Carlton takes the next step and has some success, we will find out, but Silvagni deserves credit for improving the club’s drafting ability significantly.
Whatever you make of his exit from the club, he has undoubtedly left the Blues in a stronger position than where he found them.