Less than halfway through the first year of the Brendon Bolton era, Carlton are already well and truly exceeding expectations.
Before a ball was kicked ion anger in 2016, many pundits expected the rebuilding Blues to engage in a season-long battle with makeshift Essendon to avoid the wooden spoon.
Instead they have been competitive, pretty much from day one.
The high point was an unexpected four-match winning streak that was only brought to a halt last weekend by ladder leaders North Melbourne.
Geelong coach Chris Scott says too much was made of the talent drain at the Blues, at the expense of the quality they were able to retain on their list.
“They have obviously started a significant transition but you don’t need to dig too far to look at their top-end talent,” Scott said ahead of Sunday’s clash at Etihad Stadium.
“There aren’t many teams in the competition who can put three No.1 picks in at the centre bounce in (Matthew) Kreuzer, (Bryce) Gibbs and (Marc) Murphy.
“(Patrick) Cripps is an up-and-coming star and there’s (Kade) Simpson, so they’ve got a lot of high-end talent and we need to respect how well they can play.”
There must still be some doubt about ruckman Kreuzer and key forward Levi Casboult taking to the field on Sunday.
They were expected to be sidelined for long periods with knee and leg injuries respectively, only to pass fitness tests on Friday.
“You have to assume (they will play) but it doesn’t change us a lot to be frank,” said Scott.
“We always expect the opposition to play their best and if there are guys under an injury cloud we just assume they’re going to play and if they don’t it’s a bonus.
“They are both important structural players for them.”
The Cats boast a remarkable record against the Blues at Etihad Stadium, having won the past 14 clashes between the sides under the roof.
It’s one of Cats’ onballer Josh Caddy’s favourite venues.
“The more skilful sides do tend to have an advantage at Etihad,” said Caddy.
“Which is not to say that Carlton aren’t a skilful side because they’ve clearly been very impressive this year.
“But you just have to look at the success that the Western Bulldogs have had at Etihad.
“We don’t get to play there that much but I know the team has a good record there.”