On a cold night at Giants Stadium, the visiting Blues arrived looking to make a statement, while for GWS, they needed to win this danger game to keep pace with the top eight.

Aside from a purple patch at the end of the third quarter, which saw the Blues register ten scoring shots to three, GWS were hardly troubled, as they battered an inefficient Carlton side that was devoid of any leadership all night long. The win puts the Giants two points off the top 8, just behind the eighth-placed Richmond.

Let’s take a look at this contest

 

TWIN TOWERS

On one side you have Harry McKay, fresh off signing a two year extension and second in the Coleman medal. On the other end was Jeremy Finlayson, one of the most talented but scrutinised key forwards in the game. Opposed to Liam Jones frequently, Finlayson showed off his trademark goal scoring nous, with a 40m boundary snap on the left, a 20m opposite foot dribble kick from the pocket, plus a few straight on shots for good measure.

The most impressive thing was his work rate, often working up outside forward 50. Jones or Weitering rarely followed him out, often delegating to a flanker. Finlayson booted five goals straight from 13 disposals, ten marks (two contested). He was benefited by GWS using a resting ruckman up forward as well as Harry Himmelberg making sure Weitering was accountable in the air.

Harry McKay, on the other hand, looked like he was in for a rough night early on. Failing to register a disposal in the first quarter, and then once he found his way into the action he mistimed a bounce while running into an open 50 after marking over his opponent, Jack Buckley.

In the third quarter, however, a switch was flipped and McKay started to take command. With 2.1 from five marks and seven disposals, Carlton started to fire back, with McKay finally being able to get legitimate one-on-one opportunities on Buckley who looked completely outmatched. McKay often had to contend with multiple aerial opponents and although he did get a soft goal after pushing Buckley almost to Perth, to be fair would have kicked 10 goals had he gotten better ball use from the midfield and the umpires were aware of the blocking that Phil Davis is known for, allowing his intercept defenders- namely Haynes and Idun to be effective.

 

PAST vs PRESENT

The battle of former Giant Matthew Kennedy and current Giant Jacob Hopper was extremely entertaining. The bullocking clearance work from Hopper was absolutely exceptional in this contest. Registering a game-high 11 clearances (six from the centre), Hopper was a man possessed on the inside. His 27 disposals were also at a great 82% efficiency, which normally resides in the high 60-low 70% range, however that can be attributed to a lacklustre effort from a large collection of Carlton midfielders – which I’ll touch on later.

It speaks volumes that, despite the household names of Cripps, Curnow, Walsh and Docherty in the Blues midfield ranks, it would be Kennedy, in his fourth game for 2021 that could be the only one that can hold his head high. His work rate for Carlton was outstanding, and players need to take a leaf out of his book if they are serious about things. Kennedy worked inside-to-out with regular efforts assisting the half back line in this game, tallying an equal game-high 27 disposals and eight marks. I really rate Kennedy and I don’t know why he is not a regular fixture in this Carlton side.

 

GIANT GIANTS

Kieran Briggs and Matt Flynn look like they could be the next tandem of game wrecking ruckmen that can also dominate forward. If anybody ever mentions “Mumford and Sons” it will not be the band that comes to mind, rather the three behemoth rucks the Giants possess. Marc Pittonet deserves a ton of credit, as he battled valiantly against the ruck duo, however, with De Koning used more up forward after the first quarter it was left to Pittonet to battle on.

Strangely, it looked like De Koning may have been a factor in the middle, as he registered seven hitouts in the opening quarter, however, he would only add another four for the game. Flynn and Briggs both were able to push forward and take big imposing pack marks, with Briggs hitting the scoreboard and Flynn credited with five score involvements. Pittonet was able to push forward to kick a goal for himself, and De Koning added one while playing forward.

 

CRIPPS OR WALSH?

All year the debate has raged on; which Carlton midfielder is better. Well, there was absolutely no clarity to that question in this contest. Matt De Boer went straight to Walsh and you could almost see the soul of the young Carlton gun depart his body immediately. The Giants’ stopper played him perfectly, keeping body contact on him constantly. Walsh ended the game with 20 disposals with 70% efficiency, however, it was a Cripps-esque statistic line of only six kicks and 14 handballs.

Walsh, to his credit, always kept at it, for the game he covered 15.7km, which led all Carlton players by at least a kilometre. De Boer had 16 touches with 12 tackles in the game. This was a reflective statistic of the pressure he applied (also which Carlton did not) was that midway through the second quarter De Boer registered his tenth tackle. At that point, the entire Carlton team had laid 20 tackles. To be fair to Walsh, he has absolutely no assistance from his fellow midfielders to break the tag.

Now on to Cripps….

Earlier in the year, David Teague rubbished claims that Cripps was injured. Well, watching this game, he either is injured or is just over having to do the heavy lifting for Carlton. Cripps tried to get things going, yet a player of his stature should be doing, not trying. Cripps had Tim Taranto for company often in the game, and like Walsh, had his typical game which leaned towards handball. Nine kicks and 14 handballs, however, he went at 50% efficiency, which is mind-boggling considering how much easier it should be to find a player by hand. For anybody that watched, I can confirm the accuracy was that bad, missing players left and right which just does not happen with a confident Cripps, and he is anything but confident now. Taranto, for his part, was more than up for the challenge, leading the game for tackles (12) and adding 24 touches with 11 marks.

