Carlton took on Collingwood yesterday at Ikon Park in a seven-period practice match, with both teams rolling out strong line-ups.
For the Blues, a pair of defenders in Sam Docherty and Tom Williamson made their returns from significant injury absences and both were among the best players on the ground.
Docherty hasn’t played since 2017 following successive ACL injuries and Carlton assistant coach John Barker was incredibly happy for the co-captain.
“It was fantastic to see him out there, but a little bit disappointing from a coaching point of view. We were a little lost a couple of times, and he usually provided the answers!” he told SEN Afternoons.
“It’s awesome to get a player of his calibre back, it's brilliant for us. What’s even more so is you have got a young man who has played some great footy and had some tough seasons.
“He’s mapping out the plan for us! He’s pretty keen to play in as much footy as possible, but (Director of High Performance) Andrew Russell is going to be really smart with what that looks like before we take on the Tigers in Round 1.”
Williamson has struggled to overcome a back injury since an impressive debut season for the Blues, where he was named the club’s best first-year player in 2017.
Barker said it’s great for the morale of the club having the two defenders back in the mix.
“There’s two guys Docherty and Williamson who both have had really tough years,” he said.
“When you’re injured at a football club, even though you’re around your mates, it can be a really lonely place and we try our best to make sure those guys stay engaged, but they miss playing footy and it can be tough for them.
“For them both to be coming back in, for them both to have had a similarly tough journey over the last couple of years, it was heart-warming to see.”
Another Blue who made their return from a lengthy absence yesterday was Eddie Betts.
The small forward who returned the club in the trade period excited fans early, kicking two goals and giving a few away.
“He’s a cheeky little bugger, but his talent is unquestioned,” Barker said.
“He applied a little bit of pressure yesterday that will no doubt help us through the year and he’ll slot in very nicely and provide our supporters with memories going forward.”
Carlton’s first appearance in the Marsh Community Series is on February 29th when they take on Fremantle in Mandurah.