Career : 2006 - 2012
Debut : Round 21, 2006 vs Collingwood, aged 18 years, 230 days
Carlton Player No. 1096
Games : 70
Goals : 5
Last Game : Round 17, 2012 vs Western Bulldogs, aged 24 years, 196 days
Guernsey No. 18
Height : 192 cm ( 6 ft. 3 in.)
Weight : 87 kg (13 stone, 10 lbs.)
DOB : 9 January, 1988
Another player whose career was dogged by injury, West Australian Paul Bower was recruited from the Peel Thunder Colts in the WAFL by Carlton at selection 20 in the 2005 National Draft. A few weeks beforehand, he had been named at centre half-back in the Under-18 All Australian team, and seemed an ideal fit for a club desperately short of tall defenders. In a six-year career with the Navy Blues Bower went on to play 70 games, highlighted by a top-ten placing in the club’s Best and Fairest in 2009, and finals appearances in 2009-10.
On arrival at Princes Park Paul was allocated guernsey number 18 and cooled his heels for the first half of 2006 with the Northern Bullants. Before long, his pace and aerial skills made his promotion to the AFL inevitable, even as the first of many trips to the medical room with a knee strain delayed his senior debut until the second-last game of the year. In a real baptism of fire, Bower began on the bench for the Blues’ clash with Collingwood at the MCG, and endured a Magpie onslaught. Despite a moment of joy when he kicked his first AFL goal, his team was thrashed by 44 points.
Worse still was to come the following week, when the Sydney Swans delivered a coup de grace to Carlton’s season, hammering the dispirited Blues by 92 points at the SCG. One of the very few positives to come out of that awful drubbing was that Bower spent almost the whole game shadowing one of Sydney’s stars in Michael O'Loughlin, and restricted the dangerous Swan to two of Sydney’s 21 goals.
After spending the early part of 2007 back in the red and white colours of the Bullants, Bower was recalled for round 7, but had minimal impact in another defeat by Collingwood. Omitted again until round 14, he came back with a new determination to take the opposition on at almost every opportunity. Gradually building in confidence, and showing poise in those heart-in-mouth moments, Bower kicked a beautiful goal in round 17 on the run from 50 metres, and began racking up some impressive stats. In Carlton’s last game of the year against Melbourne, Paul gained a career-high 21 disposals and set himself up for a big 2008. His efforts were recognised when he was presented with Carlton’s Past Players Encouragement Award at season's end.
Season 2008 began on an enormous high at Princes Park when former West Coast champion Chris Judd, arrived to assume the captaincy of Carlton for five seasons. By then, Bower was one of the Blues’ first-choice defenders, and he began his third year of AFL football with a career-high 10 marks and 19 disposals in round 2 against St Kilda. A fortnight later, in a gleefully-celebrated round 4 victory over Collingwood, he kept the Magpies’ gun forward Travis Cloke to 9 possessions and 1 goal while gathering 20 disposals and 8 marks himself. In what loomed as a breakthrough year for the young man with a Maori tribal tattoo on his left arm, the big scalps kept being taken and the good games continued until round 10, when his luck ran out and he damaged a shoulder joint in a fierce tackle by a Geelong opponent. He was sidelined for a couple of months by that injury, but eventually returned to play in Carlton’s impressive come-from-behind victory over Brisbane in round 21.
All the promise of the previous three years came to fruition for Carlton in 2009, and the Navy Blues stepped up into finals contention again for the first time in eight long seasons. Bower had his most consistent and injury-free year, racking up another 20 home and away games, and soaking up the nervous excitement of his first Elimination Final, against the Brisbane Lions on a fine Saturday night at the Gabba. The young Blues led the home side by four goals at three-quarter time in that enthralling contest, but ran out of legs in the last 15 minutes and were narrowly beaten by 7 points.
When season 2010 got underway, Bower’s career seemed to have stabilised on an upward curve, only for quadricep (thigh) muscle injuries that had plagued him throughout 2007-08 to strike again. Forced into a late withdrawal from Carlton’s team that travelled to Brisbane for a rematch with the Lions in round 2, he battled through the first half of the year to play only four matches. By round 16 he had regained his place in the side, but noticeably wasn’t the same adventurous playmaker that we had seen the previous year. Still, he was an important cog in Carlton’s plans for the finals, and earned his place in the side that suffered a second successive gut-wrenching Elimination Final loss – this time by 5 points - to the Sydney Swans at ANZ Stadium.
Heading into 2011, Paul enjoyed a trouble-free preparation and played well in all five NAB Cup and NAB Challenge matches. He was looking a certainty for selection in round 1, until only a few days before the launch of the season, when another quadricep tear ruled him out of action again for three months. In June, with Carlton camped in the top four on the ladder, he made yet another comeback when he was selected as the Blues’ substitute for the round 12 clash against Brisbane at Docklands, but by late July had managed only two more games and finished the year running around in the low-pressure environment at the Bullants.
During post-season trade week, Bower’s name was bandied about as a probable delisting or trade, however that didn’t happen and he saddled-up for pre-season training again in 2012, under a modified program to strengthen and condition his problem thighs. After getting through without any more setbacks, he seemed on the way back to claiming a regular senior berth when he was selected in a back pocket for Carlton’s much-anticipated round 1 clash with Richmond on the opening night of the season at the MCG. From then on, Bower’s fortunes mirrored those of his team – an excellent start was followed by mid-season jitters, then empty despair.
After round 3, Carlton were flag favourites. Terrific wins over Richmond, Brisbane and Collingwood had the Bluebagger brigades already looking forward to September - until a limp-wristed loss to Essendon and the beginning of a long list of injuries combined to wreck those aspirations. Bower was one of five omissions in the aftermath of that awful loss to the Bombers, although he was quickly recalled for a pedestrian win over GWS at Docklands in round 6. After that he was in and out of the side for the next couple of months – usually playing from the bench. He was given chances up forward on a couple of occasions, but by July it was obvious that his days as one of Carlton’s first-choice defenders were numbered.
Paul played his last game for Carlton in an 18-point over the Western Bulldogs at Docklands on a Saturday night in round 17, 2012 before again finishing off the year with the Northern Blues. Then in early October – to nobody’s real surprise - the club announced that his services were no longer required. He nominated for the National Draft, but failed to find a home at another AFL club, and soon afterward returned home to WA with Peel Thunder.
When reviewing Bowers’ career, it is hard not to conclude that apart from one excellent season in 2009, Blues fans never got to see him at his best on a consistent basis. His body let him down far too often, and his 70 AFL matches stand as a tribute to his persistence as much as his talent.
Career Highlights2007 Past Players Encouragement Award
2009 7th Best and Fairest