I came into this game thinking we’d find out a lot about both teams. We did, and we also found out a bit about individual players and the coaches as well.

The Saints got the jump on the Blues in the first quarter and moved swiftly to a three goal lead. That was the difference right there. Brett Ratten took the bit between his teeth, threw down the challenge to David Teague and walked away victorious.

Coming off two wins, the Blues were by no means a pushover, but the Saints came into this with an effective gameplan and the desire to play for their coach in order to enact it.

What we ended with was a three goal margin, with Carlton slotting the last three goals, but if we’re looking at it without bias, the Saints were a five goal better team tonight, and the win was much deserved.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE OLD FELLA IN THE BOX

I rarely do this, as I like to focus on the players, but enormous credit for this win has to go to Brett Ratten.

Last week I watched, shaking my head as the two-headed coaching monster at Essendon allowed Sam Docherty to freelance across half back all game, collecting 32 touches and running at 90% for the game.

I reckon Brett Ratten was watching as well.

Rather than waiting to see what happens like Joe Ganino when he gets a rash, Ratten got on the front foot and nipped this potential problem in the bud immediately. Throwing his own captain into attack for the first time in ages, Ratten refused to have terms dictated to him. He gave Jarryn Geary a job and his leader did not let him down.

He also threw the challenge out to Jack Steele and gave him the job of curtailing Patrick Cripps.

At half time, the Saints led by five goals, and Cripps had been held to just five touches. It was a monumental effort from Steele, and a wonderful decision by Ratten to pull this manoeuvre.

Oh, but that wasn’t it. Did you see where Josh Battle was playing early? In defence. Did you see him drag his opponent up the ground and kick a goal on him? His opponent was Mitch McGovern – not exactly known for his hard work and willingness to run end to end.

Teague made his moves and adjusted his line up at half time.

Too little, too late.

By this stage there were still some battles to be fought, and Carlton did seem to be up for the fight, but some critical blows had already been struck, and when Jack Billings goaled late in the third quarter, you could feel the fight leave Carlton. All that was left was to play out the game and allow players to inflate their numbers.

And that was something Ratten was content to do.

 

THE MAN OF STEELE

I touched on it above, but the efforts of Jack Steele to limit the influence of Patrick Cripps are the sort of things that get lost in the context of the season.

Cripps is a monster. Listen to any AFL commentator or columnist – they’ll tell you how he is one of the greatest players they’ve ever seen, how he can move packs and stand up under the duress of tackles hanging off him whilst he simultaneously carries the Carlton midfield. They love the bloke, and he gives them plenty of reasons to love him.

And that’s what makes Jack Steele’s efforts in this one so wonderful.

He was committed, dogged and simply wanted the footy more. Sometimes you get a matchup between players like Cripps and let’s say… Bontempelli. They go head to head to an extent, but there is not all that much accountability. It’s as though they shake hands and say “seeya at the end of the game.”

Not so with Steele.

He understands the benefit of shutting down a player. He comprehends that it isn’t about how much of the footy he gets – it’s about what is best for the team. It’s what makes an excellent tagger. It is what made Ben Jacobs fantastic at North Melbourne, and it IS what makes Matt de Boer such a force to be reckoned with at GWS.

The Saints have their own man capable of doing big jobs, and he was demonstrating it in this game. Yes, Cripps is a wonderful player – maybe the best in the game, but that just makes what Steele was able to do that much better.

Forget the endgame numbers. Remember these ones – 30 points the difference and Cripps with five touches. That is what Jack Steele helped create.

 

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN

Do you think that even in his wildest dreams, Brett Ratten would have envisioned walking off the ground at quarter time with Sam Docherty looking like he’d been hit by a hurricane?

That hurricane was named Jarryn Geary, and he produced the sort of first half that would’ve had Ratten doing backflips in the box if he were capable, and was guaranteed he wouldn’t spill his drink.

Not only did Geary stop the run and carry of Docherty, but he put him under the kind of pressure that he hasn’t seen all season. He paid him the ultimate compliment as a defender, and was given the role of locking him down.

