AFL: Paddy Dow only uncontracted Carlton player after signings

Paddy Dow is Carlton’s only uncontracted player on the eve of the AFL trade period after the Blues recommitted to an injury-riddled trio for the 2024 season.

Caleb Marchbank, David Cuningham and Sam Durdin all received new one-year deals on Friday, with Carlton to enter next season with the most stability in its playing list for more than a decade.

Dow and speedster Zac Fisher are set to depart via trades but will be among only seven list changes for the Blues for the third consecutive season.

It comes after a turbulent eight-year period where the Blues parted ways with an average 11 players in each off-season between 2013 and 2020.

Marchbank and Cuningham re-emerged as important cogs in Carlton’s senior side after overcoming persistent injuries in 2023, with the former among the Blues’ best finals players as he returned to the team in round 20 and played eight consecutive games after managing only four in the previous three seasons.

Carlton list boss Nick Austin lauded Marchbank’s perseverance to fight back from repeat knee injuries and a fractured vertebrae in his neck that derailed his 2022 campaign.

“Caleb’s return to the senior side has been welcomed, slotting into the back six with a team-first mindset. He has had some really strong moments this season and his ability to perform under pressure late in the season was impressive,” Austin said.

“We also need to acknowledge the journey it has taken for Caleb to get to where he is now.

“It is a huge credit to his diligence and drive to see him back and playing so well. We look forward to seeing him continue to emerge over the next 12 months.”

Austin said Cuningham, who was dropped for the preliminary final but played a major role in Carlton’s second half of the season as a half-forward, had shown “incredible resolve and grit” after he played only four games in 2021 and missed all of last year.

Durdin, 27, has been retained as key defensive depth for a third season at the Blues after he was recruited in the 2022 mid-season draft.

St Kilda appears the likely landing spot for Dow, who would reunite with list manager and the man who recruited him to the Blues in 2017, Stephen Silvagni.

The 23-year-old midfielder played 10 games this season but started five as the substitute, with former North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell telling AFL Trade Radio that Dow had been “harshly dealt with” by the Blues.

“I actually think Paddy Dow has been harshly dealt with at Carlton, to be fair,” Ziebell said on Thursday.

“I reckon he’s got some unbelievable talent (and has) been starved of opportunity.

“When he’s been given that opportunity, and obviously we’re not in the four walls of that football club and we’re not sure exactly how he’s performing to those standards, but from the outside looking in, he’s got some ability.”

Fisher’s manager Andrew McDougall said the left-footer also wanted more opportunities at senior level after being limited to 12 games in 2023.

The 25-year-old is expected to join North Melbourne during the trade period, which begins on Monday.

“It’s probably more about opportunity for Zac. He loves all the players there, such a great club, Carlton, and he’s got some really close friends,” McDougall told AFL Trade Radio.

“It’s more an opportunity piece for him if things do eventuate … he’s had a bit of interest from a few clubs, obviously getting dropped a few times in the lead-up.”

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