It was a fitting way to end the tenure of Leon Cameron as GWS coach.

Against a Carlton side that was missing its number-one forward option, GWS had a Blues team on the road that were ripe for the picking. All they had to do was to play to their potential.

But this is the Giants we’re talking about – they’ve played to their potential once in their existence and that season proved to be three quarters too long for them. They came into this contest with everything to prove, and ended up proving only that which people have speculated on for the last few years. When the going gets tough, they grind to a halt.

Carlton were challenged in this one. They had their second most potent forward completely blanketed by Sam Taylor, and Patrick Cripps did not get everything his own way for a change, with GWS deploying a bull of their own to curb his influence, but it was their ability to rise to the occasion and break the shackles in enemy territory that saw Carlton emerge victorious.

The win vaulted the Blues back into the top four and the magnitude of a victory such as this gives their season an air of legitimacy. With the opposition coach performing his duties for the last time, you’d expect GWS to elevate their game, but it was Carlton, first in the opening quarter, and then again in the last, that dug in and worked to take the four points.

Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

WHO WON THE CRIPPS V GREEN WAR?

Early on, it was Tom Green throwing the big bombs, moving Cripps off the footy in a fantastic example of just how strong he is in the contest. Cripps fought back strongly with 12 second-quarter touches, but lacked the run and potency he has demonstrated this season – all those 12 touches were handballs.

The third quarter belonged to Green as he once again muscled his way into contests, collecting eight touches, and the last saw Cripps fight back again as the Giants threw up the white flag yet again and Carlton marched onwards to victory.

Whilst neither man will get votes in this game – and really, keep your eye on that on Brownlow night to make sure they don’t – the contest was great due to a couple of factors.

Green actually looks as though he can match it with Cripps, physically. How many midfielders in the game can say that?

Cripps responded when challenged. His second quarter was an exercise in working both the inside and outside whilst getting to the right spaces to open up the game for his teammates.

And we saw the future today. Cripps has six years on Green, who is just starting to edge toward the end of his AFL apprenticeship. If there is one player the Giants would like to keep hold of, it would be him. On the flip side, if there were one Giant other teams would eye hungrily, it would also be him. He is a pillar to build around, much like Cripps has been for the Blues.

I’m copping out on this one. Neither was beaten, but neither could really claim victory in their personal war. If you were forced to pick one at gunpoint, you’d take Cripps on the basis his team won. But there’s be no other reasoning.

 

HOW DO WE RATE SAM TAYLOR AFTER THIS OUTING?

Sam Taylor had 19 one-percenters in this game. He added 11 intercepts.

I am no mathemagician, but it seems to me that in playing on one of the most exciting forwards in the game, Taylor managed to control or win 30 contests. That is bloody ridiculous.

What is also ridiculous is that, despite being smashed for the first three quarters, Charlie Curnow stood tall in the final stanza, had six touches, four marks and kicked two goals as he played a huge role in the Blues breaking away from the Giants and going onto win the game. He had a chance to add a third for the quarter after marking just inside 50 late in the game, but hooked it worse than my golf swing.

As much as I admire the ability to fight back, as demonstrated by Curnow, I cannot go past the long-haul efforts of Taylor in this one. He was one spoil off becoming just the eighth man to hit 20 spoils/one percenters in a game, and his 11 intercepts gave him a very impressive defensive double-double – the sixth time in his career he’s done that.

For the record, Blues fans, Jacob Weitering has done it three times, and the retired Liam Jones has five to his name – all coming in 2021. I miss him.

 

WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU ALLOW JACK SILVAGNI TO CONTINUALLY GET ISOLATION PLAYING ON LACHIE KEEFFE?

We had a nice little matchup going early in the game, with Connor Idun seeming perfectly suited to playing on the rangy and agile Jack Silvagni.

However, as the game went on, the Blues manufactured a switch and it was Lachie Keeffe that was given the job in curtailing the sometimes-forward/sometimes-ruckman as he started to make longer leads and turn the big fella around.