And he did so much more than that.

Jarryn Geary is a quiet achiever in terms of AFL captains. He is not out there as the face of the club, or a high profile media guest. He is not someone I’d recognise walking down the street. But what he is, is an inspiration to those within the club. He is a man who looks at his boys – his teammates – and compels them to do as he does.

The Saints did just that tonight, and Geary led them from the front. His two goals in the first quarter set the tone and the team fell in behind him. It was a genuine leader’s game.

Of course, this occurred 24 hours after we had Docas the number one player in our Mongrel 50… ffs.

 

COFFIELD

I’ve been sitting here for a minute trying to figure out who the player comparison is for Nick Coffield.

He’s played 23 games – that’s it. He’s a veritable baby by AFL standards, and at just 20, you would really have no right expecting him to have the kind of poise and class he showed in this one.

But there you go – he did show exactly that

Plonking himself in the hole, he was able to be the beneficiary of some really good, unheralded defensive work from his big blokes in Howard and Carlisle to rack up 20 touches. His combination with Ben Long provided an excellent rebounding dup for the Saints, who brought the footy out of defence well for three of the four quarters – the third was a bit of a worry.

Long may be a little more spectacular, but there is a composure to Coffield that is way beyond his years. I am by no means suggesting that I have been watching him develop over the last 12 months – I reckon if I did the more intrepid amongst you would be able to go through the archives and point that out, but I was very impressed with what I saw tonight and will be keeping a close eye on his development.

I’m a big fan of a good rebound defender, and the Saints look to have a couple in the perfect age demographic to grow together over the next several years.

Also, he seems to make a nice stepladder for Longy, doesn’t he? Exciting times…

Grant Birchall? Is that a decent comparison? Better? I’m sure the Saints fans wouldn’t mind the associated silverware.

 

SIGNS

If there was one Carlton player who stood up when the heat was on, I reckon it was Jack Martin.

He was one of the very few Blues to look dangerous when it mattered, and whilst a four-goal quarter probably isn’t going to be on the cards again anytime soon (he did it in Round One, for those with short memories), watching him work in a side that was being outclassed and outhustled was a good glimpse into his character and work ethic.

Martin ran to both ends of Marvel Stadium and though he kicked just the one goal, his physical pressure played a big part in manufacturing another. He probably could have finished with two or three, himself.

Will Setterfield was decent as well and a couple of snags were a nice reward for him, whilst I thought Liam Jones made a pretty good recovery to clunk some big intercepts. He kind of had to after being responsible for two turnovers that led directly to goals.

 

 

The Mongrel 50 – Rounds 1-4

 

THE BAD

 

STAT PADDING – DON’T BE FOOLED

We’ll see some people talking up the way Patrick Cripps fought back into the game over the next day or two. People will talk themselves into thinking that his duel with Jack Steele was relatively even in the end.

It wasn’t.

Jack Steele could not have given a rat’s ass what Patrick Cripps was doing after the first few minutes of the last quarter. When Tim Membrey and Dean Kent went back and slotted back-to-back goals in the last quarter, the game was over. Anything after that was glorified junk time.

And it was then that Cripps and his co-captain, Sam Docherty seemingly emerged from hibernation to get a heap of the ball.

The pair combined to collect 20 touches in the last quarter when the heat was well and truly off, but if we’re looking at this game as a whole, they were both soundly beaten when it counted.

Going on first half stats alone, Cripps had the footy five times, Docherty seven, McGovern one, and Marc Murphy five. These are the players that need to stand up for the Blues, and when the heat was on, they stepped aside in this game.

Forget what the stats say at the end. This game was won in the first half, and Carlton had very few winners, with perhaps Jack Martin the only player looking likely to cause significant concern to Brett Ratten.

This is becoming concerning for the Blues. Checking out for a quarter or a half… not even great teams can get away with that, and the Blues are nowhere near great.

 

THE UGLY

 

MARC MURPHY

There is something about Marc Murphy’s game tonight that really rubbed me the wrong way.

