I love having coffee on Lygon St. There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants, all catering to a different crowd but there’s a common theme – the coffee is consistently good. There’s a fair chance if you grab one during the footy season that you’ll hear some footy die-hards lamenting Carlton’s current misfortune, and as someone who grew up watching my club get belted by them in the 90’s it’s been like a twisted kind of utopia for me.

Nothing beats a bit of eavesdropping as that sweet crema hits your lips.

“I’ve had enough of Levi, there should be some sort of parental advisory when he kicks the footy!”

“Cripps can’t do it on his own, why would he keep busting his arse for these imbeciles?”

And my personal favourite: “Malthouse was sent by the pies as a sleeper agent to sink us, and he bloody well has!”.

These quips (and more) have made my morning over the past 5 and a bit years. However, I suspect my salad days of Lygon St will soon be over, and I’ll have to choose another destination to get my fix.

THE GOOD

Cripps and SPS put on a clinic

From the first bounce the Blues looked on, Patrick Cripps and Sam Petrevski-Seton running the show and winning first use with ease. We know what to expect from Cripps; he is a top 5 league-wide player but Petrevski-Seton has teased and tantalised for a while now. This was his breakout game.

SPS didn’t fumble once, was creative with his ball use and kept a cool head amid a pretty frenetic pace that should’ve suited the Bulldogs’ mids. He provided the Carlton midfield with a real x factor against a team stacked with ball winning, premiership talent.

I like players that look low when spotting up targets and SPS does this regularly, often at top speed.

On any other day Cripps’ 37 disposals (and 11 clearances) would’ve seen him viewed as the best player but I thought Petrevski-Seton just shaded him. His touches were more damaging when the game was in the balance. SPS ended up with 35 (including seven clearances and a goal) and went at 88% efficiency.

Harry McKay

If SPS looked on track for a breakout game then Harry McKay was on a similar trajectory from the second minute. Sitting under a high footy opposed to Caleb Daniel to set up your first goal must be the football equivalent of getting off the mark with a gentle half-volley on your pads and big Harry had two instances in the first quarter in which Daniel was his direct opponent. Both resulted in goals.

McKay spent the game terrorising Bulldog defenders, first Cordy then their former All-Australian Easton Wood. A Lance Franklin-esque galloping run down centre wing to deep inside 50 would’ve gone close to sewing up goal of the year in the second term, alas his kick barely snuck in for a behind.

McKay finished with 20 disposals, 11 marks and kicked 4 goals. Yikes

Lachie Plowman 

Plowman is a player I hadn’t rated particularly highly in previous years, especially in comparison to his ex GWS teammate Caleb Marchbank but he’s had an undeniably strong start to 2019. He was supreme in the air today and his ball use after repelling numerous Bulldog entries was of top class. Plowman played with a real presence and you could see his teammates react positively when he was in the contest, knowing he’d (at worst) break even.

Zac Fisher

Didn’t do much in the first quarter but burst to life in the second term with his line breaking run and surgical ball use and maintained his form until the final siren. Fisher is one of those players that looks good with ball in hand and he was Carlton’s best conduit today from defence to attack. The days of Fisher lacking polish with his final delivery, either inside 50 or a shot on goal appear to be behind him.

28 touches at 85% efficiency, seven clearances, five inside 50s and nice goal to boot.

Kade Simpson

I could just cut and paste any critiques of Simpson from the last 10 years and they would be equally applicable here. Brave, uncompromising, reliable and team lifting. I doubt he’s ever finished a game of footy with a clean jumper. Set Casboult up for his first goal with a 45 metre laser pass. What a champion.

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Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker – click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

Sam Walsh

Set up the first goal with a slightly fortuitous centre from the pocket, but there was nothing lucky about his next 25 disposals. Walsh was opposed to Lachie Hunter early and gave him a real touch up. His ball use is improving by the week and it was fitting that his goal on the siren broke the 100 point barrier.

26 disposals at 92%, six score involvements.

Casboult and Silvagni

Levi Casboult and Jack Silvagni have both worn some heat over their careers but I really liked their games today. Levi’s always been a commanding aerial presence but his game today had a bit more craft to it. He didn’t drag his opponent needlessly to contests, and generally made the most of more limited opportunities than you might expect from a 44 point win. Finishing with three goals, all at crucial stages of the match, was a nice reward for effort.

Silvagni worked up and down the ground, linking up between half back and deep forward but it was three or four efforts that set up Marc Murphy late in the first quarter that was a real team lifter. The Bulldogs looked set to rebound the ball but Jack refused to be beaten, scrapping at ground level until reinforcements arrived. It set the tone for the day and will be highlighted when the Blues do their review on Monday.

