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Big Levi - rockin' the Casboult!

Levi Casboult

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Career : 2012 -
Debut : Round 17, 2012 vs Western Bulldogs, aged 22 years, 129 days
Carlton Player No. 1140
Games : 94 *
Goals :105 *
Guernsey No. 41
Height : 198 cm (6 ft. 5 in.)
Weight : 103 kg (16 stone, 2 lbs.)
DOB : 15th March, 1990


When 22 year-old Levi Casboult was selected to make his senior debut for Carlton in a clutch game against the Western Bulldogs at Docklands Stadium in round 17, 2012, a frustrating wait finally came to an end. During the preceding three seasons, the promising ruckman-forward had shown glimpses of real ability with the Northern Blues, only for circumstances to delay his promotion much longer than expected.

A Carlton devotee from his early childhood, Levi and his family were ecstatic when he was recruited by the Blues with selection 44 in the 2010 Rookie Draft. Originally from Beaconsfield in Melbourne's south-east, Casboult had spent three seasons with the Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup. In 2009 he was shifted into a key forward role and, while leading the competition for contested marks, booted 41 goals in 20 matches. A few short weeks later, Carlton’s recruiting manager Wayne Hughes called his name on draft day, and Levi started out on the journey that would eventually see him become the 12th player to wear guernsey number 41 at senior level for the Navy Blues.

But first, Casboult was to be at the centre of controversy and tragedy. In the week leading up to Christmas 2009, a Yarra river cruise organised by the Carlton players backfired on the club when a number of them drank to excess and party games got out of control. Although he was an unwilling participant in the events of that evening, the adverse publicity that resulted brought a storm of criticism down on the club, as well as questions from Levi’s concerned family. Then a few days later on Christmas Eve, a car veered across the median strip on the Princes Highway at Dandenong, and crashed head-on into Casboult’s vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. Levi was saved by his vehicle's airbag system and escaped injury, but the driver of the other car was tragically killed on impact.

After such a rocky start to his career, Casboult put in a consistent 2010 season for the Northern Bullants and was retained on Carlton’s Rookie List. A solid pre-season preparation and some welcome game time for the seniors during the 2011 NAB Cup games followed, before his improvement was recognised when he was promoted to Carlton’s senior roster in place of the injured Luke Mitchell. In August, Casboult all but won an important VFL match against Bendigo off his own boot, kicking five goals - including a monster drop-punt from 55 metres - that snatched the lead for his side in the final term. That attention-grabbing effort put him in line for a senior call-up during the finals, although in the end he was overlooked.

When the 2012 season got underway, pundits agreed that a fitter, more mature Casboult was likely to play senior football sooner rather than later. Early in the first VFL game of the year against Coburg however, Levi crashed to the turf with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in a knee – an injury that eventually cost him 14 weeks on the sidelines. Back to fitness again in mid-July, Casboult found himself playing for a club in real danger of missing the finals. After a slashing start to the year, the Blues had been devastated by injury, to the extent that by round 17, all four of the club’s front-line ruckmen; Matthew Kreuzer, Shaun Hampson, Robert Warnock and Sam Rowe were unavailable through injury, illness or suspension.

Therefore, Levi was called to the colours at last in less than ideal circumstances – with the huge task of leading Carlton’s rucks on debut, against a Western Bulldogs side with a full complement of big men. As expected, he was out-gunned by the bulk and experience of Bulldog Wil Minson - yet he stuck to his task, took some strong marks around the ground, and was one of the key factors in Carlton’s gutsy 18-point win.

Over the following five weeks, Levi maintained his place in Carlton’s team and showed constant improvement. He kicked his first career goal against Richmond at the MCG on a Saturday night in round 18, and stamped himself as a key forward prospect with a breakout game against Essendon in round 21. In front of 60,000 spectators on that Saturday afternoon at the MCG, Casboult made everybody sit up and take notice when he took six big marks and kicked three goals as Carlton shredded the Bombers. The second of those majors; a right-foot, over-the-shoulder snap from 50 metres out on the boundary, was a viable Goal of the Year contender - surpassed only by his tenacious chase and tackle on Bomber speedster Courtney Dempsey during the third quarter.

