I had been planning to write this blog post for some time now, so the recent interview by Carlton Media of Levi Casboult is an opportune time to write about one of our most maligned players.
Followers of Carlton Live will already know I’m a big Levi supporter (borderline man crushing) and it’s not just because of his rugged good looks, I firmly believe he will be big part of our rise up the ladder. I also didn’t just jump on the Levi bandwagon following his awesome 2019 but have been a staunch advocate of his in the face of plenty of ridicule from fellow supporters.
Don’t get me wrong, my forehead has received plenty of palms and I’ve thrown the remote at my TV a few thousand times over his goal kicking, no doubt along with many other supporters, but I reckon that pales into insignificance compared to how the man himself felt.
An avid Carlton supporter growing up, Levi’s career didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. As a 19-year-old Rookie on an end of season event, he was hand-cuffed to an older player and apparently forced to down a heap of alcohol. He was eventually picked up by his Dad, barely conscious. Incidentally also on that trip Eddie Betts was arrested for being drunk in the city and fined $5000 by the club.
Not long after this incident, Levi was involved in a car accident, where he was lucky to escape without a scratch, an incident that saw a person die when their car became airborne and smashed into Casboults’.
Back to Levi on field and in some way his own career has mirrored the performance of the club as a whole over the last 10 years. Typically of a young forward, it took a couple of years before he cracked a game in the seniors, which came in 2012 when he played 6 games. No one ever really doubted his potential and certainly his marking ability, which has seen him ranked in the top 10 in the league for contested marks over the past 8 years but having only one string to your bow in football these days isn’t enough.
It has been this marking prowess in particular that has both engaged and enraged supporters over the years. How frustrated have we all felt when he missed an easy shot after taking an amazing mark. I got to a point at one stage, that I’d close my eyes and cross my fingers every time he was in front of goal having a set shot.
I put a lot of the fault in some of the issues in Levi’s game squarely on the club. Our development of many young players over the last 10 years has been horrendous. In 2015 in what was a great move, the club employed Saverio Rocca to help Levi’s kicking, something that I haven’t really seen pay dividends until last year. I have always said, you can teach someone to kick, but you can’t teach them to mark the ball the way he does.
Being a key forward in an underperforming team is and has been a tough gig. Since the departure of Jarrod Waite, prior to the 2015 season, this burden of being the main target in our forward line has fallen on Levi. Each week having to take the oppositions best defender, combined with not a lot of mid-field supply, saw Levi many times cop the brunt of angry fans for his own performances. When you add all the tumultuous goings on at the club, coach changes etc I think it has been unfair to single him out.
Fast forward to 2018 and Levi in his own words thought he was on the way out. Supporters and probably the club as well were wanting to trade him out. It was through some candid conversations with his wife, that brought about a change in mindset for Levi, that he credits with his form turn around. So much of footy is between the ears and it seems that this new approach to focusing on just enjoying playing footy, is one of the reasons to his best season in the navy blue in 2019. Another reason was opportunity, a head injury to Liam Jones saw Levi thrown down back, a role that he relished. Being able to attack the ball and do what he does best, without the pressure of kicking goals, was also great for his confidence. Not only did he perform admirably down back, he became our second ruck and finished with 15 goals. A top 5 finish in the club B&F was somewhat surprising but certainly a credit to him.
My favourite Levi moment of 2019 was his handball out of a pack to Marc Murphy who kicked the winning goal against Freo.
Even after a great 2019, there has been many who can’t find him a spot in our best 22. With Liam Jones back to full fitness, Jacob Weitering expected to keep progressing and of course Doc back, our defence looks settled. Then up forward we have McGovern, and Harry and Charlie……except….. No Charlie. Charlie’s knee issue whilst devastating him for him, the club and the supporters who want so badly for our young gun to be out on the field, has opened up our forward line considerably. Also, with Mitch and Harry not presently in full training, Levi looks set to potentially be even our first choice forward come round 1.
For me 2020 all things point to being Levi’s biggest year yet. I have him firmly in my best 22. At 30 years of age, and from all reports the fittest he has ever been, a coach with an attacking game plan, a midfield with the ability to supply him plenty of ball, plus the support of players like Betts and Martin at his feet this adds up to a fantastic opportunity for him to be part of what we all hope to be a successful side this year, and one that is knocking on the door of the eight.
Finally, we sometimes forget about the personal side of the footballer when supporters get stuck into them. From the few times I’ve spoken to him and from what others have told me, he is a genuine and nice guy. He and his wife share a lot of their family on social media, where it is clear he is a doting father and husband first and footballer second!
Here’s to a big year for big Levi and I hope we see plenty of double cobra’s!
Image courtesy of:Flickerd [CC BY-SA]