Carlton stars Dale Thomas and Chris Judd could play in Ballarat next week

TWO of the biggest names in the AFL could be set to ply their craft in Ballarat next week, with Dale Thomas and Chris Judd strong chances to take part in Carlton’s opening NAB Challenge game against North Melbourne.

Thomas has set his sights on playing in the NAB Challenge after recovering from a serious ankle injury that de-railed his 2013 season with Collingwood, while Judd is returning from post-season wrist surgery but looked in outstanding condition at the Blues’ first open training session last month.

The two teams will square off on Saturday, February 15 at Eureka Oval.

Rob Wiley, Carlton’s director of development and coaching, refused to give a definitive answer on whether or not the pair would be certain starters but conceded they had been training strongly and were in the mix for the 26-strong 

squad.

“Chris has come off wrist surgery and whether or not he plays will be up to the doctors, but he certainly needs a couple of more games than what he had last pre-season,” Wiley told The Courier from Carlton’s AFL community camp in Sale yesterday.

“Dale has progressed really nicely since Christmas and we’re really happy with how he’s training.

“It’s great to be able to showcase AFL football against a quality team in North Melbourne in a country area where grassroots football comes from – it’s an exciting opportunity for the Carlton Football Club and I’m sure it will provide a great spectacle for the Ballarat community as well.”

While Thomas has been one of the most talked about recruits for this year, Wiley nominated ex-Sydney half-back Andrejs Everitt as Carlton’s most impressive performer this pre-season ahead of a host of the club’s younger players.

“We’ve been really happy with Andrejs Everitt so far, he’s come into the club in outstanding condition and the training standard he has brought with him has been extremely high,” Wiley said.

“The others who have impressed us have been young midfielders Tom Bell, Ed Curnow, Nick Graham, Troy Menzel and Partick Cripps.”

While the match will be Carlton’s first visit to Ballarat, the Kangaroos will continue to strengthen their ties with the city when they host their sixth-straight community camp in a row tomorrow and Friday.

michael.pollock@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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