After a long day of reading the reviews of others, listening to news and views, and watching a bit of the footy here and there throughout the day, I settled back to watch what I hoped would be a cracking game of footy between the Dogs and the Blues.

Sadly, I was evicted for typing too loudly and had to head home.

Just kidding – I expected an absolute belter between these two clubs, and I was not disappointed.

We got to see some of the absolute best from players in this one, and there’s so much to focus on. I have to say, I think this will end up being one of the deepest dives we’ve ever done on a game, as there was simply so much to take in. You had Bont and Cripps stand side by side, Charlie Curnow reminding us why many thought he would be the best forward in the game, Josh Dunkley with career-high numbers, Mitch McGovern doing his best impersonation of an invisible man…

So, instead of me rambling on about how much there was to cover, how about I just start covering it?

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

JACK MACRAE

You know, I would be surprised if we see Macrae’s name in any of the media votes for this game. He got his stock-standard 37 touc… huh? 37 touches! The man is a machine, but fear not – we are not just about stats here at The Mongrel. My favourite part of his game was something far less spectacular than his accumulation of disposals, as good as that was.

Little was made of it on the night, except for a brief mention in the first quarter, but as everyone salivated over the potential Marcus Bontempelli v Patrick Cripps head-to-head matchup, it was actually Macrae who took on the responsibility of the Carlton maestro at stoppages, and he did it for the majority of the game.

We’ll cover the other stopping job a bit later, but Macrae’s work against Cripps was absolutely spectacular if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. Cripps is the inside beast – that’s news to nobody, but where you can really hurt him is on the run and spread.

Bont tried it the last time the teams met, and he was torched by Cripps because he wasn’t giving him enough respect at the contest. Macrae gave Cripps the respect he deserves, THEN he ran hard to spread and create options. That’s the way you play Cripps, and Macrae did it perfectly.

When we drill down on those numbers, Macrae had four clearances himself and laid eight tackles, including a wonderful, lunging effort to stop Cripps in the last quarter. He worked hard all over the ground and whilst Cripps ended up with seven clearances himself, his influence at stoppages, particularly in the first half when the Dogs were well on top, was down due to the attention of Jack Macrae.

I think Macrae was often overlooked last season. He racked up amazing numbers and was so consistent. A hamstring injury, and the tunnel-vision of All-Australian selectors probably cost him a spot in the final 22 after being the only Bulldog in the squad of 40, but with performances like this, he deserves a lot of credit.

I reckon we might be the only place that doesn’t give Curnow or Dunkley three votes in this one. For mine, they’re reserved for Jack Macrae.

 

CHARLIE CURNOW

There have been points this season where I have been critical of Curnow. He has hung out the back, looking for the cheap goal, or has tried to work his opponent under the ball rather than lead, mark and kick goals as he’s paid to do.

But it all clicked for him this evening.

He had a strange first half, and with four of his eight disposals coming via free kicks, one of which was extremely dubious, it looked as though he was finding some confidence. And when he got on the end of a couple of hack kicks inside 50 in the third, the Blues started rolling. The momentum gathered and the next thing you know, Charlie Curnow started to look like one of the best forwards in the game, as most experts predicted he would be by year’s end.

He finished with a career-high seven goals as he inspired the Blues to get the ball inside 50 quickly to give both him and Harry McKay a chance to get onto it.

Several people floated the idea of moving Curnow away from goal earlier this season, in order to give McKay more space to operate and utilise that contested marking deep inside 50. They may now be reconsidering that opinion.

Look, I don’t think Curnow’s game was as spectacular as it will be made out, in all honesty. He was on the end of a couple of free kicks and hack kicks forward, but you have to put yourself in the right spots to get them, I suppose. I did love his second and third efforts to soccer the goal in the third quarter, which dragged the Blues to within 15 points and really gave them a sniff.

He finished with 17 touches and seven marks to go along with those seven goals, and had a pretty handy five free kicks go his way as well, Three of them were there, from what I saw.

 

PATRICK LIPINSKI

Another who will be overlooked, but when the Dogs were up and running early, so much of it was due to the work of Lipinski.

He had a career-high today in disposals (29) and is ticking over at 25 touches per game in his three outings this season. That’s +10.29 on his 2018 stats.