It wasn’t even the two 50 metre penalties he gave away out of frustration – yes, I know the second one was a soft one.

What pissed me off was the way his attitude came across on the screen. Now, you can argue that sometimes the small instances we see on TV can tell only a fraction of the story, and I wholeheartedly agree, but the snippets we saw of Murphy in this game told the fraction of thee story of a player who wanted things handed to him and wasn’t willing to earn them.

Whether he was dropping at the knees to try and earn a free kick, or chastising the umpire for not paying the free kick, this was exactly the sort of game that people used to criticise him for when he was at his best. He played like a millionaire.

Hell, he probably is, but that doesn’t make it acceptable!

Murphy is now a wingman. He is playing the outside role he was always so suited for. In theory, his run, creativity and delivery inside 50 should be weapons the Blues use to their maximum.

Only this weapon was firing blanks today. ZERO inside 50s from Marc Murphy indicates that his job tonight was a failure, and if he was frustrated, I reckon those sentiments would be echoed by his teammates who saw their former captain give ammunition to those over the years who have criticised him.

He came across as a petulant kid and he is supposed to be an elder statesman.

 

HANNERS HURT

Dan Hannebery was always going to be judged long-term at St Kilda. We heard about him needing to be “rebuilt” last season after breaking down when doing even the most marginal increase in work, and maybe… just maybe we thought he might have come out the other side.

He had a good first half here, collecting 11 touches and the way he was attacking the contest had him as one of the Saints’ best for the half, but when that hammy went twang, the reality of the situation hit home.

When you buy a reconditioned phone or appliance you only get a limited warranty, right? You kind of go in knowing that there is a higher percentage something may go wrong. The Saints gambled on the recruitment of Hanners and this season it looked as though the gamble may have been going to pay off – it sure as hell didn’t last season.

Sadly, Hannebery’s body betrayed him tonight, and he looked like a dejected man sitting on the bench. Hopefully his rebuilt body can stretch things out for a while. For the amount the Saints paid for him, they deserve a decent run out of him.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

IS THIS THE EDDIE BETTS WE SHOULD GET USED TO?

Eddie had a great moment last week against the Bombers. I was really happy to see him involved in such a meaningful way.

However, this is more the version of Eddie Betts I thought we’d get this season. Missing for agonisingly long periods, Betts’ contributions in this game were minimal at best. He started relatively well, with three touches in the first quarter, and got on the end of one for a goal.

Over the next three quarters, he’d touch the ball just four more times.

Betts has been a star of the competition, and will have a few moments over the course of the season, but his impact will be minimal if we’re judging him on the year, and if you expected more, I reckon you’re kidding yourself.

 

HOW DO THE BLUES COMBAT A NEGATING FORWARD ON DOCHERTY?

I know a lot of Carlton fans love David Teague. Teague-Train… choo choo and all that shit, right?

Well, what is plan B when Sam Docherty cops a tag? I wrote about wanting to see this for a few weeks above, so it would have had to be on his mind, right? Was the answer freeing up 53 year old Kade Simpson? Mate, you can’t put that kind of pressure on him at his age (I know he’s 36). He is now more a complementary player than your go-to rebounder.

The commentators asked whether this was now the blueprint to containing Carlton. It’s always been the blueprint – coaches like John Worsfold were just too proud to acknowledge it. The challenge is now at the feet of David Teague and he needs to work something into the gameplan to help his star half back when he needs it.

It’s no use having Docherty (and Cripps for that matter) stat-padding in the last quarter  – they had 20 touches between them. That’s like closing the gate after the horse has bolted.

 

CAN THE BLUES SUSTAIN THREE BIGS INSIDE 50?

Is it fair to say they looked pretty ordinary as a forward unit this evening? Is it unfair to look at the structure of the forward line and not dive the St Kilda defence credit?

Look, it doesn’t matter who you play on, each player has the responsibility of beating his direct opponent. None of the Carlton forwards could lay claim to doing that this evening.