He failed. Miserably.

With Idun for company early, Silvagni struggled to impact the game. His touches were rushed and under pressure, and he was not permitted space to get out and spread the GWS defenders. Idun was quietly going about his business of ensuring that Silvagni stayed under wraps and was contained.

And then it all changed.

Silvagni is no small man, but Keeffe has ten kilograms and 13 centimetres on him. Silvagni was just too versatile at ground level for Keeffe to have a chance.

Not only did Silvagni end up with 20 touches playing as a forward (you’d be surprised how seldom this occurs), he started creating for teammates as well. He finished with a direct goal assist to go with two snags of his own as Keeffe trailed him to the footy, wondering how the hell he was continually stuck in this mismatch?

Whenever the camera panned to the coach’s box, Leon Cameron seemed non-plussed. I mean, he has taken Dwayne Russell’s advice and made all of this someone else’s problem now, right? What does he care if there is a glaring mismatch in his defence?

 

IS THIS THE YEAR JACOB WEITERING GETS HIS RECOGNITION?

I hope so.

He was the 2021 Mongrel Punt Defensive Player of the Year for good reason, with just one blemish on his record for the season – the Nick Larkey game.

This season, a bigger, stronger, and more confident Jacob Weitering has taken all before him and held together this Carlton defence like…. hmmmm, like an All-Australian key position player.

There will be stiff competition for the coveted fullback spot in the team, particularly with people enamoured with Steven May at the moment, but Weitering’s approach of doing the right things at the right moment and never making the defensive unit about him has been apparent to all footy lovers this season – and last year too, if we’re being honest.

He had nine intercepts, nine one-percenters, and five rebound fifty disposals in yet another polished performance as the GWS forwards struggled to find their way. He won’t get votes. He won’t be lauded far and wide for his efforts, but given exposed form in 2022, and the fact he is largely holding together a makeshift forward line, we could very well be watching the AA fullback at work for the Blues every week.

 

IS HARRY HIMMELBERG JUST A BIT SLOW?

Yep.

Quite a bit.

There were two plays that he was heavily involved in that aided Carlton in distancing themselves from the Giants in the last quarter.

Firstly, with a stoppage inside 50, Himmelberg decided that was the time to be a tough guy, digging an elbow into the chest and neck of his opponent on the ground. Tams work and work to get stoppages inside 50, allowing them to set up and attack with a set play. With Brayden Preuss dominant in this game, this was a potential scoring opportunity.

WAS… a potential scoring opportunity.

Harry’s efforts saw the Blues awarded a free-kick, and they were able to clear the danger zone. Kenny Loggins would be appalled.

Next thing you know, George Hewett spins out of trouble and Hazza has a choice to make. He either bumps him onto his backside, or wraps him up in a tackle. Himmelberg opts to perform a strange hybrid of the two – perhaps another erotic dance – and Hewett slips away to go forward.

The result? Charlie Curnow marks and goals – Sam Taylor sends a big bloody thank you to Harry Himmelberg for his shit efforts.

 

DID BRAYDEN PREUSS DO ENOUGH?

He had 44 hit outs, took four contested grabs, and had 15 disposals, yet as I sit here and write, what sticks in my mind are all the times he got two hands to the footy and spilled the beans, or all the opportunities to simply get rid of Tom De Koning in a ruck contest and take clean possession.

This was the ruck version of a live kill for Preuss. He had a baby giraffe opposing him, and whilst he did get to eat, he could have feasted on the young Blue.

Preuss has been very good this season for the Giants, but I have distinct memories of thinking “oh, he should have taken that one” on three or four occasions during this game.

 

HOW DO THE BLUES COVER THE LOSS OF ZAC WILLIAMS?

Surprisingly well.

If there is one thing the Blues have a plethora of, it is half-back flankers.