With just 21 games under his belt, the future looks bright for Lipinski. He has good hands, works hard in close and on the outside, and will have a nice run where he will not receive close attention from the opposition due to the presence of Macrae, Dunkley and Bont in the middle.

He slotted a couple of crucial goals, and ran at an impressive 86% efficiency for the game. Not yet 21, the Dogs look to have another star mid in the making in Lipinski. I thought he played the complete game for someone in his role, and had him as best on ground after the first quarter.

Congrats, young man – excellent outing.

 

THE BONT

I’ll get to Ed Curnow soon enough, as his efforts deserve recognition, but firstly, I want to highlight a couple of things for context.

I got to cover the first Bulldogs v Blues match with a particular focus on the battle between Bont and Cripps. For the most part, they played opposite each other that day, and Bont really didn’t pay much respect to his opponent at stoppages. As a result, Cripps got off the chain a bit.

Here’s the article – The Battle Wit
hin The Battle – Bont v Cripps.

Now, it should be no secret that Cripps won that battle and the Blues won the war, but I got a bit of backlash from Dogs supporters who felt as though I have it in for their star. Not at all – if anything, all I have are high expectations, and I deliberately rostered myself on to do this game this weekend because I wanted to witness round two.

What I saw was Bont come out swinging. He looked like a man that had been stung by the criticism (not mine… as if he reads what I have to say, right?) after his last game against Cripps, and was determined to make it right this time around.

He went to Cripps at the first bounce, and his attack on every contest in the first quarter simply cannot be faulted. When he didn’t get his hands on it, he tackled. When he couldn’t tackle, he was harassing. He had a few mates in the first quarter who looked like a million bucks, but none made a statement to the level Bont did.

He had 14 disposals in a virtuoso performance, power the Dogs inside 50, winning contested ball and making those around him better.

His dream run came to an end in the second quarter when Ed Curnow was deployed in the role best suited to him, but Bont re-emerged in the last quarter to start taking overhead marks, and provided a strong marking forward target.

For the record, I don’t dislike Marcus Bontempelli. I think it’s important I state that. When he is on, there is no one in the league better to watch. Players like him and Nat Fyfe are joys to witness when they’re in full flight. I have high expectations of Bont simply because he is so damn good, that when he isn’t up to the standard he’s set for himself, the whole team suffers.

Will he get votes in this one? Nah, I don’t think so. Will he accrue big numbers in our Power Rankings? Probably not as again, he was short of the statistical triggers. But was he incredibly influential on this contest? You damn bet he was. That’s why he’s in this section.

 

JACKSON TRENGOVE

So I really rate Harry McKay. I reckon he’s shown enough to indicate he is going to be a real handful for many years as a tall forward.

Under the lights at Marvel Stadium, I anticipated him getting his hands on plenty of high balls inside 50, but Jackson Trengove had other ideas. He held the Carlton big man to just six touches as he used his stronger body to out-position and out-muscle McKay.

He looked to have hurt his shoulder (I think) late in the game, and you’d be hoping he gets back, as despite Curnow’s goal fiesta, there were times when the tall combination of Trengove, Wood and Cordy actually started looking cohesive.

Trengove won’t earn too many plaudits for keeping McKay quiet – I suppose Harry is still at that point in his career where getting to the wrong spots and not working hard enough can almost work himself out of the game, but he got no favours at all from Trengove, who put in a solid three and a half quarter effort.

It’s funny – when McKay finally got out on the lead and Marc Murphy hit him on the chest, old mate James Brayshaw called him “Harry Taylor”. Trengove had kept him so quiet the commentators forgot his bloody name!

 

THE OTHER CURNOW BLOKE

As promised, credit goes where it’s due.

It should not come as a surprise that the move of Ed Curnow onto Marcus Bontempelli coincided with the run by Carlton that saw them not only work back into the game, but take the lead.

Curnow came out last week and put the brakes on Lachie Neale after the Brisbane ball magnet had 25 touches in the first half, and he looked to do the same to the rampant Bontempelli in this one.

After Bont’s 14-disposal first quarter, that total had progressed to just 20 at the end of the third. You can thank the close checking and attention to task from Curnow for that.

Luke Beveridge was forced to move Bont to full forward to start the last quarter in order to break the tag – let’s face it; Ed v Bont in the goal square would be a massacre, but around the ground, Curnow was able to curtail the influence of the Bulldog star.

