Career : 2012 - 2015
Debut : Round 17, 2012 vs Western Bulldogs, aged 21 years, 40 days
Carlton Player No. 1139
Games : 51
Goals : 36
Last Game : Round 23, 2015 vs Hawthorn, aged 24 years, 85 days
Guernsey No. 28
Height: 187 cm (6 ft. 1 in.)
Weight: 95 kg (14 stone, 13 lbs.)
DOB : June 13, 1991.
Queenslander Tom Bell was the first Blue taken in the 2011 Rookie Draft at pick 14. A powerfully-built, 20 year-old from the Morningside Football Club, he had impressed Carlton’s Recruiting Manager Wayne Hughes on several occasions during the year, playing in the midfield for the Panthers on their way to the NEAFL Finals.
Despite the setback of a shoulder injury early in 2011, and the devastation of a big defeat by NT Thunder in the Grand Final, Bell ticked all the boxes at the Rookie Draft camp and made a good impression with his attitude. "He had a really good year,” Hughes said later. “He plays on a wing. Aerobically he's very good - a fifteen-and-a-half beep tester - and he's best described as a very tough footballer. At 95 kg and 187 cm, he's built like a brick outhouse."
A string of solid games for the Northern Blues in the first half of 2012 kept Bell in the sights of Carlton’s match committee, but it wasn’t until round 17 – when the injury-depleted and patched-up Blues met the Western Bulldogs on a Saturday night at Docklands – that Bell’s dreams were realised and he was selected for his first senior match. In guernsey number 28, Bell started and finished the game in the midfield, running and tackling hard in a promising debut that ended in a vital victory to keep Carlton’s finals hopes alive. After spraying an early shot on goal, Tom banged through his first major in the third term, and by siren time was creating excitement every time he charged into the fray.
From then on, Bell played every game through to the end of an awful season that culminated in Carlton missing the finals, and senior coach Brett Ratten losing his job. As Carlton supporters came to terms with those events – and the appointment of former Collingwood Premiership coach Mick Malthouse as custodian of the Blues for 2013 – their spirits were lifted by the announcement that Bell had accepted a two-year contract extension, with a further 12-month option. Tom had finished 2012 impressively, and was a worthy winner of Carlton’s Best First Year Player award. It was strongly rumoured that he had been targeted by Essendon during the end of season trade period, but the Blues wouldn’t hear of him leaving and matched what was on offer.
Bell’s follow-up season in 2013 was much like his first. Although he was consistently effective for the Northern Blues, he couldn’t nail down a regular place in Carlton’s senior side during the first half of the year. By late June, he had worn the navy blue only three times in 12 rounds of matches, and his cause wasn’t helped when he suffered a hairline fracture of the jaw during a lower grade game.
However, after three weeks on the sidelines, Bell eventually forced his way back into Carlton’s line-up for round 21 – when the Blues convincingly beat Richmond to revive their faint finals hopes. From there, he stayed in the team right through until the season ended in defeat by Sydney in a forgettable Semi Final. On the way, Tom showed his potential as a big occasion player, and in October the club upgraded him to the senior list.
Injury blighted Bell’s career again in 2014, when he fractured a finger against Collingwood in round 7 and was sidelined for nine matches. However, after making a welcome return against St Kilda in round 16, he regained something his best form in the later stages of the season, and contributed a handy 11 goals in 13 matches.
In 2015, as Carlton endured one of the worst seasons in the club’s history, Bell came of age as an AFL footballer and played all 22 matches – including the 50th game of his career against the GWS Giants in round 22. Although his disposal skills weren’t always razor sharp, Tom’s intensity never waned and he was one of the Blues’ more consistent contributors, averaging 21 disposals, four tackles, and four inside-50 entries per game. On six occasions he collected 25 possessions or more, and his 17 goals for the year included a couple of absolute crackers from tight angles.
In September 2015, soon after his equal fourth placing in Carlton’s Best and Fairest, rumours began to circulate that family responsibilities were about to draw Tom back home to Queensland. In fact, by then he had already requested a trade to the Brisbane Lions, and after some amicable discussions between the two clubs, Bell and Carlton’s National Draft pick 41 headed north, in exchange for the Lions’ selections 21 and 60 in a deal that was generally regarded as a win-win situation for both clubs.
In announcing Bell’s departure from Princes Park, Carlton's list manager Stephen Silvagni expressed the reaction of the majority of Carlton supporters when he said, “Post-season, Tom made the football club aware that he would like to return home to Queensland to be closer to his family. Although he is a contracted player, we saw an opportunity to work with Brisbane to facilitate a trade that could benefit both parties. We’re really pleased with the outcome, and we wish Tom all the best for the future.”
Career Highlights2012 - Best First Year Player
2015 - Equal 4th Best and Fairest