The Cats hosted the Blues in what was anticipated as one of the more one-sided contests of the round.
In the end, it kind of was, just not the way everyone thought going in.
You would’ve forgiven some of the staunchest Carlton fans for holding some grave fears for the Blues’ prospects, after the belting Hawthorn copped last week at the hands of the Cats. Despite Clarko’s attempts to discredit the win (the Cats WERE “that good” and he should bloody deal with it!), things didn’t look promising for the Blues pre-bounce.
I know there had been some upsets up to this point in the round, but the chances of this trend continuing with a red-hot Cats outfit at home on a cold night in Geelong, against a Carlton team not known for their huge amounts of heart and grit to play four quarters of consistent footy.
Alas, this game was in fact two games. Both blowouts. One played over the first three quarters where the Blues out-hunted and out-muscled the Cats. And then the last quarter where the Blues ground to a screeching halt and the Cat ran rampant as they desperately tried to steal the game from the jaws of defeat.
I like to start with the good stuff.
Carlton had the run in the first quarter. In fact, not only did they have the run, they had the marks, clearances, inside 50’s and the pressure rating in their keeping, as well. They made Geelong look slow and made GMHBA Stadium seem as short as it was skinny.
The Blues harassed the Cats all over the ground and truly worked hard to close down any space they tried to build. Geelong looked troubled coming out of defence. A combination of sloppy short passes and long hacks continued to be returned to the Blues forward line with interest. Geelong looked stunned as they seemed unprepared for the fight the Blues brought with them down the highway.
The Cats had the look that they’d been drinking their own bath water for over a week, lapping up the reputation as the hot starters after the Covid-19 enforced break. You almost had to pity Joel Selwood in the first quarter as his teammates continually lagged behind their opponents and were shrugged-off in tackles and failed to take the most basic of chest marks. He seemed the only Cat player genuinely willing to lay it all on the line in the first quarter.
The Cats seemed to have been given a rev-up at quarter time. There was a genuine lift in their output in all areas of the game. In short, they responded. However, the Blues were not about to let a good thing slip through their fingers and simply roll over. They’d brought their own script to the Cattery. Their pressure remained high and their forwards rewarded their quicker ball movement with some critical contested marks that would’ve had Chris Scott pulling some of his famous faces in the box.
The Cats pushed hard to close the gap later in the quarter and had some likely chances. They will be rueing that they didn’t convert and close the gap on Carlton. The Blues would end up finishing the quarter in strong fashion and extending their lead to an almost game winning 29 points.
The third quarter was a mixed bag. Carlton looked like they were pulling away for a comfortable win. The Blues were running harder for longer and continuing their hunt for Geelong bodies. The Cats pressed hard in patches but couldn’t sustain the effort to make any headway into the Blues lead. And whenever the Cats lapsed, the Blues pounced in clinical fashion. The Blues would win their third quarter in a row against the Cats by a goal and refuse to let the Cats get away with any easy possessions.
It was a strange, yet foreseeable last quarter. The Blues changed their tune. They went away from the up-front pressure and attacking footy of the first three quarters to try and sit on the comfortable lead they had built. Meanwhile the Cats threw caution to the wind and the likes of Blicavs, Bews and Tuohy just began running 150 metre shuttle runs up and down GMHBA stadium. The commentators were at nauseum to point out how the Blues had slowed to a walk. Mitch Duncan showed up in a big way. There were costly advantages taken, a score review and a miss that Gary Ablett will likely never want to watch again…
In the end Geelong had more than enough chances to overtake Carlton, but they just continually threw them away. However, I believe that the fair outcome was reached. Carlton convincingly outplayed the Cats for the majority of the game, and it would’ve been a shame for the pressure to continue to unnecessarily build on David Teague and the Blues on the back of another close loss.
Well that’s one look at how the game unfolded. Let’s get into the stuff that mattered.
The Best Stuff
Carlton’s Hot Start
I addressed this earlier, but the Blues started this game the way they finished last week. I suppose you really do carry your form from one week into the next. The Blues came out ready for the contest that awaited them. Before you knew it, they had the first four goals of the game while the Cats were still languishing on a solitary behind with only a couple of minutes left in the first term.
Carlton’s Big Forwards
Casboult, McGovern and McKay.
They handled the Cats defenders like they were shelling peas in the first half. We’ve seen patches of these three taking turns showing their promise to the Carlton faithful, but I’m not sure if we’ve seen the three of them put together a better combined half of football, albeit with them leaving a couple goals begging.
It’s not just how they connected up and the strong marks they took; it’s who they beat. Geelong is known for not allowing big forwards to dominate them, or if they do, it’s not through consistently out marking them in their defensive 50. It’s just not how you beat the Cats… or is it?