A fortnight later, Casboult played his sixth and last match of the season when Brett Ratten coached Carlton for the last time, and the under-manned Blues went down to St Kilda at Docklands. From 2013, the new man in charge at Princes Park was to be former West Coast and Collingwood Premiership coach Mick Malthouse, who from early on was encouraging to Levi, while asking for consistency that he didn’t always get.show_image.php?id=35082Under Malthouse, Casboult played 11 senior games in his debut year (including Carlton’s season-ending Semi Final loss to Sydney) and kicked 7 goals. His best effort came in round 21 against Richmond at the MCG, when the Blues recovered from a five-goal deficit at quarter time to finish all over the Tigers and win by 10 points. In an excellent all-round performance, Levi chalked up 15 disposals, 5 marks, 8 effective tap-outs and 3 goals. From then on, Casboult was one of a number of Carlton players who appeared to have little left as the season concluded. Perhaps he was carrying an injury, or fatigue had set in - whatever the reason, he seemed to need the break.

As the 2014 season began, the Blues were hoping to celebrate the club’s 150th year in style. However, by round 4, Carlton hadn't won a game, and the team staggered through the year to finish 13th. Casboult's season wasn't short of highlights - again he took some sensational marks, and twice kicked four goals in a match, but he didn't grasp any game by the scruff of the neck as Blues' supporters hoped he would, and overall, his 15 goals from 19 matches was disappointing.

Heading into 2015, Bluebaggers everywhere wondered if this could be Levi's Year. Again, the answer was no – although to a great extent, it wasn’t his fault. After losing a number of high profile players during the off-season, the struggling Blues endured an even worse season than the previous one. The team was anchored near the bottom of the ladder and destined for the wooden spoon by May, when the board sacked Malthouse and asked assistant coach John Barker to take over in a caretaker capacity. Levi played 16 games from the start of the year, and his 24 goals were valuable to a team that was regularly hammered by big margins. Then he suffered a torn knee ligament in round 19 against Collingwood, bringing his sixth season to a premature end.

The appointment of former Hawthorn assistant coach Brendon Bolton to the senior job at Carlton preceded a big turnover of both the player roster and the coaching panel prior to the 2016 season. The Blues were once again slow out of the blocks, and lost the first four games before staging a remarkable recovery to win the next four straight. Casboult enjoyed his best game for some time in Carlton’s victory over Collingwood in round 7, when he collected 17 possessions, 11 marks and three goals – but in the opening minute of the next weekend’s game against Port Adelaide, he crashed to the ground clutching his knee in pain and it looked like another season was about to end.

Conflicting reports over the next few days at first ruled Levi out for the year, then months, then weeks. In the end, he missed just one game, and came back into the side for Carlton’s sensational victory over Geelong at Docklands in round 10. After completing the season with 18 goals from 20 games, Casboult signed a 12 month extension to his contract, but still the question remains – will 2017 finally be the year that Levi justifies his ability, and emerges as an elite player?

Milestones

Carlton Goals Record by Guernsey Number : Levi became the goals record-holder for guernsey no. 41 in round 10, 2015
50 Games : Round 17, 2015 vs Hawthorn
100 Goals: Round 20, 2017 vs Essendon

Footnotes

Levi is distantly related to former Blues great George Challis, who was tragically killed in World War 1. Challis's niece Roberta (Bobbie), married Graeme Casboult in 1953. Graeme’s first cousin Lance Casboult was to become Levi Casboult’s grandfather. Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/bluebloods-through-the-ages-20120824-24ro1.html#ixzz24ci9EBFV

Blueseum: A summary of Casboult's playing career | Casboult's Blueseum Image Gallery

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