Welcome to the 2022 Free Agency & Trade Period analysis series. Over the next fortnight, the plan is to look at every player heading to a new club. It’s not going to be a ‘who won the trade’ series, but rather a look at how players fit into existing setups, or what changes they may force.
For the price of a future third round pick, Blake Acres is the newest Blue.
Carlton’s wings were arguably their weakest point in 2022, and through that lens it makes perfect sense to hunt Acres.
He should improve the team as a strong role player, in turn maximising the strengths of first choice on-ballers.
During the free agency and trade period, these posts will be exclusive to Patrons on the $7.50 and $10 tiers for 24 hours after publishing.
After that they’ll be free for all. Given the Patreon is only running until the end of October, signing up now means only one payment on sign up, and then nothing else needed until March 2023.
Acres heads to Carlton after a career-best year at Fremantle.
20 games in 2022 was a career best for a season, taking his career tally to 120 in nine years across two clubs (75 in six at St Kilda).
The disposal count and metres gained stats are probably what catches the eye first, rating elite in both for his position.
But to look at that downplays his contributions without the ball. By its nature, playing on a wing involves lots of structural running.
Take this clip from Fremantle’s semi-final against Collingwood as an example. As the Dockers go forward, Acres pushes down the open side to either provide an offensive option, or cover the corridor defensively.
Then once Collingwood gain possession and hit turbo, it’s Acres’ responsibility to work back hastily to provide an extra number in the contest.
This is what the wing role entails. Up, down, up, down, time after time. The extra benefit of Acres is that at 191 centimetres, when he pushes back he’s a factor in the air.
Of players classified as midfielders (who actually played there this year), only Marlion Pickett and Callan Ward had more intercept marks than Acres in 2022.
Acres was an important cog in Fremantle’s defence this year, and his skill set is going to add an extra dimension to Carlton’s midfield – because in a general sense the Blues don’t need the world from their wingers.
Posts continue to come thick and fast. If you’ve missed anything recently, here are links to catch up:
Tuesday 4th: Free Agency Analysis: Daniel McStay
Tuesday 4th: Free Agency Analysis: Liam Jones
Monday 3rd: Free Agency Analysis: Jayden Hunt
Monday 3rd: Trade Analysis: Bobby Hill
Friday 30th: Free Agency Analysis: Karl Amon
With the way Carlton’s midfield operates, wingers aren’t asked to be anything flashy. There’s no need for them to operate along the lines of an Ed Langdon, continually playing 100 percent game time, or a Karl Amon, relied on as a high possession player.
The lion’s share of responsibility comes from the main on-ballers; Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh, you know the rest. They drive the Blues, and the remaining midfielders round out the rotation.
All that’s needed on a wing is to complement the stars. That’s exactly what Acres brings after doing the same alongside the likes of Andrew Brayshaw and co this year.
Acres’ extra defensive abilities are levels above Carlton’s wingers this year; Lochie O’Brien, Jack Newnes (since delisted) and Matthew Cottrell, just to name a handful.
Offensively, he’s not going to be a player who cuts teams up. The best way to describe his disposal is ‘safe’, usually working within his limitations rather than the defence-breaking kick. But given all the ball that Cripps, Walsh, Docherty, Hewett, Cerra and co have, there won’t be many chances for Acres to rack it up unless Carlton are aiming for 500 possessions a week.
Acres’ disposal style fits well with what was Carlton’s overall strategy and expectations in 2022. Just play your role, keep the system ticking and give the stars room to do their jobs.
He isn’t a star, and it’d be mischievous to claim as much. But he’s a significant upgrade in a position of weakness, improves Carlton’s best 22, and comes at a cheap price.
It’s a good piece of business.
In case you missed it, the Look Back/Look Ahead series recently wrapped.
Every team’s list was analysed in depth, with a key question picked out for 2023. In some ways the posts work hand-in-hand with these individual analyses, understanding needs and priorities.
Here are all the links to catch up on:
|North Melbourne||Read||West Coast||Read|
|Gold Coast||Read||Port Adelaide||Read|