Harry Taylor, Mark Blicavs and Co. could only look on as McKay, Casboult and McGovern did as they pleased in the first half. Casboult would finish with a game high five contested marks and a couple goals. Only five disposals for McGovern, but I think if Carlton can get two goals out of him every week, and some of that crafty forward play, he won’t be the most hated player in the place.
Jacob Weitering Vs Tom Hawkins
What a shutdown job on Hawkins in the first half. Hawkins couldn’t get near the footy as Weitering blocked his runs and bodied up on Hawkins as well as any key defender I’ve seen in a long time.
Hawkins would have his moments in the Cats resurgence in the last quarter, but I would give the points to Weitering in the end. Not just because of the final result, but Weitering’s ability to not only shut down Hawkins, but be able to springboard Carlton forward with purpose for the first three quarters of the game. He also stood tall in some big contests in the last quarter that Blues fans will no doubt re-watch with joy during the week.
Eddie Betts had another disappointing week. Not because of him, but because of ignorant and racist people who can’t seem to leave a champion be. Betts responded in devastating fashion.
Lined up on a familiar opponent in Jed Bews who has been developing a very good record on him, he kicked two early goals in Carlton’s onslaught. However, I have to say my Eddie moment of the night was early in the third quarter when he laced out Marc Murphy on his opposite foot in between three Cats defenders.
Eddie would torment the Cats with his lethal kicking and evasiveness. I’m sure Cats defenders will be having nightmares for days of Eddie Betts just tiptoeing out of their reach. Of course, it would be an Eddie Betts tackle that would ultimately thwart the Cats. It was fitting that he would finish with the ball on the final siren.
Destroyed the Geelong midfield. Sometimes the stat sheet doesn’t reflect the quality of a player’s game or their influence on the match.
But sometimes it does.
24 disposals at 75% efficiency (12 kicks 12 Handballs), 17 contested possessions, 12 clearances (seven of them centre clearances), five tackles and two huge goals. I say Cripps’ goals were huge because of the impact they had. Not only because of the impact his teammates seeing their best player standing tall against the Cats had, but both of Cripps goals came at crucial times when Geelong had kicked the previous two and were trying to bridge the gap. He hurt Geelong. He hurt them deep and delayed their eventual comeback for as long as he could.
But even Cripps ran out of puff in the last.
The gamesmanship of Docherty to not switch off after a Gary Rohan run-down and Gryan Miers advantage to spoil the ball on the goal line was inspirational. The stuff that makes a leader. Docherty probably had a severely underrated game by most. 23 disposals and a game-high nine intercept possessions and 578 metres gained.
Mitch Duncan’s Last Quarter
I counted at least 12 disposals for Duncan in the last quarter (half of his final total). Duncan seemed to lead the way in terms of Cats finally waking up and realising they were about to get blown away by Carlton. He wasn’t alone and had some very admirable assistance from the like of Zach Touhy and Jed Bews.
Duncan was the everywhere man, though. Finding the footy at will and driving the Cats forward relentlessly in order to break the will of the Carlton defenders.
The Good Stuff
Very hot start in the first quarter. He was in everything for Carlton, with nine disposals and three marks. Should’ve had a goal as well. He was rewarded later in the game by an unselfish Eddie Betts. Gibbons would fade as the game went on, along with numerous teammates. His effort in the first quarter can’t be understated though, as he played a key role in several Blue surges and harassed the Geelong defence.
I really enjoyed Bews’ game tonight. Caught slightly off by Eddie Betts early in the match, I thought Bews battled hard and evened out the contest very well. He provided telling run in the last quarter along with Zach Tuohy that stuck out like a sore thumb in a rather listless Geelong side up to that point.
Pittonet more than served his purpose in the absence of Matthew Kreuzer, with 36 hitouts and serving as the dominant ruckman on the ground. Stanley may have kicked a goal and edged Pittonet in disposals, but I felt Pittonet had more presence around the ball. He hassled more and followed up his work. He crashed some packs and made life difficult for the Cats. I’m a fan.
Gary Rohan does not get a lot of footy. That’s a fact. Tonight, with his 10 disposals he was a lone shining light in the Geelong front half for the majority of the game. Rohan offered a competitive marking option and used his trademark pace to provide a semblance of pressure on Carlton. He finished with a couple goals, but probably should’ve had a couple more if he had of had his kicking boots on. Will probably receiving a free meal from Gryan Miers this week, courtesy of that woeful advantage decision in the last quarter.
