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Seven years on, and battlers still itching

A LOT can change in seven years ... but sometimes it doesn't.

In September 2000, Carlton and Melbourne clashed at the MCG for the right to host a preliminary final.

By August 2007, they were at the same venue, but this time fighting over a priority pick to be used in that year's national draft.

Having fallen on hard times since they came up just short of a premiership in 2000, the Blues and Demons were looking to use the country's best young kids as their springboard back to success.

Carlton had already secured two No.1 draft picks - in 2005 (used on Marc Murphy) and 2006 (Bryce Gibbs) - and by managing, or engineering, a loss to Melbourne in the final round of 2007, it "won" a third, and, in turn, ruckman Matthew Kreuzer.

Though the Demons had to settle for the fourth selection overall that year (Cale Morton), they secured a No.1 pick of their own in 2008 (Jack Watts) and again in 2009 (Tom Scully), as well as the No.2 (Jack Trengove).

Hopes of a return to their glory days were as high for both teams as those draft picks. But, almost seven years after contesting the "Kreuzer Cup", Carlton and Melbourne have returned to the depths of despair.

They face each other at the "G" again tomorrow, while also facing another rebuild after peaking at fifth (in 2011) and 12th (in 2010), respectively, after their last one.

Playing a part in both clubs' lack of progress has been their lack of a return on their investments - through their own fault or the players' - with only Murphy developing sufficiently enough to reach his potential, though his leadership as Carlton captain is being questioned.

Gibbs has become nothing more than a "decent halfback" and may be tempted by a return to South Australia to start afresh, while Kreuzer has been plagued by injury and even now is out for three months after foot surgery.

Watts still can't find his best position, Trengove was dropped to the reserves last week, and Morton (axed) and Scully (GWS) are long gone.

Recruiting decisions can make or break clubs - and even the appointments of coaching royalty, Mick Malthouse and Paul Roos, may fail to pay dividends.

Hired to coach Carlton to a flag, Malthouse is understandably not keen on getting his hands too dirty and rebuilding a playing list in his twilight years, but after he sat on those hands during his first trade period in charge, he then recruited Andrejs Everitt (to his third club) and Dale Thomas (on about $700,000 a year, but at 60% capacity) last year as the answer to the club's needs.

Sadly for Roos, he won't ever have Mitch Clark at his disposal or young hot shot Jesse Hogan for some time.

But, after his predecessor, Mark Neeld, ballsed up his "moneyball" approach to recruiting 12 months earlier, time will tell if Roos made the right choice in giving up the opportunity to draft Josh Kelly by trading out their No.2 pick to GWS last year for Dom Tyson.

There is every chance the Demons will have the top two picks at this year's national draft - No.1 as a "reward" for finishing last and No.2 as a compensation pick if key defender James Frawley departs as a free agent.

A loss to Carlton will help their cause. They then just need to make the right choices at the draft table.

Topics:  afl carlton blues melbourne demons