Lochie O’Brien can fold back and pick up the slack, Lachie Fogarty is waiting in the wings and although he is listed as a forward, his skill set is easily transferable. Liam Stocker is a week or two away, Caleb Marchbank is working back, George Hewett can drift back and has done in the past for Sydney, Jack Newnes is capable, Tom Williamson is less capable, but can hold the fort, and Will Setterfield can provide run and carry from defence.

What Williams provides is confidence in his own abilities. Sure, sometimes it could be construed as overconfidence, but he backs himself and loves to run with the footy. If indeed, he has torn an Achilles, it is a lengthy stay on the sidelines. I heard one of the Blues mention it may have been a low calf muscle – if so, then great, but I reckon it would still be a five-six week recovery given the fact it is an old-man injury, and I am an old man… a bit of experience in that department – join the dots.

First choice would be Williamson, but it is not like he hasn’t had the opportunity to play this role before. Maybe this is the time he grasps the opportunity offered him?

 

DO THE BLUES HAVE THE BEST ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR MIDFIELD PUNCH IN THE GAME?

I am sure there are combinations around the league that would beg to differ, but the way Cripps, Hewett, Walsh, and Cerra move the ball between each other to create space is something special. The hands are quick, they hit the target, the pieces move as though they are part of some erotic dance.

I guess I haven’t watched too many erotic dances.

In the league, we have midfield combinations working together for years to perfect what these three seem to do instinctively, with one always moving to the front of the stoppage in order to become the release player. It may be after two or three handballs in a chain, but once there is space to move, the Blues’ engine room moves into it and draws the footy beautifully,

Between them, the Blues’ mids compiled 111 touches, and I am not even counting the efforts of Matt Kennedy in this mix.

I was waiting for Leon Cameron to pull the trigger and deploy Matt de Boer onto one of the potent Blues mids, but the move didn’t eventuate, which was fitting, considering Cameron’s coaching acumen has been the source of many questions in recent years. You have a great midfield stopper… why use him in that role, right? Throw him on a half-forward-flank, where is no longer really able to play.

 

WAS THIS THE MOST APT WAY TO SEND LEON CAMERON OFF FROM THE GIANTS?

Think about it – Carlton are renowned for killing off coaches. Sure, it’s usually their own, but were we silly for thinking that GWS could find something for their departing coach considering they’ve fund bugger all for him, or themselves since the end of the 2019 season?

A win here may have given the impression that the Giants had something in reserve – that they needed something to play for to truly rise to the occasion,

No. Sadly, no matter what the circumstances, the outcome in this was the same sad outcome we’ve seen all season, all last season, and all the 2020 season from the Giants. They promised the world and delivered an atlas once again.

Josh Kelly can hold his head high. Sam Taylor could do the same, but as has almost always been the case for them for three-straight years, GWS teased us and then let us down.

In a way,they managed to sum up the last three years in one game. So much promise. Si little in terms of success.

The Leon Cameron era is over. I just hope it is not too late to salvage something from one of the most talented lists in the caper.

 

WAS ZAC FISHER’S GAME UNDER-APPRECIATED?

Not by me, baby.

He had a few moments in this that just screamed “talent”!

They screamed some other things as well – creativity, composure, skill, vision… Fisher made something out of nothing on several occasions, and when it looked as though the Giants were pushing, Fisher would find a way to push back.

He set up George Hewett for a shot at goal after somehow keeping the footy in play in the second quarter, and Hewett let him down later again as Fisher squared the ball up to him perfectly.

One of his goals from a stoppage saw him take the extra second to scan the forward fifty, see no options presenting, only to hammer it through from long distance.

Fisher is the type of player that can bob up, play like a star and then turn invisible for two weeks. The Blues have a couple like that – Jack Martin is another. However, if Carlton can work the ball into his hands, which is made easier when Fisher plays on the wing, good things tend to happen.

Consistency will be the key going forward, but he seems very motivated this year, and he is hitting the scoreboard. He already has nine snags for the year – that already matches his career-high. Onwards and upwards for him.

 

And that’ll do me. Nice win on the road for the Blues. Yet another depressing loss for the Giants. Let’s see what Mark McVeigh can get out of them.