On a day when the Irish contribution to football wasn’t exactly shining in a positive light, Zach Tuohy would stand up in the second half of this game to assist Mitch Duncan in trying to drag the Cats back into the contest and eventually to the point of almost taking the lead. Tuohy ran hard and gained 525 metres for the Cats and had seven intercept possessions in one of the few wins in the Geelong’s defensive half.
The Not So Good Stuff
Jack Stevens’ Inauspicious Start
Jack Steven had some good opportunities in the opening quarter of this game after coming on off the bench. He had a scrambled kick at goal and a costly turnover handball in the defensive half. Steven would finish with only six disposals (one after halftime) and looked very much out of his depth in this game. I’m sure the Cats will spin that he is better for the run, but I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting Parfitt back into the side.
A Stupid Free
The Blues hot start was momentarily halted by an incredibly stupid bump laid by Tom Williamson on Joel Selwood. We can argue into the night if the free kick was there, but we can agree that it wasn’t needed and Williamson had to be able to have some game sense and realise the Blues had the Cats off-the-bit and not give them such a let-off.
Usually, when you see Patrick Dangerfield’s kicking efficiency, you don’t bemoan the low numbers too much. Dangerfield often kicks under immense pressure out of packs or at absolute full tilt, which often causes disposals to go astray. But that wasn’t the case with his first five kicks in this match, in which he often found himself in space. All five were ineffective (to put it politely). Dangerfield would give the Geelong team a rev up on way off the ground at half time, but with 11 disposals at 36% efficiency (including five turnovers) I don’t know if he should’ve been throwing too many stones.
Wait, what was my line again?
When Tom Hawkins launched a set-shot from outside 50 midway through the third quarter you would’ve been forgiven for marking it in the book. The ball looked to have almost cleared the line at a height too great for any defender to reach when Esava Ratagolea launched up and double-fisted the ball back into play.
Yep, Esava punched the ball back into play on his own goal line. He wasn’t even trying to mark the bloody thing. Strange stuff. And in the end, it was incredibly costly.
The Walking Wounded
The Cats just couldn’t catch a break tonight. This in no way diminishes Carltons win, but the Cats just kept getting hurt at the wrong times. First Dalhaus then Menegola, as well as bad knocks to Dangerfield and Stanley. It will be interesting to see how the Cats go next week with their long trip to the MCG looming.
Taking advantage after your teammate has just earned a free kick 20-metres in front of goal is always a gamble. Doing so in the midst of big comeback for your side is an even bigger gamble. Screwing the ball around your body to land on the goal line, in a defensive 50 so laden with Carlton players that you’d argue it should be renamed the Lygon Street end of GMHBA Stadium, is downright insane.
In the end the ball was touched by Sam Docherty on the line. Something tells me that this moment will be brought up in the review by Chris Scott.
Who is that again?
When Gary Ablett was awarded a free kick late in the fourth quarter near the top of the goal square, you can almost hear the pundits. “It’s Ablett”. “Dead certainty”. “GOAT of the AFL”.
Lo and behold, Ablett would miss the set-shot in one of the worst misses in his glittering career. I’m surprised Ablett didn’t do his best Happy Gilmore and take his boot off and try to hit somebody in frustration.
The Rest of the Stuff
You had to feel for Kade Simpson when he gave away a costly free kick to Rhys Stanley for interfering with him in a ruck duel on the Cats forward 50. On review, I thought Simpson was harshly done by and Stanley may have assisted Simpson impeding his run.
What’s the verdict on shorter quarters? I know Cats fans will not be so supportive of them after tonight. The big take away for them is “what if we had another couple minutes of play?” However, the crux of that argument is that they should’ve showed up three quarters earlier.
The Wrap Up
Every time you think you have this game called footy all worked out. It throws a massive curveball at you that flies just passed your helmet. You’re shocked. You slightly shake your head and try to make sense of what just happened. You look up at the mound to see if the game knew what it was doing. The game stares you right in the face and shoots a cheeky grin at you. Making you doubt how much you really know about anything.
The Blues head back up the highway practically floating. Who cares about the never-ending roadworks that await them? They’ll enjoy every minute they get to revel in their upset victory with their teammates on the bus. Carlton plays Essendon next Saturday, and who know what happens with that game after the big news of the weekend. Will it even be played on Saturday, if the Bombers don’t play their round three game early enough? All that is certain is that the Blues have created some space for their under-pressure front office.
The Cats will lick their wounds and regroup from a harsh reality check they could’ve avoided. Firstly, by not underestimating their opposition. Secondly, by putting the score on the board when they get their chances. The Demons await them at the MCG on the Sunday and the same questions surround that fixture due to the Bombers V Dees clash unknown. The only certainty is that if they want to be seen as a contender for the 2020 season, they’d better start stringing some wins together, or get left behind the main pack of teams really quick.