Curnow picked up just 12 disposals of his own, but amazingly, seven of them were clearances. He is a strong body, and at stoppages, he can be impossible to move.

 

FIVE MINUTES OF MATT SUCKLING

The Dogs needed someone to stand up late in the third quarter. The Blues had thrown the kitchen sink at them, and unfortunately for the Bullies, it seemed as though that sink had struck them right in the head. They were staggering, and Carlton smelt blood.

But Matt Suckling smelt opportunity.

His goal from 50 metres out, making something out of nothing, arrested the Carlton momentum, and his hard run moments later, to receive, run and carry, pass the ball inside 50 and continue to run to receive the short pass back again was the kind of gut-running only the most elite runners can pull off.

Sure, the shot at goal didn’t go through but really, most players would be lucky to have the tank to even get their foot to the ball after such a run.

He had 21 disposals at 67% efficiency, but I really don’t think those numbers do him justice. Sure, a couple of his kicks may go astray, but the ones he hits – those 55 metre darts to the chest of a teammate… they’re so few and far between from top-level players these days that when Suckling does it, you can’t help but nod and appreciate it.

 

KADE SIMPSON

The old fella really stood up in that third quarter. The Blues needed someone… something to start going their way, and Simpson provided both.

He only had six disposals in the quarter, but the quality and timing of those disposals was integral not only to repelling the Bulldogs’ attack, but in starting Carlton thrusts forward.

At 35 years old, Simpson looked and moved like a man ten years his junior in this game… I’m sure he won’t feel like a man ten years his junior during recovery!

How long Simpson will play is something that hasn’t been widely discussed. Whilst the Blues have a plethora of kids on their list, I’m not really seeing one who can slot in and assume the role Simpson plays so well. I mean Walsh could, but my guess is that you don’t want to rob the midfield Peter to pay the half back Paul with his talents. Fisher? Disposal would need a lot of work. Dow? No…just no. Not at this stage, anyway.

I’m already looking forward to seeing Simpson go around again next season. When you watch him use his composure of half back, you can see why he has been a stalwart of this cl
ub. He’s a class act.

 

THE BLUES’ THIRD

Carlton were irrepressible in the third quarter. Much like the Dogs in the first, they rode a wave of momentum that came crashing down on the Dogs, and they looked for a little while as though they’d rid it right into the shore and claim the win.

But as has plagued the Blues this season, they play in fits and starts. They can have these quarters, or even halves like this. They just can’t have full games where they turn the screws on an opponent and refuse to give them a look in.

Lo and behold, with a few minutes to go in the quarter, Carlton gave the Dogs a look in, and they never looked back.

The last quarter saw the Dogs completely squash the Carlton spirits, and seemingly put the game out of reach. It was miraculous that the Blues fought back to go down by such a small margin when really, they played about 35 minutes of good footy in total.

That third, though… I reckon there’d be some Blues fans… possibly some board members or even a president if he can put down his hot dog for long enough, who’ll get home, whack the recording on and take in just how good Carlton can be.

The crowd was going nuts, the Blues were going nuts, and the whole thing just seemed nuts! They made the Dogs look slow and tired. They made themselves look like world beaters. And then, inexplicably, they went back into their shell for 20 minutes.

If they ever work out how to string four quarters together, look out, but in the interim, I’ll enjoy the highs from Carlton, and yes… I’ll enjoy the lows as well.

 

DUNKS

Amazing that I am just getting to him now, huh?

41 disposals for the game, ten tackles, ten score involvements and six clearances… Josh Dunkley is a star!

When the Dogs were on early in the piece, it was him, Bont and Lipinski putting their foot down. He had 15 touches and a goal in the first quarter as he once again stamped himself as a top-echelon midfielder in the game.

It’s funny to think that not too long ago, Dunkley was being trialled as a forward. Not that he was a slouch in that role, but with a career-high of three goals on one occasion, I reckon his value is at its highest right where he is now – in the guts.

Speaking of career-highs, 41 disposals beats his previous best by five, and his form in the midfield this season has seen him return games of 35, 36, 21, 29 and 33 possessions in the weeks before this outing. He was threatening to do something like this, but to be able to add the ten tackles on top of earning those touches… that is the sign of a player who works hard both ways.

He is averaging 6.83 tackles per game over the last six games, lifting his work rate and attack on the ball carrier. Dunkley playing this way eases the burden on Bont and Macrae and allows Lachie Hunter to drift out the wing and use his run and carry.

