Carlton coach John Barker is wary of a wounded Fremantle, expecting the Dockers to bounce back hard after suffering only their second loss of the AFL season.
The Dockers suffered a 72-point belting at the hands of Hawthorn last Sunday in Launceston.
“They have come off a loss that they won’t be too happy with and they will be looking to return fire very quickly,” Barker said on Friday ahead of Saturday’s match at Domain Stadium.
“They are on top of the ladder and they are well drilled, well coached.
“We have got five players who have played less than 15 games and it’s really good for us – they go over and they are going to get an education on what really high-end AFL football looks like.”
Barker said the challenges continued to mount for the 16th-placed Blues, who lost reigning club champion Bryce Gibbs for the season last weekend due to a torn pectoral muscle.
“We have lost a number of players at a number of different times, and over the last six weeks they keep compounding,” he said.
“But they are challenges, we get to play some young players, we get to give them experience.
“The Carlton football club and the members get to see what our future looks like.”
Eighteen-year-old midfielder Brad Walsh will make his senior debut against the Dockers.
Barker admitted the Blues had dropped off in recent weeks after an initial spike in effort in the wake of his interim appointment to replace the sacked Mick Malthouse.
“The big challenge for us is to maintain those levels of competitiveness and effort because with such a young team the challenges become even greater,” he said.
Ladder-leading Fremantle have wielded the axe in an attempt to return the Dockers to their impressive early-season form.
coach Ross Lyon sent out a strong message to his players by axing Zac Clarke, Clancee Pearce, Tendai Mzungu and Paul Duffield.
Forgotten ruckman Jonathon Griffin will replace Clarke as back up to Aaron Sandilands.
“I’ve just been squarely focused on fixing us because there’s some good lessons over the last few weeks,” said Lyon.
“It doesn’t matter what you know about the opposition, if you don’t get yourself right, you can’t win.
“Carlton’s really competing and running.
“But as Mick (Malthouse) said, when you get a new coach and a replacement, that’s human nature. It’s about what happens over a long term that is the real measure.”