It seems being a big bloke down at Carlton is a dangerous occupation. After an early knee scare for the perpetually injured Adam Hartlett a week ago, the papers are full of the news that Robert Warnock turned up to training yesterday in a moon boot and will miss up to two months with stress fractures in his left foot.
The full news was reported this morning by both the Age and the Herald-Sun. After a brief flare of interest following his trade from Fremantle, fantasy coaches cooled off on Warnock once they realised he would be priced at averages of 45.8 in Dream Team and 49.1 in Super Coach. At that price level, you had better be darn sure that a #2 ruck can graduate to become a keeper, because history has shown that he’s too expensive to stow in either bench spot, and Warnock didn’t fill anyone with that kind of confidence.
So if Warnock himself isn’t of interest, what about the players around him? Early fan opinion is that Warnock’s short-term replacement will be Shaun Hampson, not the incumbent #1 ruck Cameron Cloke, as Cloke was the main reason that the Blues ranked deal last in effective ruck taps in 2008. Cloke is apparently earmarked for centre half forward in the absence of the injured Brad Fisher, who dislocated an elbow recently. This sounds a little wishful for my thinking. Yes, the stats didn’t favour Cloke last year, but I am not confident Hampson would be any better. Matthew Kreuzer is the obvious other candidate, but he’s still not ready. In short, this is a pretty big disaster because the Blues already had the worst ruck corps in the comp even with the addition of Warnock – he is only a year older than Hampson, let us not forget.
As for the much-vaunted Blues midfield, does it make any difference which drongo isn’t winning any taps in navy Blue? One ineffective ruckman is much the same as another, and they’ll keep on roving to the other team’s big men like they have been doing. They managed to do okay in clearances despite the terrible ruck numbers in 2008, and you’d expect that to continue this year with an allegedly fitter Chris Judd and with another year of gym work on Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs. The Warnock injury limits the Blues to stay in mid-table for clearances in the first part of the season, which probably limits the rest of the team for fantasy purposes to an extent, meaning there may not be so many easy goals for the likes of Chris Yarran early in the season.
I have had a feeling for a while now that Richmond was a much better candidate to jump high into the eight than Carlton was, and this news only strengthens my opinion. The Bluebaggers are a structurally flawed squad, and this injury hits them in their weakest spot. How about you lot, is this discouraging or can you see a silver lining in the Carlton ruck division? Let me know in the comments.