Harry McKay came back in and was handled by Dougal Howard. Mitch McGovern started the game matched up on Josh Battle, believe it or not, but after Battle ran forward several times and it became evident that Gov couldn’t go with him, the Blues had to manufacture a different match up. And finally, there was Jake Carlisle hanging out with Levi Casboult, and big Levi was pretty useless as well.

Overall, the big Carlton three combined for 16 touches, six marks and a big, fat goose egg in the goals column. When you add in that Eddie Betts could hardly get a sniff, you have a forward line incapable of powering a team to a win.

 

IS DAN BUTLER THE RECRUIT OF THE YEAR?

Butler has been an absolute steal this season, and with another couple of goals this evening, he could well be the front runner for the All-Australian small forward slot.

He has some competition, in Tom Papley and Charlie Cameron, but given what we’re seeing, there is no reason that Butler cannot fill that role. He has been the best recruit of any team this far.

 

WHAT IS THE CEILING FOR BEN LONG?

Every week, he is showing something else. Tonight, everyone was talking about his mark, but it was another moment that drew my attention in this game.

In the last quarter, Long made a bee-line for the footy and so did Carlton defender, Liam Jones. As the two converged, it would have been perfectly acceptable for Long to ease up. Jones is a much bigger man and the game had been decided, but that mattered not to Long. He crashed into the contest with a reckless abandon, and in many ways it exemplified the effort of the saints for the night.

They knew what they had to do this evening. They knew they’d have to be tough, and they knew they’d have to be harder for longer against the Blues.

They were, and so was Ben Long.

 

IS THERE A HARDER MAN TO SPOIL THAN MAX KING?

Jacob Weitering is no slouch. In the eyes of many he is a strong chance at slotting into the back six of the All-Australian team, and in the first quarter it looked as though he had prime position to leap and kill the contest against Max King.

And he couldn’t.

It was interesting to listen to Dermott Brereton speaking about King at half time and stating that he has NEVER seen a player mark the ball at a higher point than King. He has been around a while, old Derm… that should tell you quite a bit about how high King gets.

Weitering looked a little lost as King clunked a couple of big marks, and if you’re looking for the future of the St Kilda forward line, you’ve seen a glimpse. His hands are beautiful, his arms are looooong, and unless you can take advantage of his slight frame for a while, there is no way you’re going to stop him in the air.

The hype is worth it, guys. He is going to be special.

 

OTHER BITS

 

Impressive that the Saints were able to do this without a significant contribution from Brad Hill. I’m waiting for him to have his breakout game of 2020 but he seems to be making a habit of getting to where the ball isn’t. Still seems to be doing a heap of running, but that is what Tom Scully does at Hawthorn, and Hill is a much better operator than Scully. More required.

Another two who didn’t set the world on fire, are Tim Membrey and Hunter Clark, but that could turn out to be a positive. That the Saints were able to win with those two and Brad Hill noticeably down on the day augurs well for what they can achieve when those blokes are up and running.

I thought Ed Curnow did some real heavy work around stoppages, and managed to keep Seb Ross pretty quiet whilst he spent time on him. Ross had just eight at half time, and whilst many spoke about Cripps and Jack Steele battling it out, once again Curnow’s efforts attracted crickets.

Another very good outing for Jack Billings. I really like him on the wing, and that goal late in the third quarter… that is everything in a set shot that he wasn’t doing last season. Let’s hope it continues. Just perusing his stats, I expect him to feature in this weekend’s wingman rankings when they go live on Monday.

Plenty of love for Rowan Marshall, and he got plenty of love from me last year. I felt he put the foot on the throat of Pittonet in the last quarter, with his superior fitness coming to the fore. He started clearing the footy easily, and was covering way more ground than his counterpart as the game wore on. Four of his seven clearances came with the game on ice, though, which is why I focused on others in the good section… but I do like this fella. I reckon he will have a couple of AA selections by the time all is said and done.

 

And that’ll do me – great win by the Saints and they look like they’re really starting to gel as a team. Usually here I’d talk about who plays who next week, but given where we’re at, I won’t.

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