As important as others I’ve mentioned are to the Dogs’ structure, Dunkley has given them the freedom to play with their team structurally. At just 22, big things are in store for Mr Dunkley.

 

THE BAD

 

NO ACCOUNTABILITY FROM CRIPPS

So, I mentioned above that I gave Bont a bit of a whack earlier in the year when Cripps got off the chain against him.

Well, Patrick… your turn.

You are the one who went and stood next to Bont at the first bounce. You were the one who engaged in a little bit of niggle to get the ball rolling.

Then what?

Bont went out and had 14 touches for the quarter, carving your team up, and you applied bugger all defensive pressure on him. You got your six touches in the first, and just eight in the entire first half as you ran around without attempting to cover anyone in particular.

Not only did Bont get off the chain, the bloke who decided to go and limit your influence at stoppages got off the chain as well. Macrae went and found the ball all over the place, and while Cripps had eight at half time, Macrae had 15 due to his willingness to run and spread.

Yeah, Cripps deserved every plaudit he got last week for the amazing game he had against the Lions, but he should be held accountable for the lack of attention he paid Bont in the first, and Macrae in the second this week. The best players in the game are two-way runners, and usually Cripps is vigilant in making sure he’s one of them.

Though the first eight games of 2019, Cripps had 7.37 tackles per game. Over the last five games, that number has dropped to 4.0 per game.

 

DOW OR NEVER

I was a believer that the arrival of Sam Walsh on the scene would allow Dow to flourish as the spotlight shifted from him, being the number three pick, to Walsh being the number one.

At this stage of the year, I think I may have been completely wrong.

Dow had nine disposals, a dribble goal and two tackles for the evening. I’m thinking of a nice way to say this… they’re the sort of numbers I expect from Michael Gibbons – not from a player who is earmarked as one of the future pillars of the Carlton midfield.

He is +2.2 in disposals from last season but is slightly less effective with his disposals, travelling at an unimpressive 63%. At just 0.4 goals per game, he needs to either become more dangerous around forward 50, or start to apply more pressure and lay more tackles to make more of an impact.

He currently sits at 2.69 tackles per game, which is at the lower end of the spectrum for someone who spends so much time in the midfield, and is down on his 3.2 tackles per game in 2018.

Could it be that he is just not that quick? Did you see Johannisen close down on him in the last quarter? He made up 15 metres on him and forced Dow to rush the kick inside 50. He just hasn’t come on in the way I’d hoped.

 

JACOB WEITERING’S SIDEBURNS

Yeah look, I know this isn’t important, but whoever convinced him that this look is a good one must be laughing their ass off.

Jacob, it’s not a good look, and I like to think you were pinged for deliberate in the last quarter as punishment for such a poor choice of facial hair.

Hell, I am not going to hit the catwalk any time soon, but if someone told me I’d look good with mutton chop sideburns, I’d know they were taking the piss.

Jacob… he can’t pull that look off. It makes him look like Jarrod Grant… and nobody wants  that.

 

THE UGLY

 

CALEB DANIEL TURNOVERS

I almost spat my coffee out when I read Mark Robinson had Daniel in his All-Australian team on the half back flank. At that stage, Daniel had been exploited in contests more than any defender/mid in the game, and Robbo had been seduced by numbers.

It happens to so many.

I thought Daniel was pretty good in this one, and having him in this category isn’t about his overall game. But we need to talk about those turnovers in defensive 50.

I get that he is creative with the ball, and I get that Luke Beveridge likes it when he has the ball in his hands, but when he opts for a cute kick inside defensive 50, and it doesn’t pay off, the price you pay is enormous, and it happens too often at the moment with Daniel.

He picked out Marc Murphy twice in this game, allowing the former Carlton captain the chance to have a shot or set up a teammate due to dinky little kicks, when the more prudent option was to clear the area.

The second time, coming as the Blues were pressing in the third quarter, was a glaring mistake under pressure he brought upon himself, running into the pocket and looking inboard – it’s a fool’s errand.

Overall, I counted four major errors inside defensive 50 that led to Carlton scoring opportunities. Three of them were goals – to Murphy in the first, then Charlie Curnow and David Cunningham in the last.

