Carlton have had two incarnations of their own “mosquito fleet”. There was the fleet-of-foot, small forwards-midfielders of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which helped raise three premiership flags within four years, while 30 years later a new group under Brett Ratten emerged.
And now the Blues are building their third team within a team, a must-have in the modern footy world where pressure inside attacking 50 is paramount.
Coach Michael Voss referenced the mosquito fleet when announcing young forward Jesse Motlop, the son of former North Melbourne and Port Adelaide star Daniel, will debut against Greater Western Sydney in Leon Cameron’s farewell match on Sunday.
Carlton’s Matthew Owies celebrates a goal with teammates including Jack Martin and Zac Fisher.Credit:Getty Images
Motlop, who has given himself the nickname “Deadly”, will add to a group of pressure and goal-kicking small forwards, including Corey Durdin, Matthew Owies, Zac Fisher and even midfielder Jack Carroll, that must find a way to prosper without injured Coleman medallist Harry McKay, who, if not marking, brings the ball to ground.
Patrick Cripps (right) is in top form and the Blues are better placed than they have ever been in his time at the club.Credit:AFL Photos
Voss wants his small forwards to go about their business as usual, and that’s a good thing. The Blues rank third for tackles inside 50 this season (11.5 per game). Owies (17) leads the way not only at Princes Park but across the league, ahead of Kysaiah Pickett (16), Stephen Coniglio (15), and Sam Switkowski (15), heading into round nine. Durdin (10) has also brought the heat.
Jack Martin, the silky goal-scoring leader of the fleet, is missing, but George Hewett (two goals), Adam Cerra (two), and Sam Walsh (one) are frontline midfielders who can score when given the chance.
McKay’s absence means there will be greater focus on fellow tall Charlie Curnow, enjoying a team-high 25 goals and sitting fourth across the league for total scoreboard impact, and the under-rated Jack Silvagni, who has been named at centre half-forward in a side enjoying a top-four berth at this point of the season for the first time since 1996.
Skipper Patrick Cripps, arguably the competition’s most in-form player, has gone forward more and lifted his goal-kicking output this season (13 goals, the equal most for any season in his career), but the Blues hope their small forwards will still prosper despite McKay’s absence.