 

WHITFIELD’S WING

I sense you’re seeing a theme here…

Sam Docherty would have slept really well last night, however, that would have been due to Lachie Whitfield running him absolutely ragged. Whitfield put on an absolute clinic with his gut running, twice running from half back to get forward and deliver the ball inside 50. For his part, Docherty did get back and help defensively, however, he had a rough time holding onto the ball, fumbling a handful of times at crucial moments. Whitfield gained 629 metres with his 24 touches, adding 11 marks as well.

 

THE GREENE MILE BARREL

Toby Greene was the catalyst in the opening act of this contest, plus when the Giants needed a closer, he stepped up. He added 20 disposals to his 4.2 and eleven score involvements, however, there will be some talking points in this game.

On the quarter time siren, Greene marked on the edge of the centre square and decided to unleash a barrel. This trick never usually pays off, yet this time it did. Greene’s torp covered the distance and slammed into the fence, pushing 70m in the air, in an absolute thing of beauty. More impressively is that objects fly easier in warm air due to cold air being denser, so under the sun that kick may have challenged the legendary torps of Fehring, Blight and Graham. In the final quarter, he flew at absolutely everything, and Carlton were at his mercy. There is arguably no forward as well rounded as him.

In one of our mongrel chats, the conversation of captains came up, and it was mentioned Greene should be the leader. However, I was of the opinion that could be a negative idea, as I see a ton of similarities of his style compared to the worst-performing captain of 2021: Dayne Zorko. After Greene dropped opponent Nic Newman with a gut punch, and the report was laid, it was mentioned Greene had been reported 19 times and found guilty 19 times.

There was a second “act” that appeared to go unnoticed by the commentators and umpires (surprise surprise) If you want to take a look and let me know your thoughts, rewind to 2:40 left in Q1 Greene gets dispossessed in a tackle by Newman, when he is on the ground behind his opponent he swings his leg back in (what I believe) to be a deliberate act to trip Newman. It’s this type of carelessness that could cost GWS down the stretch, whether he is captain or not. His talent is undisputed, however, so is his thought process at times.

 

BRETT’S BLAST: Patrick Cripps

The defensive running of Cripps has been well and truly scrutinised in 2021. In this contest, there was another unacceptable example. In the very first quarter, with 4:28 remaining (if you want to see it for yourself) after a free kick advantage taken out of the centre by Jacob Hopper, Cripps gives chase, however, he abandons his all-out sprint effort after roughly 10 metres – conceding the contest to Hopper.

If you watch further, in the replay of Lloyd kicking the goal, you can see that Hopper has continues his sprint inside 50, putting nearly 25 metres of space between him and Cripps, who only puts in again once the goal has pretty much been kicked. Cripps may or may not be Carlton’s best player anymore, however, at the moment he is definitely not their best leader…

 

QUICK TAKES

I was very impressed with the way Connor Idun took up the challenge of playing on Eddie Betts. He will learn a lot playing alongside Phil Davis and Nick Haynes. For his part, Betts looked extremely unsure, often attacking the football with one hand, on multiple occasions he tried to manipulate the football just like a basketball, trying to get it to bounce up. The only real impact Betts had was decking an unsuspecting Josh Kelly who took an ill-advised advantage and was a sitting duck for a Betts tackle.

Speaking of Kelly, he was on pace for a mammoth game until he was hampered by a rolled ankle at a stoppage in the first quarter. Kelly kept at it, yet was obviously playing through something. Fingers crossed he doesn’t miss any time.

Carlton need to find a way to get their money’s worth from Martin, Saad and Williams. In terms of Saad and Williams, you knew they were out there, yet they failed to make their mark on the game. Williams in particular was not handling the close attention well, often initiating body contact off the backside of stoppages after play had been blown dead. Martin once again looked absolutely lost at times, devoid of any confidence.

Once again, the IQ and work rate of Jack Silvagni was a shining light. I’m not sure there is a more underappreciated player in the game. Time and time again, he would push that extra metre to affect a contest, put in that extra sprint effort to get in good position and put in that extra leg drive to break a tackle and feed the ball out. I hope Blues fans hold him in as high regard as I do.

Dirty day for Ed Curnow, probably his most ineffective game for the season. It seems Teague has forgotten the skill set of this man, although he was not clean in close, he could have been thrown into the middle in a tagging role, yet was left to the outside to do his own thing.

I think it’s time for the torch to be passed to Matt Owies as Carlton’s number one small forward. In limited opportunities, the former basketballer (apparently that is important) has been a shining light for Carlton up forward. He routinely bobs up in the right place at the right time, and was a thorn in the Giants stellar defence for the night.

Luke Parks looks to be an interesting prospect for Carlton. Hopefully his skills match his confidence, as he has a bit of that arrogant factor, which some teams love, yet can come back to bite you when the going gets tough.

Isaac Cumming had a great game off half back for GWS, filling in for Lachie Ash, he rebounded at will. Collecting 23 touches at an incredible 96% efficiency, 12 marks and kicked his first AFL goal to boot. The fact there was no defensive attention paid to him was almost damming, yet unsurprising, considering the form of Carlton.