On a humid Darwin evening, Carlton were far too polished for the Gold Coast Suns, using their defensive pillars to completely blanket the Suns’ key forwards and relying on their skilled ball-users to cut their opponent to shreds.
Marc Murphy and Jack Martin were head and shoulders above the Gold Coast midfield as Jacob Weitering and Liam Jones had their way with Sam Day and Ben King.
Up forward, the imposing presence of Harry McKay gave the Blues a great inside fifty target as they outclassed a tired-looking Suns outfit.
The Blues now sit just outside the eight and are eyeing off a finals campaign. Could it happen in 2020? And how did they go about getting over the Suns in this one?
Well, that’s what I’m here for. Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
A NEWNES DAY
There is a flow-on effect for some players when they have a moment that makes them feel as though they belong, and as we are all painfully (if you’re a Freo fan) aware, Jack Newnes had his moment last week where Carlton opened their arms and embraced him fully. In a possible season-changing moment, he slotted a goal to give the Blues a win, and he seemingly carried that confidence into this game.
Some may look at his complete stats and think he went okay without being great. To those people, I say stop looking at the damn stats and watch how he played when the game was there to be won.
Through the first three quarters, Newnes had only a couple of peers in terms of performance. His run and ability to create for teammates saw him collect nine score involvements and two direct goal assists as his ability to spot up a target inside fifty gave the Blues forwards multiple opportunities.
Given he was quiet in the last quarter (two touches) some may forget about the three quarters prior – it is the way of things at times, but Newnes’ efforts in this game deserve to be recognised. Not as spectacular as a goal after the siren, of course, but as a whole, this was his best overall performance as a Blue.
Carlton has embraced Jack Newnes. And Jack Newnes is embracing Carlton.
With all the attention on Eddie Betts, it was the efforts of his fellow small forward, Michael Gibbons that stood out in this game. And whilst Eddie struggled with the handle, Gibbons definitely did not.
Some of his footwork with the ball in hand faked the Gold Coast defenders out of their boots like Michael Jordan head-fake in the 90s.
His candy-selling to both Caleb Graham and Wil Powell in the second quarter set up a goal for Harry McKay and earned him one of his own as he managed to find time and space in a game that had very little of it.
I have a confession – I didn’t really rate Gibbons highly last season. I may have viewed him as a VFL footballer called up to fill a need, but not really up to it. I’m happy to be wrong on that one.
Gibbons looked confident out there tonight despite the slippery conditions, and if teams allow him to fly under the radar, he has the capacity to hurt them. Two goals in a scoreline of just seven is a nice return.
I’ll get to Weitering in a moment – I know you all love him, and for good reason, but before I do, I would like to take a moment to give some respect to Liam Jones.
His role on Sam Day was absolutely pivotal in Carlton establishing their first quarter lead. At quarter time, I thought he was probably the most important bloke on the ground. The Suns have received a significant lift from Day this season – his ability to win contests or at the very least break even is something Gold Coast has come to rely on in order to bring their smaller players into the game.
Jones was having none of that.
He shut down Day so effectively that the forward was moved into the ruck in the last quarter to escape the wet-blanket effect of Jones. Until that point, Day’s stats reflected Jones’ dominance. Day picked up three of his five touches in the last quarter with Jones doing an amazing job on him prior to that.
And Weitering… he sits at centre half back in our Rolling Mongrel Punt All-Australian team, and I reckon this performance illustrated just why. It must be mentioned that he was playing on a bloke who isn’t exactly setting the world on fire this season in terms of dominant games – Ben King is averaging just seven touches per game before tonight. However, Weitering played a complete defender’s game, limiting King to just five touches, zero marks and zero goals.
Some may argue that conditions were not commensurate with a big forward being anything more than decent in this one, yet at the other end, you had Harry McKay taking a game-high eight marks and kicking 2.4.
Really, it comes down to the quality of delivery AND the capacity of the defender to stifle the forward, and Weitering was able to completely take King out of the game to aid his team in restricting the Suns to just three goals for the evening.
He did his AA chances no harm at all in this one.
I guess he had a bit to prove in this one, and right from the outset, he looked like he was “on”, didn’t he?
There has never been any doubt around the class of Jack Martin. When at the Suns, he was always regarded as someone who could potentially be in the best player at the club, but he never really got there. Even in his last season, he started like a bullet and ended like a blank, but at Carlton… the new surroundings have done him a world of good, and he not only appears to be using that skill, but he is coupling it with some hard running and a huge work ethic.
To be honest, that was my knock on him at Gold Coast – he had all the skill in the world, but the hard work was missing at times. It appears as though he has rectified that aspect of his game at Carlton, and the Blues are reaping the rewards.
There were two blokes on the ground that continually hurt the Suns with their disposals. Marc Murphy, who I’ll get to in a sec, and Jack Martin.
