You could have been forgiven for switching off your TV halfway through the second quarter if you were a Carlton supporter.

39-points down and looking nowhere near it, Carlton needed something special to salvage this game. And they got it.

In a remarkable comeback, the Blues kicked the next four goals of the game and from that point, slowly chipped away at the Swans’ lead before hitting the front in the last quarter on a strong grab from fifth-gamer, Matt Cottrell.

It was a stirring comeback by the Blues, with Sam Walsh and Lachie Plowman proving to be vital in the wash-up.

Here are the Mongrel’s Big Questions stemming from the win.

 

DO YOU ENJOY WATCHING PATRICK CRIPPS AND JOSH KENNEDY GO HEAD-TO-HEAD AS MUCH AS I DO?

If you don’t, why not?

The part of the contest I love most is that you know every time the Blues and swans clash, Kennedy is going to go to Cripps at the first bounce and the two will go head to head at stoppages all day long.

And it is a wonderful display of two midfield monsters determined to get the better of their opponent.

Cripps has struggled in recent weeks and looks banged up. Kennedy has had time out of the game with a knee injury and is probably past his best footy. In a crazy season, and in a crazy time, seeing them line up on each other in the first quarter made me smile. Two contested beasts – no one playing the defensive role; just the two of them going head to head.

So, who won?

In the wash up, it was very close. Kennedy had 16 touches and four tackles. Cripps had 17 touches and seven tackles. Both men had five clearances and neither was the standout player for their respective teams. However, in terms of impact, Cripps was ahead of JPK. His hustling work in the second quarter was a huge factor in the Blues working their way back into the contest. And it is not just that Cripps gets the footy – he draws a tackler, stands in the tackle, fights like a demon to get his hands free and the releases to a teammate. He is almost untackleable… and yes, Microsoft Word, with your little red line, I know that’s not an actual word.

The thing is, I say almost because Kennedy is one of the few players that can wrap Cripps up and not have him power out of his clutches. It is one of those little things I like to watch when these two match up – can one break the tackle of the other. The answer is usually no.

Some are screaming out for Cripps to get a rest, but with GWS falling over terribly against the Crows this afternoon, the door remains ajar for the Blues to make an unlikely finals run. And that means no rest for Crippa. I’d love to see him run out in a final – I reckon he would relish it, too.

 

IS SAM WALSH SHUTTING A FEW PEOPLE UP NOW?

Remember earlier in the season when people were yapping on about how Walsh has gone backwards and how he wasn’t performing up to the level he was expected?

Oh, The Mongrel remembers… I may have even been one of them – just reporting the facts, people. He wasn’t playing as well as he had in 2019, in part due to the shortening of the game, which meant his enormous tank was not being used to its optimum, and the other aspect was due to him moving to the wing and having to learn a whole new position.

Moving back to spend the majority of his time in the guts in this game, Walsh was the best player on the park. His run and carry, inside 50 deliveries and massive 600 metres gained for his team meant that when he collected the footy, the Blues were heading forward in a hurry.

Carlton had 17 scoring shots in this game – Walsh was involved in ten of them. When Carlton managed to get the footy in his hands, he made things happen.

Those who doubted Walsh will be nice and quiet tomorrow morning. 25 touches, with 20 of them kicks, whilst running at 84% efficiency means that there are a few people eating their words at the moment. The kid is a star.

 

WHERE WOULD YOU PLACE LACHIE PLOWMAN IN THE BEST ON GROUND VOTES?

Playing on Tom Papley isn’t easy – if it were, he wouldn’t have 22 goals to his name this season and be one of the favourites to sit in the forward pocket in the All-Australian team.

Watching Lachie Plowman line up on the goal sneak, there would have been plenty of Blues supporters feeling nervous. Papley has a habit of putting players to the sword when they make a mistake, and if you listen to a few Carlton supporters, you would think that all Plowman does is make mistakes.

Every team has its whipping boy, and Plowman is just that for plenty of Carlton fans. But there’d be none criticising his performance in this game. As a mid-sized defender who lacks a yard in pace, the scene was set for the slippery Papley to get away from Plowman and hit the scoreboard, but the lockdown role was a real highlight for the Blues, with Papley held goalless.

He was made to look like a witches hat by Plowman on a couple of occasions as he danced around Papley’s attempted tackles to drive the Blues out of defensive fifty and out of trouble.

