HOW many times this season have Carlton supporters asked themselves the question: why don’t the Blues just put Bryce Gibbs in the midfield and leave him there?
It might be of little consolation, but Gibbs has had those same thoughts.
The former No. 1 draft pick was challenged by coach Brett Ratten earlier this year to join the competition’s elite midfielders.
He set himself for his breakout season on the ball, but circumstances have conspired against him – notably injuries to almost every front-line defender – meaning the classy playmaker has had to play a defensive role.
”It can be frustrating,” Gibbs said of the constant positional changes. ”But that’s the beauty of my role in the team, being able to do that. Internally, that gets held in pretty high regard, which is nice.”
But now he believes the time is right for him to have an impact in the middle, and he thinks promoting defender Jordan Russell from the VFL could be one way of unleashing him.
”Nick Duigan is back to some good touch and then you’ve got Jordan Russell playing well in the twos,” Gibbs said. ”So if we can get him back up into that half-back role, then hopefully I can get back into the midfield in the second half of the year and play some good games.”
Back in March Ratten publicly implored Gibbs, fresh from a stellar pre-season, to take on Chris Judd and Marc Murphy for the mantle of the club’s best engine-room force.
”I think he is ready to take the next step,” the coach said at the time.
But, like the top-four prediction for his team, Ratten’s optimism is yet to be realised, something that Gibbs admitted yesterday.
”My year hasn’t probably been as great as I would have liked,” he said. ”I set myself for a big year in the midfield, but with a few injuries I found myself down back.”
As a result, Gibbs is winning more of his possessions in the back half, and significantly less forward of the centre where his skills and poise can often turn into scores.
Just over 8 per cent of his 20 disposals a game this year are won near the goals, down from almost 14 last year, and his inside 50s have been cut in half, down to 1.5 a game.
Gibbs is averaging fewer disposals, uncontested possessions, marks and clearances than he did last season, when he finished third in the club’s best and fairest behind Murphy and Judd.
Murphy is recovering from a long-term shoulder injury, but there was positive news yesterday, with the club confirming that the brilliant midfielder was on track for a return against the Western Bulldogs in round 17.
The Blues also received good news on key defender Michael Jamison, scans clearing him of any structural damage to a shoulder he injured in the Blues’ big loss to Hawthorn last Friday night.
Jamison met team doctors and specialists yesterday and he will be monitored all week and is hoping to play against Collingwood on Friday night, football manager Andrew McKay said last night.
”This is certainly more positive news than originally thought and Michael will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness for Friday night’s match,” McKay said.
It understood key forward Jarrad Waite, suffering from a lingering back injury, is back running and will try to get up for the round 16 game against North Melbourne on Friday week.
If not, he should also be available to play against the Dogs.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.