Martin’s 21 disposals at 86% efficiency gave the Blues class on the outside, with Martin seven score involvements for the game. When he was in the vicinity, he never failed to look dangerous and he continues to demonstrate why the Blues were so keen to get him to Ikon Park.
Was he the difference? No, not THE difference, but he was definitely a large part of the difference in this game.
GODDAMN IT… DO I HAVE TO?
Well, I guess I do.
I am not a Marc Murphy fan. Never have been. I’ve always felt that he was a little too… unhard? Is that the nicest way I can say it? I’ve never doubted his skill or ability to find the footy, but I have never really appreciated his attack on the contest.
Or lack thereof.
But it is difficult to watch a game where every man out there is either dropping the footy or hacking it away to make it someone else’s problem (Thanks Dwayne… would have been a good night for you!)and Murphy looks like he has a dry footy.
He was excellent in this game, controlling the ball as though it wasn’t a sweaty dew-fest and was instead a dry day on the MCG. His first 14 disposals hit the target, with 19 disposals at 89% efficiency.
He tapered off in the second half, but like Newnes, he did his best work when it counted, aiding the Blues in establishing their lead.
If I am to nitpick, maybe a centering kick instead of trying a banana on the run in the third quarter, and without buying into the “feed Eddie” hype, the handball was definitely on to Betts in the last quarter. But other than that, a very, very solid game from Marc Murphy.
GET THE BALL TO LUKOSIUS
In terms of positives for the Suns, the kicking of Jack Lukosius was once again on display in this game, particularly in the first half as he was able to pinpoint teammates irrespective of pressure around him.
With a huge 799 metres gained and ten rebound fifty disposals, Lukosius continues to develop as the Suns designated kicker from defence. Unafraid to bite off the tough kick even with the lift doors closing on him, Lukosius is the sort of player that can break a game wide open, to the point where teams will need to start setting up their zones to combat his delivery by foot.
It would not surprise me to see sides start playing a defensive forward on him in the near future to ensure he does not get a free run coming out of defence. The Suns fell down in plenty of areas this evening, but the game of Lukosius was not one. We’ve seen a young bloke find his feet this season.
ONE BLOKE WHO WAS UP FOR IT
I liked the effort of Ben Ainsworth in this one. He was one Sun who appeared not to be running up and down on the one spot for most of the game, and willingly threw his body into contest after contest whether he won the footy or not.
It was his heady work at half back that allowed Lachie Weller to get out and run to kick his lovely goal in the third quarter. His 14 touches as a high half forward were one of the few positives on a dirty night for the Suns.
So, this game was kind of set up for Eddie Betts to have a big impact. And to be honest, he had every opportunity to have that impact. However, on a night where some of the more clumsy players on the park struggled to take the ball cleanly, Eddie made them look like Sam Mitchell by fumbling just about every ball that came his way.
In the grand scheme of things, tonight doesn’t matter too much, but I have to ask – is his current form a concern for Blues fans? Tonight was his first goal in five weeks of footy, and it came on a ‘Joe the Goose’ from Zac Fisher. It’s not exactly the kind of form you want coming into the business end of the season.
Irrespective, the Blues got the win and everyone walks away happy, but internally, Betts must be rueing the missed opportunities of this game. He probably could have had his best game of the season had things gone his way, but those fumbles… uncontested marks put to ground and then the inability to use that creativity to pick the ball up cleanly – it was so Un-Betts-Like.
And in a season where the Blues could still give the finals a shake, they don’t need their senior forward presence unable to hold up his end of the bargain. Yes, a great night to celebrate and all that, but if you were Eddie, I’m not sure celebrating would be on the cards after this one.
THE FOUR DAY BREAK
The Blues just looked more energetic tonight.
It was evident early on that if this game came down to the wire, the four-day break for Gold Coast would become a factor. It boggles the mind how a team can finish the round on a Monday evening and have to front up to commence the next round on a Friday. I’m pretty sure there are 16 other teams who didn’t play on Monday that could squared off against the Blues, but I guess with this “crazy fixture”, teams are just expected to suck it up and play when they’re told.
Both teams now get a nine-day break to make up for it, but two games in five days is a tough ask, and I reckon it wears on the young legs quicker. They’re less battle-hardened, and I reckon they feel the pinch a bit before the established players do.
If you’d like further proof of that theory, check out the game of Noah Anderson on Monday evening and compare it to his output in this one. It looked to me like he was going up and down in the one spot from half way through the second quarter. He went from his best game of his career to his worst.
That’s what a short break can do to young legs. And the Suns have had a couple on the trot.
AN OPPORTUNITY MISSED
Do David Teague and Stuart Dew have no sense of occasion? Are they not fans of pop culture?
On this evening, we could have had the football equivalent of Ali v Frasier, or Chamberlain v Russell and we allowed it to slip through to the keeper without even entertaining the clash.