Marc Murphy

Has played out of his weight division for so long and has earned the chance to go on the outside and win some easier footy. Kicked a nice left-foot goal after some Silvagni bullocking.

Matthew Kreuzer

Carlton look a far better team with Kreuzer out there, he’s just so clean for a big guy at ground level. I really enjoyed his battle with English and he’ll be much better for the run.

Tim English

Battled manfully against Kruezer and Casboult, but though he won the majority of the hit outs the Blues’ mids were able to shark a lot of his taps.

Was perhaps more impressive around the ground where he took a number of strong marks and laid some crunching tackles. Will be a very good player but needs more support. One of the Dogs’ best today

Jason Johannisen

JJ was the Dogs’ most threatening player, especially given the absence of Suckling. His ability to run 30 metres and kick the ball another 55 stood out like dogs balls, there really isn’t much leg speed in the current Bulldog side. Not the best game he’s ever played but is still building into the season.

Ed Richards

I love this guy. Had a hand in almost every goal the Bulldogs kicked in the second half and has that rare combination of toughness and skill. Modest stats but something good happened every time he won the footy.

Bailey Smith

Another player that worked hard all day, running the channels and using the footy well. Was at his best in the thirrd quarter when the dogs needed a spark.

Will Hayes

Young Will looked at ease on his debut which didn’t always reflect well on his more experienced teammates. His quick hands and ccomposure stood out as many of his peers fumbled the pill. The chip inside to set up Dickson was of the highest class. Finished with 21 disposals at 80% efficiency with seven score involvements. Impressive.

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THE NOT BAD (BUT NOT GREAT EITHER)

Marcus Bontempelli

The much anticipated battle with Cripps probably dragged a few neutrals through the gates but the Bont didn’t have his best day. Did some good things (such as mopping up Wallis’ mess to set up Dickson) but his disposals lacked their usual precision and his profligacy in front of goal was symptomatic of the team. Not a poor game by any stretch but given his high standards (and his opponent’s influence) I’ve marked him harder than most.

Caleb Daniel

I can understand why the Bulldogs play Daniel through the backline as his clean hands and vision allow the Bulldogs to re-align attacks through the centre of the ground. Daniel is the master of the 20 metre diagonal kick inside which can lead to an attacking chain of handballs through the centre of the ground, the Bulldogs preferred offensive method.

What I can’t understand is why he takes so many kick ins. I guess it’s fine in theory if there’s a mid-range target on offer but if the ball is turned over quickly he’s sitting 20 metres out from goal against an invariably bigger opponent.

The stats will say that Daniel used the ball well today but he was caught one out with Harry Mckay twice which led to two Carlton goals. Then there was an errant switch with the result a goal to Petrevski-Seton when the Dogs had some momentum late in the 3rd quarter. Will benefit when Suckling is fit.

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Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

Toby McClean

McClean has as much talent as anyone at the Whitten Oval but he’s been a real disappointment in 2019. His lack of influence when the game needed someone of his class and creativity to step up was glaring. Appears to be coasting through games. Hopefully he can regain the form of his last two seasons.

 Click here for our deep dive on the Cripps v Bont match-up. The game within the game.

Click here for our deep dive on the Cripps v Bont match-up. The game within the game.

AND THE UGLY

Aaron Naughton.

Two touches to three quarter time. Yikes.

There is a long list of things for Blues fans to get excited about but it was the ability to play a bit of tempo footy in the second half that impressed me. In earlier fixtures the Blues have slowed play down (to their detriment) when chasing a deficit. However, on this occasion there were periods where they were content with their lead and happy to chip the footy around to arrest some of their opponent’s momentum. A small feature, perhaps, but it was a sign of their maturity as a team, and a complete absence of panic in the periods where they were challenged.

An obvious boon for the Blues is just how inexperienced their best players are, and their potential to get so much better. I had Petrevski-Seton (47 games), Cripps (86), McKay (20) and Fisher (39) as the four best players out there. There is a hell of an upside to all of those guys and there is still a lot of talent waiting in the wings.

As for the Bulldogs, well, they blooded two kids today into an already inexperienced side (Hayes and Young) and their other youngsters like Smith, English, Richards et al continue to impress. Unfortunately the midfield looks very one paced and the forward line is perhaps the league’s most underwhelming. The return of Tom Boyd will help them structurally but they seem a long way off contending for the top eight this year. The malaise of McClean is of huge concern too.

Finally, I have a feeling that the next time I venture up to Lygon St it’ll be me grumbling about a loss to the Blues as the locals quietly chuckle to themselves. I just want you to know that it was fun while it lasted Carlton. It was really, really fun.

 Who was #1 in The Mongrel Punt’s Player Power Rankings after R4?

Who was #1 in The Mongrel Punt’s Player Power Rankings after R4?

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