Plowman will never feature on highlight tapes – he is not that kind of player. He is defence-first and workmanlike in his approach. He strikes me as the sort of bloke that’ll be coaching an AFL team in 20 years – you know the sort, nuggetty back pocket player who was unheralded in his time on the field.

As for the answer to my question, I’d have him second-best on the park. Walsh was the standout, but Plowman performed so far above expectations that his performance is one that cannot be ignored.

 

DID THE SWANS CHOKE?

It would be easy to say yes – kicking seven straight and then adding one goal for the rest of the game tells you something is up, but I prefer to look at the way Carlton started converting as to why they were able to get back into the game.

Despite a goalless first quarter, the Blues should have been about level. Their misses allowed Sydney to jump out to the early lead and put them on the back foot. Missed shots from Marc Murphy, Harry McKay and Levi Casboult opened the door and the Swans marched right on through.

That said, the second quarter lapse was due to poor execution all over the park, though they were able to arrest that slide without being pulled into a huddle by David Teague and dressed down. That, I suppose, could be construed as a positive.

The Swans may have started playing more defensively, but it wasn’t a voluntary action. Carlton’s pressure on the footy, and their ability to start hitting the scoreboard saw the Swans forced to adopt a slower game style, which to be honest, was frustrating to watch.

To say Sydney choked would be unfair to the way Carlton worked back into the game. They didn’t choke completely, but let’s just say they may have had a slight obstruction in their throat and struggled to get it out. Not quite choking… but close.

 

CAN THE BLUES WIN A FINAL PLAYING A FRACTION OF THE GAME?

Well, they won this game playing two and a half quarters but I cannot see it happening if they manage to sneak into the eight. Not by a long shot.

The Blues’ best is very good. They have blokes that can win their own footy, good outside runners and a defensive duo that can ruin the plans of an offensive-minded coach, but when they go to sleep, they’re pretty hard to rouse. Or maybe even to arouse… I’m not that close to any of them.

That Sydney – a team that just a few weeks back kicked a total score of 19 points and has kicked 50+ points once in the last month – was able to pile on seven goals before half time… actually, before the second quarter was even half over, is concerning.

I expect Carlton to push for finals in 2021. Some thought that this would be the year they make the jump, but as so often happens, when a team is developing and getting better, they have significant lapses – that is what we’re seeing from the Blues right now. In the pressure cooker of finals football, that quarter and a half off would spell doom, and I am not sure whether two and a half quarters of decent-to-good footy can overcome 35 minutes of poor footy in a do-or-die situation.

If they do sneak in, their first-up performance will be must-watch to see how they handle the pressure, and with Adelaide next week, there is a chance their Round 18 clash against the Lions could be to jump into the eight.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS A RUCKMAN WITH A CLEAN PAIR OF MITTS?

I was impressed with Tom De Koning the last time I watched him and he was very good again in this one.

What stood out most to me was his ability to handle the slippery ball and get a disposal away under pressure. Whilst he obviously has a fair bit of work to do in the strength department, some players just have the innate ability to glove the footy and avoid fumbling. De Koning seems to be one of those talents.

In stark contrast, I counted at least three occasions in the last quarter where Aliir tried to take the ball cleanly from the ruck and after doing all the hard work, fumbled the footy and invited the pressure. De Koning held his own in the ruck duels and also won himself four individual clearances for the game, but as he gets stronger, he won’t be moved off the ball as Aliir was able to do late in the game. And if he is able to start winning those body-to-body match-ups, Carlton are going to have a real player on their hands.

 

DID THE HAYWARD FORWARD-TAG ON DOCHERTY WORK?

Leaving Sam Docherty alone inside defensive fifty is a mistake, and we saw multiple teams make this mistake earlier this season.

After the first four weeks of the season, Doc was the number one player in our overall player rankings due to the role he was allowed to play by the opposition. Then Brett Ratten decided to send Jarryn Geary to him as a defensive forward and it all changed.

I’m not sure why it took four games for coaches to cotton on to the damage Docherty causes, but following that day, there has been a lot more attention on ensuring Doc earns the footy the hard way.

And that continued against the Swans, with Wil Hayward getting the job on the Carlton co-captain. Hayward has a bit of recent history in such a role, forcing Nick Haynes to earn every touch he got a few weeks back against the Giants, but Doc is a different kettle of fish.