It is just prior to the first bounce and all eyes head to the Carlton forward line. There. The wily veteran has chosen his match-up, and to the delight of anyone who watched TV from 1989-2000ish, he goes and picks up Sam Flanders.
Simpson v Flanders was begging to be made a reality in this game, but it never eventuated.
WHY DIDN’T IZAK RANKINE JUST KICK THE DAMN GOAL?
Well, that wouldn’t be spectacular, would it?
I think we all love what Izak Rankine CAN bring, but we’d also like him to do the easy thing at times instead of the spectacular thing, particularly when the team is behind and in dire need of a goal. His decision to try a dribble goal off the outside of his right foot, which bounced into the post just before the three-quarter time siren wasn’t the brightest, but I guess that’s the decision you have to make if you’re Stewie Dew.
Do you allow this bloke to do what he does and cop the consequences, or do you pull him aside and tell him to settle, kick the goal on his left and make sure of it?
Who’d wanna be a coach?
HOW GOOD CAN WILL SETTERFIELD BE?
He’s really coming along, isn’t he?
My jury was out on him last season – he and Williamson were two I thought needed to really lift if Carlton were to improve, and they have. Setterfield, particularly so.
He was excellent in the first quarter as the Blues established their control of the game. I liked that he was very active at stoppages in this game as well, picking up five to complement the work of Cripps at the coal face. He’s another big midfielder and at just 22, I reckon he could blossom into Elliot Yeo-type with a little more time in the middle and a bit of work in the gym. Very promising signs.
IF YOU HAD TO GO TO WAR, WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCOMPANY YOU AFTER ED CURNOW?
I really hope Curnow wins the Carlton B&F this season. I’m not sure there has ever been a Carlton player I have liked more.
No, I lie… Ken Hunter.
Curnow is a complete warrior and he looked as though he relished the opportunity to go head to head with Hugh Greenwood at stoppages. I know Bruce and BT said Greenwood and Cripps were going head-to-head – they weren’t. Stop listening to them.
Curnow is the sort of player you never, ever have to question in terms of what he gives on any given week. In this one, he played more of an outside role, which was interesting, spreading quickly from the contest to provide an option. It was a little different from what we’re used to seeing from Ed who usually leaps into the fray to help out Cripps
COULD HARRY MCKAY HAVE BEEN THE BEST ON GROUND IN THIS ONE?
Shit yeah. He kicked four behinds in this one and would be kicking himself that he was unable to finish off the hard work of taking marks inside 50.
Big Harry had five marks inside the arc in conditions that did not lend themselves to clunking the footy. For context, the entire Suns team took just four marks inside 50 combined. Yep, Harry could have been the man in this game, but his kicking let him down. And bad kicking is bad footy.
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IF YOU WERE STUART DEW?
Their key forwards were being absolutely molested by the Blues – changing that up may have been something that could have been entertained earlier. Day to the goal square – hopefully dragging Jones with him, and King allowed to go on some searching leads, dragging Weitering away from the defensive fifty could have been an option.
By the time Day was moved into the ruck, the game was shot – I don’t really get the coaches swinging last quarter moves when the game is done.
A very steady game for the Doc off half back in this one. It appeared as though David Swallow was going to go to him as a defensive forward early in the game, but that was quickly abandoned.
Jack Bowes had double figures in turnovers in this one. He looked really good in patches, but fell into the habit of whacking it on the boot to clear without having a good look first.
It must be an infuriating game to coach at times, particularly when you see Josh Corbett clunk a tough overhead mark on the wing moments after dropping an uncontested mark inside 50. That’s what occurred in the first quarter, and with the Suns being held scoreless in the first for the first time in history, how much does a dropped mark like that sting?
Is Hugh Greenwood the best tackler in the game? If not the best, then he’d have to be right up there. He is one of the few blokes who makes sure his tackles stick. It’s a great trait to have.
Another few moments that impressed from Tom De Koning in this game. he showed some really good hands early on, and is clean with the footy in hand. At just 21, the Blues have plenty to work with, and I reckon he could get on the end of a few up forward if needed as well.
Loved Lachie Weller’s running goal, but far out the Suns need more out of him. Ten touches is nowhere near enough footy for him. I’d be really tempted to play him out on the wing more often to maximise his run and carry.
Ladies and gents. That will do me for tonight. A solid effort by the Blues in trying conditions and a lacklustre effort from the Suns combined to see the Carlton move into ninth spot and with a huge game against Collingwood upcoming, should Blues fans dare to dream?
As for the Suns, that’s now season over. They get North Melbourne next Sunday in a clash that should see them get back on the winners’ list, particularly as they’ll be well-rested. Let’s face it, they need a win so as not to completely fall into that second-half fade scenario again this season. They really should get it against a team that’s really struggling.
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