After an incredible start to the 2022 season, Carlton are not only on track to make their first AFL Finals series since 2013, but could go much further.

Most footy fans, even Blues supporters themselves, have been waiting for the old Carlton to return at some point this season. The performance that makes fans slump in their chair and say ‘we’ve still got some way to go’.

Except it hasn’t come.

At 7-2 Michael Voss’s side has risen to almost every challenge this season, with losses to just third-placed Fremantle and the recently impressive Gold Coast Suns — both on the road. Without an AFL Finals appearance since 2013, the Blues can start to dream of September, now into $1.45 Top 8 hopes with Palmerbet (in from $2.88 before the season kicked off). And it has many questioning just how high their ceiling is in 2022…

Recipe for success?

A game inside the Top 4 at 7-2, and with an enviable draw to come, Carlton must be glancing at other goals than simply a September return. After starting the season as $9 outsiders to finish inside the ‘double chance’ spots, the Blues have shortened considerably into $2.90. So what’s behind the surge? Well some — Sydney coach John Longmire for instance — says they have the AFL’s best midfield.

Analyst David King broke down this week what they do well. “Their handball game now is next level,” he said. “They go from this really aggressive strong ball winners to then, they’re not fleet of foot, but they find a way to get the ball into a handball chain and then come out the front of traffic and then they’re really dangerous. That’s why it works forward of centre because it’s so aggressive and it’s so quick. It’s instant.”

Carlton’s AFL Premiership hopes, while still fanciful in the eyes of some, have also been halved. Starting the season at $26, Voss’s men are now into $13 with Palmerbet.

Bloods test

Friday night against the Swans looms as a huge test for Carlton. While yes, they go in with an enviable 2022 record, there are a number of factors against them. First, they will be coming off a five-day break. Second, their injury list is sizeable (compared with the healthy Swans). And third, if the Swans can shut down Charlie Curnow, the Blues might struggle. “I saw the hole that Harry McKay left, it was larger than I thought,” former AFL forward Josh Jenkins said on SEN radio this week. “It was Curnow or bust.” They start that clash as marginal $1.93 outsiders.

Enviable draw

If the Blues can overcome Sydney at Marvel Stadium, they will give themselves a HUGE opportunity to finish inside the Top 4. They face the floundering Bombers and Pies immediately after in games they should start as solid favourites in. Victory against the Bloods, to go 8-2, would then keep open the prospect of starting the AFL season at a scarcely believable 10-2. From there, a Top 4 spot would be all but assured.