Whilst we didn’t see Docherty hanging around in defensive fifty all day, what we did see was him running forward of centre on a couple of occasions. Without a rewatch, I am unsure whether he was following Hayward up the ground, or forcing Hayward to follow him, but I was impressed with Doc’s work ethic in providing an option for his team, whilst engaging in an enthralling contest with Hayward.

On the flipside, Hayward managed to snag a goal, but in going defensive he was only involved in two scores for the game. Late in the game, I had a feeling that this match-up could tilt the result in favour of their team. At forward fifty stoppages, I have expected Hayward to burst through and kick a goal as Doc was busy considering where is best to release the footy should he get it. That obviously didn’t eventuate, but Hayward did blow a golden opportunity, running to 35 and missing the lot.

So did the forward tag work? To a point.

Would I say that this was an aspect of the game John Longmire would be pleased with? No. I don’t think it worked as well as he’d hoped due to Docherty not being content with being a defensive 50 player.

 

WHAT IS THE CEILING FOR JORDAN DAWSON?

I’ll tell you what – if the Swans forwards can learn how to lock the ball inside their own 50 metre arc a little better, having Dawson push up from half back has the potential to make him a star.

He is a beautiful kick of the footy and he makes great decisions with the ball in hand. If he is part of the Sydney wall as teams try to exit their defensive fifty, I could see Dawson’s long leg either banging a goal straight back over their heads or spotting up a target that only a small percentage of players can hit inside 50.

He drifted out of the game in the last quarter, but he had a heap of mates in that regard to be fair. However, his use of the football and vision inside defensive fifty made him a huge asset as the Swans set up their lead.

In the third quarter, I had Dawson down as a best on ground contender as he continually cleaned up the mess deep in defence and steadied the Swans ship.

The past 12 months have seen Dawson trialled both forward and back, but he looks so relaxed in defence right now. He may have found his home, and if Longmire can create a role where he can get loose on the intercept anywhere between 50-60 metres out, he could cause some real carnage in 2021.

 

HOW LONG DO THE BLUES PERSEVERE WITH MITCH MCGOVERN?

Did we all see his half time stats?

Zero Disposals. Zero marks. Zero tackles.

Whilst he managed to finish with five touches and applied a bit of forward half pressure, the first half is something we should not be sweeping under the rug at all. With no impact at all, and with the team screaming out for someone to crash a pack or lay a tackle, McGovern was nowhere to be seen.

I was actually surprised when he popped up on my screen, as I thought he must have been a late out.

Players have been absolutely belted for these kinds of performances, yet here is Mitch, in the side again and doing bugger all with his chances.

Does he have the desire to play at this level? He strikes me as the kind of bloke who’d absolutely tea a local league to shreds, but he just doesn’t look like he is the kind of player that will feature as part of the next Carlton successful era to me. As a matter of fact, he strikes me more as the sort of player that will prevent the Blues from getting to the next level.

He has to be carried way too often for my liking.

 

COULD HARRY MCKAY WIN A COLEMAN ONE DAY?

Nup, not a chance.

He could lead the league in contested marks, though. And I would be pretty pleased if I were a Blues fan and he managed that!

But in terms of goal-kicking, he is a player I just don’t trust. He reminds me a little of Matt Taberner at Freo – beautiful hands and is capable of taking a heap of contested grabs, but when it comes to converting them into scoreboard pressure, forget about it.

He finished with 2.2 in this one and was a big presence up forward- I thought he was unlucky not to get a free kick in a big marking contest in the last quarter where it appeared as though he didn’t get his arm chopped, per se, but he got a full body check from the Swans defender running in from the side who looked as though making contact with the footy was a fair distance from his mind. Alas, he hit the deck, play on was called and he couldn’t kick another goal around the corner.

Also, how funny is it to listen to Jason Dunstall lament McKay kicking around the corner when the kicks are going through for a goal? Pick your spots, Jason… wait until it doesn’t work before you go both barrels.

 

PICK ONE – SAM PETREVSKI-SETON OR JAKE LLOYD?

Two running half backs. Two that are capable of controlling the footy in the defensive half, and two that can be susceptible in one-on-one contests.

However, in this game, Sam Petrevski –Seton played the kind of footy that has many people believing he could be the heir apparent to Kade Simpson.

