“You’re a club that has been through a rebuild stage and you’re just starting to get your nose above water, and you invest in a 33-year-old? Take romanticism and do what you like with it.”
“At some point you’ve got to start winning games of football. How many games is this guy going to help you win in the next two years? He’s played 316 games, he’s maxed out.”
“It’s nice and it’s got a really warm feel about it. But let’s be honest, it’s a cutthroat business.”
“I’d be disappointed with Carlton’s list strategy if they went and got a 33-year-old at this stage.” Strong words from North Melbourne legend David King on Fox Footy’s Trading Day in the 2019 Trade Period.
He was of course referencing the mooted trade of Eddie Betts back to his first club in Carlton. Just one of many skeptical about what value the 33 year old could possibly add to a club brimming with young talent, besides romance of course.
We’re only seven rounds into the season, Betts is just six games into his second tenure at Carlton, and it’s already safe to call the trade a success.
The COVID-19 enforced shutdown may have helped him to freshen up, or maybe it was just a change of environment and returning to a place where he held so many fond memories. Regardless, Betts has reinvented himself in 2020 and is winning games for Carlton.
This season, Betts has ranked above average for inside 50’s (16), marks inside 50 (6), tackles inside 50 (7), and goals (10). He has ranked elite for goal assists (6), shots at goal (18), and score involvements (31).
Across the competition, Betts is ranked 14th in goals scored, 11th in goals per game, as well as 4th in total goal assists and goal assists per game.
At Carlton this season, Betts is the leading goalkicker (he’s also the leading goalkicker on Adelaide’s payroll), equal first in goal assists and tackles inside 50, as well as second in forward 50 groundball gets.
Not bad for a 33 year old.
With Shaun Burgoyne still running around at nearly 38 years of age, Betts could have five years of lighting up the forward pocket left in him.
The Blues were in desperate need of a small forward and Betts has filled the void, he’s a goalsneak capable of magic and he brings great pressure. He also plays with a massive heart, and has played a massive hand in Carlton wins.
The first of which when they pulled off the monumental feat of beating Geelong in Geelong against all odds, and were the first away team to lead for an entire game at Kardinia Park since 2001. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, the Cats surged late, and Carlton barely held on for a two point victory.
After two goals, seven score involvements and three goal assists, Betts was pivotal in the final minute. He hacked the ball out of the Blues’ back half, then pushed up and lay the match winning tackle on Jack Henry that would earn Carlton a decisive free kick, but he wasn’t done there. After a lateral chip, he flew forward and found himself isolated in the pocket to mark the ball and ice a stunning first win of 2020 for the Baggers.
At 33, Betts is still a match winner
Three weeks later, Carlton tore the Dogs to shreds winning by 52 points. Betts kicked four goals and had ten score involvements.
Last week, the Blues were dealt a heartbreaking after the siren three point defeat at the hands of ladder-leaders Port Adelaide. A blowout loomed early in the game with Port skipping away to a three goal lead in the blink of an eye. Who snapped the Blues back into action? None other than Eddie Betts. He took matters into his own hands and sparked the stellar first quarter comeback with a spectacular high-flying hanger that wound back the clock.
Whilst his impact has been immense on the field; it extends far beyond that. Betts is a leader, and he might just be the wise shepherd that Carlton’s young core needed. He’s got a great knowledge of the game a great relationship with senior coach David Teague, also making him a perfect candidate to transition into a coaching role at the club, not dissimilar to Sam Mitchell at Hawthorn.
A proud Aboriginal, Betts brings great culture to the club, and with that he happily raises awareness and educates. Which is more essential than it’s ever been in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Arguably most important of all off the field, Betts has a profound effect on young indigenous talent. His signing no doubt contributed to Jack Martin’s urge to get to Carlton, and Betts will be crucial to getting the potential out of Martin that was never realised at the Gold Coast.
Martin (left) and Betts (right)
Betts’ signing at the club is guaranteed to have gone hand in hand with Carlton members signing up – the Blues happened to reach record membership numbers this year. Even at 33, he’s a master entertainer. As the AFL and all clubs look to bounce back from COVID-19’s financial knockout, attendances will be more important than ever in coming seasons, and people will pay the admission fee just to watch Betts conjure his magic.
As for Carlton’s list strategy, they were always going to hit the draft hard for three or four years, then look to land a ‘big fish’, target mature bodies and get more experience on the list. Betts fits the bill.
Not much can go wrong when all you give up is a future fourth round pick and don’t even have to pay his full salary. In Eddie Betts’ case, nothing has gone wrong at all, and there’s no limit on how successful the deal could end up being.