I much prefer Daniel operating between half back and centre, where he’s not under as much pressure, and the stakes aren’t quite so high if he makes an error. Some of his ball use through the middle in this one was magnificent, to be fair.

 

MITCH MCGOVERN

Getting tired of this bloke yet, Blues fans? I don’t even support your club, but I am.

Recruited as a contested marking forward, McGovern returned zero contested marks in this game. As a matter of fact, under the roof, in perfect conditions, he returned zero marks in total.

He had one goal from a free kick, zero tackles and was a non-factor in the game, with three effective disposals. As a matter of fact, he was on fire in the first quarter with three touches, meaning he added one per quarter after that. Money well spent.

If I were to choose one recruit as the most disappointing of the season, I’d choose Chad Wingard as second, because Mitch McGovern is far and away the worst of the year. I won’t go into his comparative numbers here because I just ticked over 4K words and really, his season has been a disaster.

If he’s not right, get him right. If he needs a spell, give him one, but if this kind of performance is what constitutes a Carlton forward brings to the table, it’s symptomatic of the team as a whole.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago in a Carlton review that the VFL beckons for McGovern. The call is getting louder by the week.

 

SPS GOING MISSING

Sam Petrevski-Seton is a smooth mover, and when he gets the ball in hand, he can look like a million bucks.

So, where was he in the first half tonight? Six touches running through the midfield is about as bad as it gets in a half of footy. No hard tag. No one giving him special attention – he just could not get near it.

For mine, this bloke, for all his talent and all his ability, goes missing in games way too often. Bundle him in with Paddy Dow if you like, but I actually rate SPS higher. He had 35 touches in Round Five, and fast forward eight weeks, he can go virtually unsighted for an entire half of footy?

He is now 55 games into his career. Carlton are waiting for someone to leap out of the box in the midfield and provide a spark. Sam Walsh will provide a steady, solid hand, but they need someone explosive. It should be SPS. It could be Zac Fisher. It definitely won’t be Lachie O’Brien – he’s a spud and if you argue against that, I think you run the risk of exposing your footy ignorance. Watch him duck his head in a marking contest on the lead in the second quarter inside 50. Unnatural forward, unnatural midfielder.

People talk about the Blues building, or the Blues coming, or smelling what the Blues are cooking (my favourite), but unless SPS is prominent more often than he goes missing, it probably isn’t going to happen. At some point the distance between a 35 disposal whacking and an 18 disposal cameo has to close, and it has to be sooner rather than later for the Blues to improve.

 

 

QUICK BITS

So, we’ve covered a fair bit, huh? How about a bit more.

A couple of runs by Jason Johannisen were absolutely scintillating tonight. One with the ball, but it was the chase to impact the kick of Paddy Dow in the last quarter that made me sit up and take notice. That is the sort of run and pressure that causes critics to bit their tongues.

Kane Cornes spoke about Sam Walsh last week – compared him to Andrew Gaff, which is nice, I suppose, but in context, he meant that he does not believe Walsh will be a match-winner. More like the steady, reliable mid like Gaff. I’m starting to think he may be onto something.

Walsh looks great, but he does the safe things. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s the risk-takers that become match winners, and whilst I admit I have not seen every Carlton game this season (I’m not a masochist) I’m yet to see Walsh do something where he takes the game on at the risk of getting caught. It’s not often I agree with Kaneo, but he might just be onto something here.

I love the heart of Matthew Kreuzer and he was a huge part of both fightbacks from the Blues, but the penchant of Tim English to get forward is going to provide headaches foe opposition coaches for years. He had an “almost” kind of game, almost clunking a fair few marks. He did in the last though – a beautiful grab floating across the pack, and he followed with his second goal.

It’s the quietest I’ve seen Bailey Smith this season, but once he did get the ball, he didn’t do much wrong with it, and he was really good in the last quarter.

Carlton’s midfielder looks better with Marc Murphy in it. It hurts me to write that, but he adds polish.

And the stuff with security and supporters with tape over their mouths… what do we make of this? A bit of a beat up? Is it just the broadcaster focusing more on it than usual? I’m sure that’ll go over well with the AFL…

That’s gonna do me for tonight. I thought this’d be along one, and I was right.

The Blues get the bye next week, and it should be a tough match. The Dogs get the Pies for the second time this year. Call me crazy, but I reckon they’re a sneaky chance, particularly at Marvel. I’m looking forward to it already.

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