Whilst Jake Lloyd did what Jake Lloyd does – collect 24 touches and lead the Swans out of defensive 50 six times, the game of SPS was eye-catching in the way he used the footy to create for his teammates. Not that I want to whack Lloyd – he has been one of the swans’ best all year and may add a second Bob Skilton medal to his name in a little while, but SPS hurt the Swans with the footy. I’m not sure Lloyd did – at least not to the same extent.

SPS had five touches in the desperate last quarter as the Blues clawed their way on top, and was instrumental in the third as well, as the Blues closed the gap. In the second half, Petrevski-Seton notched 14 touches to register as one of Carlton’s best for the game.

SPS or Lloyd? In this game, gimme SPS.

 

HOW WAS THAT FREE KICK PAID TO LEWIS TAYLOR?

Panic.

There were so many free kicks not called in this game that to call Patrick Cripps’ high tackle against Lewis Taylor was almost against the spirit this game had been played in.

I actually thought that for the majority of the game, the Blues got the rub from the umpires, but that decision in the dying seconds of the game may have evened things up.

You have to give Taylor a little bit of credit, inasmuch as you give credit to a bloke flopping around like a dying fish – he knew his only chance to make any impact in that situation was to milk a free kick, and he did.

But the ump who called it… geez, he’d want that decision over again, I reckon. Still, in a game that saw throws regularly permitted, holding the ball hardly paid and the whistle put away for blokes kneeling on the backs of their opponent, I think play on should have been called when Lewis Taylor decided that acting was a career path worth pursuing.

I am not Carlton fan – not by a long stretch, but I don’t want to see a team win on a decision like that.

 

IS TOM MCCARTIN THE SWANS’ PERMANENT CENTRE HALF BACK FROM NOW ON?

I reckon they’d love him to be an excellent centre half forward, but when you’re getting results like this, it’s hard to argue with.

Over the past couple of weeks, McCartin has slotted into the Swans defence and made a real name for himself. He had eight intercepts in this one and added five spoils as well as he looked right at home reading the incoming footy and reacting first on several occasions.

The Swans lost Dane Rampe, who was in All-Australian form at the time, but that dark cloud has revealed a silver lining in McCartin’s switch to defence. John Longmire will now be weighing up how best to use his newest defensive asset in 2021 alongside the class that is Rampe.

It’s a good problem to have.

 

WHERE DID THE BIG SYDNEY FORWARDS GO?

Maybe ask Jacob Weitering and Liam Jones. I believe they were the last players to be seen near Sam Reid and Hayden McLean right before their disappearance.

Weitering will get his All-Australian nod this season – it is thoroughly deserved and the selectors are going to have to find a way to slot in both him and Darcy Moore, as I really cannot separate them.

However, for the moment I’d like to focus on the work of Liam Jones. After having the first kicked on him, Jones went to work on McLean and ensured that he would not be something the Blues would have to worry about for the duration of the game.

Jones recorded nine big spoils as h thumped the ball away from McLean at every opportunity. McLean may have had an early contested mark and a goal, but he would add just one more disposal for the entire game as Jones gave him no room to breathe.

The big Carlton defender was like a python, wrapping McLean up and slowly squeezing the life out of him. Late in the game, McLean looked lost. Unable to have any influence, he looked as though he fully expected jones to come sailing in and kill any contest he was in… probably because he was.

Yes, Weitering will get his AA blazer this year. After another great defensive performance, I am quite sure of it. But Liam Jones will not, and given the amount of heavy lifting he’s done for the Blues this year, I’d love to see Jacob acknowledge his partner in crime when he gets the chance on the night.

Without Jones there is no Weitering as an All-Australian in 2020.

 

ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD, MONGREL? YOU’VE WRITTEN A HEAP!

Yeah, I have… thanks.

Big moment for Cottrell in such a short career. It’s instances like this that imbue young blokes with the confidence that they belong at this level. Let’s see if he can build on this.

Loved the battle between Luke Parker and Ed Curnow. There are no easy kicks playing on Ed. He is like a wet blanket at stoppages. Once he is on you, you’re gonna have a shocking time getting him off and winning the footy. Parker was far from disgraced, but based on his output last week, you cannot deny the Curnow factor.

 

And that’ll do. Another bloody rainy night on the Gold Coast, but the teams managed a pretty good display of desperation footy. Did the Swans choke, or were the Blues finally switched on after sleepwalking from the first quarter and a half? Looking forward to hearing your takes on it.

 

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