Carlton makes another bold Premiership plan with CEO Brian Cook putting cutlery back on the menu

Carlton are widely advised to overcome a nine-year finals drought this season, but club CEO Brian Cook has revealed silverware is also in his sights.

The blues – who haven’t won premierships in the 21st century – have a history of dreaming big. And the most successful club in AFL/VFL history (along with Essendon at 16 flags apiece) is again making some very big plans.

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Speaking to the media on Thursday, Cook said, “We have identified at least one premiership for men and women in the next five years – it’s in our business plan.”

The club has been ridiculed in the past for unfulfilled promises and grandiose promotional campaigns (like the failed Can You Smell What We’re Cooking? launch in 2010, which featured a Bombers jet and a magpie in a pot), but this time it seems the optimism of being real in the club.

Regarding the upcoming season, Cook was asked if there was any expectation of playing the finals in 2023.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 21: Patrick Cripps of the Blues leads his team during the Round 23 AFL game between the Carlton Blues and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 21, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images) Credit: Daniel Pocket/Getty Images

“The expectation is to improve,” he said with a smile.

An improvement would mean Carlton will actually play the final after narrowly missing out on the top 8 in 2022.

The Blues spent the entire season in the Finals mix last year but were kicked out after losing the final game to Collingwood by a heartbreaking point.

Crucial to the club’s performance this season will be the health of superstar Sam Walsh.

The midfield jet – who is the club’s best and fairest winner of 2021 – underwent a procedure in December, removing a bulging disc section to relieve pressure on a nerve.

Hopes are he will be back at his best by the end of the season but for now he is making small steps forward and it is still unclear when he will be able to resume contact training.

He was initially ruled out of the opening month of the 2023 season and the Blues have not backed off from their plan to re-evaluate his comeback schedule thereafter.

Sam Walsh’s return date for Carlton remains up in the air after undergoing off-season back surgery. Credit: AAP

“By then, we should really see exactly where we’re going,” Walsh said Thursday.

“For me I want to come back as the best player and wherever that ends up I think we need to re-evaluate at the moment this month.”

After a brief post-op rest period, Walsh was able to build up a “reasonably solid base of walking” in five weeks and work on other parts of his body while strengthening his back.

“I feel like I’m really going in the right direction, but obviously there’s work to be done,” Walsh said.

“It’s just great to be back out there in the group sometimes and feel like I’m taking something away from my days.

“I haven’t looked too far ahead … each session is about incremental gains, but we haven’t set a timeline for the contact stuff yet.”

Walsh suffered from back problems late last season and was sidelined in Round 23 because of that heartbreaking loss to Collingwood.

A devastated Patrick Cripps after Carlton lost to Collingwood and missed final action. Credit: AFL photos via Getty Images

“I definitely learned the hard way last year how cruel it can be to miss games late in the year,” Walsh said.

“You want to have a lot of work that prepares you to play a good, solid block of football that leads to good back-end footy, because that’s when it really counts.

“Standing here now, I’d like to say I’m fit and firing at this time of year.”

Walsh was present Thursday as Carlton announced a five-year extension of its long-standing partnership with main sponsor Hyundai.

The automaker will double its support of the Blues women’s program as part of the new deal and continue its presence at the top of the club’s home games in Guernsey.

– with AAP

Christian Petracca scares Melbourne during high-octane session

Christian Petracca scares Melbourne during high-octane session Carlton makes another bold Premiership plan with CEO Brian Cook putting cutlery back on the menu

James Brien

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