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Young Blues beginning to shine: Gibbs

The 2014 AFL season has seen a new generation of superstars make their mark on the competition – to celebrate, the AFL Players’ Association is calling on all footy fans to help pick this year’s 22Under22 team. Click here to create yours.

Though much of 2014 didn’t go to plan for the Blues, there were still plenty of positives to take out of their year. The likes of Troy Menzel, Dylan Buckley and Sam Docherty showed they’re likely to be significant players for Carlton for the next decade, and a handful of other youngsters made their AFL debuts. caught up with gun midfielder Bryce Gibbs midway through 2014 to get his thoughts on the young Blues’ progress to date.

22 under 22 2014 nominee

Troy Menzel

Menzel kicked 26 goals and set up plenty of others in his second season at the Blues. Already a fan-favourite, the classy 19-year-old will only get better with age.

Gibbs said: “’Freak’ is one word that comes to mind. He’s going to be an absolute freak.

“His goal sense… He just reads the play so well. He wants to eventually play in the midfield, which is going to be pretty scary for opposition teams.

“If he can build his body up over the next few pre-seasons and play as that high half-forward… sort of like a Stevie J role, play half-forward but then come into the midfield and create a bit of havoc up the ground. If he can do that, he’ll be a very special player. I’m really looking forward to seeing his development over the next couple of years.

“He’s got a really laidback personality – not much phases him. He’s very easy-going and always happy.”

A couple to watch in 2015

Dylan Buckley

Buckley received a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 and looked set for a breakout 2014, playing eight games in the first 11 rounds, before a hand injury ended his season. With another pre-season under his belt, the lightly-framed father-son selection will be one to keep an eye on next season.

Gibbs said: “He’s come on in leaps and bounds. He’s been very professional. He’s always asking questions on how he can get better, which is great, and he sticks to his task – just playing his role.

“He was originally a forward who’d pinch-hit on-ball; since he’s been thrown down back, he’s really taken that with both hands. He saw an opportunity where he could fit into the side as a half-back and I think he’s going to play a lot of games for the footy club.

“He knows his capabilities, and sticks to his strengths well. He’s quick and has got good skills. Probably the area of his game that he needed to work on was his defence, given he’s playing in the backline, and he’s working hard on that every week and is really diligent with it. He’s going to be a really good player.”

Sam Docherty

Docherty didn’t make his Carlton debut until Round 7 but played every game thereafter, averaging 18 possessions in his 16 matches. Still only 20 years old, Docherty will be eligible for the 2015 and 2016 22Under22 teams.

Gibbs said: “A really good recruit – shows a lot of maturity for a young kid. I definitely don’t see him as a 20-year-old, it seems like he’s been around for a long time. He’s another one with really good skills and has been really important to us with the role he’s played in our side this year – wing/half-back, giving us a lot of link-up and run.

“He’s another guy who keeps asking questions and just wants to improve. He’s in the development group, which is the first to three or four year players at the club and has probably taken on a leadership role in that group. He’s driving the young guys in there, which has really stood out to me – him trying to get not only the other guys better, but himself as well.”

Nick Holman

Holman didn’t make his AFL debut until Round 22 but is likely to spend more time in the seniors in 2015, having impressed those at Visy Park with his work ethic.

Before Holman made his debut, Gibbs said: “Nick’s been playing really well in the reserves – he hasn’t had an opportunity. We have a thing at the club, like one percenters, which we call DI’s. And he’s been having an unbelievable amount of those in the last month – more than anyone in the AFL or the VFL team. He’s building his game around one percenters and doing things for the team. Hopefully he gets rewarded off the back of those things.

“He’s not the most gifted bloke in terms of skill and finesse but he’s hard-working and tough.”

The final 22Under22 team will be announced at the AFL Players’ MVP Awards on Tuesday, September 9. You can vote for Troy Menzel by selecting your 22Under22 team here.