The Carlton of 2007 were certainly in the news for many, many reasons - and for the first time in a while, most of them were positive. Initially, it was all about the Election for the Board of Directors, which saw standing President Graham Smorgon lose his position at the hands of the voters. But shortly after, the new Board appointed Australia's third-richest man and ex-Blue Richard Pratt to the Presidency. What followed - off-field at least - was the stuff of dreams...
In a series of stunning and incredible off-field announcements, the Blues would go from pauper to profitable as a series of high profile fund-raisings and donations would raise our hopes and our bank balance - including talk of an equity role in 9 pubs in June 2007 (which appeared to fall through by season's end). The good financial news culminated in a record profit of over $3m, including a significant increase in 'normal' cashflows from membership and sponsorship. Also, the Blues would pull off some recruiting coups through the acquisition of highly regarded Collingwood CEO Greg Swann to replace Michael Malouf and Steven Icke from the Dockers as our new Football Operations Manager.
The Blues fans clambered on board and we would break our Memberships record with 35,413 - the first time we would breach 35,000 (and 34,000)!
On-field, Carlton entered Season 2007 filled with new hope given the arrival of even more top talent from the National Drafts. Bryce Gibbs would join Marc Murphy as No.1 Draft Picks that would hopefully lead and renew our engine room, whilst our ruck division was completely changed over to Cain Ackland (ex-St Kilda) and Cameron Cloke (ex-Collingwood), with the added recruitment of 2 new young prospects in Shaun Hampson and Sam Jacobs. In the leadership stakes, Lance Whitnall would take over as captain and head a 10-Man Leadership Group, which would raise eyebrows for the youthful selection of both second year player Marc Murphy and first year player Bryce Gibbs.
The year began in the best possible way, with the club winning all 4 of its games in the 2007 Pre-Season to take its second Pre-season Premiership in 3 years.
The main season began with a win over the Tigers, a smashing at the hands of the dominant-all-season (and eventual Premiers) Geelong and then a magnificent come from behind win against the Bombers. We would lose 6 in a row before winning 2 straight for the first time since 2004, before the hope of our new super-high scoring game plans and emboldened youth was crushed in a series of horrifying losses, culminating in the sacking of Pagan as Coach and appointment of Brett Ratten for the final 6 games of the year.
The Blues would follow Ratten's appointment with seemingly a different game plan and 4 close losses, all to final 8 aspirants St Kilda, Collingwood, Port and Essendon (although Essendon sat in 13th at the time). Amongst these matches, the Blues played some very young teams, with the team selected in both the Round 18 clash against Collingwood and 19 amongst the youngest Carlton teams in history. Perhaps owing to these improved performances, Ratten would later be appointed as full-time Coach of the Blues. Ratten would have 4 close losses to start his tenure, but this would fall away in Round 21 with an even younger team. The youngest of all Carlton '07 teams would run out in Round 22 - the 4th youngest ever - to bring up our 6th loss under Ratten and deliver 15th place to the Blues, half a game ahead of Richmond.
But out of the disappointment of another low finish, and a record equalling 6th year out of Finals Action came another big announcement. Chris Judd, the 2004 Brownlow Medallist (and top 3 place getter in the Eagles Best & Fairest from 2002 to 2006), would not only announce his departure from the Eagles for Victoria, but after 3 weeks of discussions with various clubs, including Carlton, announced his desire to play for the Blues come 2008. After a nervous trade week, the deal was finally signed on October 11, 2007, with Judd becoming a Blue in return for Josh Kennedy, our young CHF hope who had shown promise, and some draft picks including Pick #3. The recruitment of one of the biggest and best names in the game had Carlton fans - and the footy world alike - buzzing with expectation. The changes continued with the Club-imposed retirement / delisting of Captain Lance Whitnall after a disappointing year.
In the space of 12 months, the Blues seemed to have a new era before them. Gone was the hopelessness of previous years - replaced by a new Board, a new management, a financial plan and a young list with the best player in the game to lead it from midfield. All we had to do now was wait for 2008...
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Leadership Group: Brendan Fevola, Brad Fisher, Bryce Gibbs, Marc Murphy, Kade Simpson, Heath Scotland, Nick Stevens, Bret Thornton, Jarrad Waite, Simon Wiggins
Coach: Denis Pagan / Brett Ratten
Leading Goalkicker: Brendan Fevola - 59 goals
Best and Fairest Winner: Andrew Carrazzo
Bryce Gibbs, Joe Anderson, Ross Young, Adam Hartlett, Shaun Grigg, Michael Jamison, Shaun Hampson, Mark Austin
Debuts (Carlton): Cameron Cloke, Cain Ackland
Retirements: Anthony Koutoufides, Matthew Lappin, Lance Whitnall
Delistings (end of year): David Teague, Dylan McLaren, Anthony Raso, Craig Flint
250 Games (AFL): Matthew Lappin
150 Games: Ryan Houlihan
150 Games (AFL): Jason Saddington
100 Games: Bret Thornton
50 Games: Kade Simpson, Andrew Carrazzo, Eddie Betts, Adam Bentick
50 Games (AFL): Jordan Bannister