Skipper Chris Judd returned from a four-game AFL suspension and gathered 23 disposals in a 96-point win over Essendon, but for Blues coach Brett Ratten the success story was young tall forward Levi Casboult.
The 198cm, 22-year-old from the Dandenong Stingrays took six marks, including four contested, and booted three goals, picking up 12 possessions and providing a strong option up forward.
Injury-plagued key forward Jarrad Waite, in just his ninth game for the season after playing only 12 in 2011, kicked an equal career-best five goals as the Blues started to flex their muscles against an Essendon defence hit hard by injuries to Dustin Fletcher and Jake Carlisle.
Ratten and Judd were enthusiastic about Casboult’s potential.
“I don’t know if there’s anything more valuable in modern-day footy than contested marks, particularly in your forward-line,” Judd said.
“It just really helps around the ground.”
Ratten said Casboult would be a very valuable player in the future.
“He has got very sticky hands and when he does clunk it, they stick,” Ratten said, adding he had always had a strong belief in his side’s ability.
“It just shows when we get that right we’re a pretty dangerous team.”
Ratten said taking Waite out of the side because of injury was like asking Hawthorn to battle on without Lance Franklin, or Geelong to play without Tom Hawkins, or removing Travis Cloke from Collingwood’s lineup.
“They’re not easily replaced. When you get A-grade players, having them on the park helps your team,” Ratten said.
The Blues have won four of their past five games.
“You can go through a bit of a storm. The sun’s starting to come out a little bit,” Ratten said.
“We know each week’s do-or-do for us so the pressure will be on. The players are really thriving in this pressure environment.
“We’re starting to really adapt. In previous years we weren’t as steely as a group.”
Carlton (11-9) face winnable games against lower-placed sides Gold Coast and St Kilda in the final two rounds.