Carlton's ready to rumble
CARLTON ruckman Shaun Hampson believes the time is right for the Blues to send a shudder through the league.
The 23-year-old Queenslander, who is set to play in Saturday's NAB Cup round-three clash against the Brisbane Lions at Maroochydore, reckons his star-studded side has been building towards a big campaign in 2012.
"We've made the finals in the last two or three years now, so it's our time to make our mark on the competition," he said yesterday.
"I think everybody at the club will be upset if we don't finish in the top four and get the home final and the second chance.
"So there is a bit of pressure, but everybody is looking forward to having a good season.
"I think we've got a really strong, diverse squad. If someone gets injured, someone else can take their place without looking out of place.
"We're probably known for our midfield strength, having Chris Judd, Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Kade Simpson and Mitch Robinson running through there ... but I think if we're going to be a legitimate finals team, we're going to have to get other teams and the public to know that we've got more than the midfield. We've got a very strong forward team and a much-disciplined backline."
Carlton, which last won a flag in 1995, started this year with a whimper, losing all three of its previous NAB Cup matches.
Hampson said, however, the results were not a true reflection of the team's ability.
"We haven't had any wins yet, but we're not too worried about that," he said.
"It's NAB Cup and a lot of teams play young, inexperienced players and experiment with things, so it's a hard one to get a gauge on."
Although Carlton is not going to field a full-strength team at Maroochydore, the Blues will start favourites and Hampson says they are intent on winning.
"We're all professional athletes at the club and you don't get that way unless you're super competitive, so we'll definitely be trying to win," he said.
The 201cm, 102kg follower is keen to make a mark of his own this year after three injury-plagued seasons, including posterior cruciate ligament damage in 2010.
He has also had corrective eye surgery during the off-season.
"It's really helped me judge the flight of the ball," he said.
"I'm fit and fresh and ready to go and looking forward to playing some good injury-free footy and showing them what I can do."