Carlton v GWS – The Doc’s Autopsy

 

We hear about the term ‘dead rubber’ a lot in footy, particularly towards the tail-end of the home and away season and this was one of them. However, despite what the six-goal margin will indicate, this was tight and close for three quarters.

For Carlton, after a tough loss to swallow last week against a benchmark team in Geelong, this was just a game that they needed to win to stay in touch with the teams around them inside the top eight.

And despite some stiff resistance by the Giants for the opening three quarters, they got another four points in the bank and with four games to go, the Blues will most likely head into round 20 a game behind fourth (as of writing, Collingwood are well on top and looks likely to jump the Dockers for fourth). They are also two and a half games clear on Richmond for ninth (great gag that) who dropped two premiership points on Friday night.

As for the Giants, they look destined for a bottom four finish this year. There pressure around the contest was red hot in the opening stages, but as the game wore on, some of their younger boys began to tire out and the star power of the Blues began to shine through and powered away in the final term.

 

SAAD’S SILVER SERVICE

As a fan of neither side, I’ve been split on Adam Saad for years. I’ve often found his disposal to be too hot and cold at both Essendon and Gold Coast, and there have been games here at Carlton too where he gets caught trying to do too much with the ball.

But I reckon we’ve just seen the best game of his AFL career to date. Having said that, I’m not in the party of those who think he’ll be an All-Australian this year. Good season? Yes. But for my money, I don’t think he’s better than Jack Sinclair, Bailey Dale, Jordan Dawson or even his running mate in Sam Docherty this year (what a season he’s churning out).

There was a really good balance of defensive work and offensive work from Saad in this game. Particularly early on, when the Giants had the screws tightened up on the Blues, it was some precision kicking inside 50 from the Blues that kept their opposition at bay on the scoreboard and it was Saad who was one of few at the forefront of that.

There were two separate occasions I counted in the opening half where he kicked it inside 50 into space for his teammates to run into – once on Harry McKay and another for on Matt Cottrell. Those are the sort of kicks you want as a forward. It’s almost heaven on Earth when that happens.

But it wasn’t just inside 50, it was all across general play too; 22 kicks at 96 percent efficiency and at 581 metres gained is a testament to how good his offensive game was in this one.

But it’s also worth mentioning the defensive stuff too. On top of one elite mark of the year contender – he had five intercept marks from 12 marks overall and eight intercept possessions just goes to show how elite he is at reading the play across the defensive half.

 

THE KID’S GOT GUTS

It’s been some year for Sam Walsh. On the eve of Round One, he was ruled out for the first portion of the season due to an ankle syndesmosis injury, before making a premature comeback in Round Two, only for him to continue on his 2021 form. He just does not miss a beat.

There’s a handful of midfielders you could sound out as the most influential from this contest; Cripps was very good – could’ve been greater if he’d kicked straight I liked Taranto’s extraction around the contest for most of the game and Matt Kennedy was superb as the game progressed.

But when Walsh went down with a pretty bad rolled ankle during the third term, you could cut the tension with the knife at Marvel Stadium. It’s a bit harsh to pin hopes on a young lad, yet to enter the prime years of his career, but the Blues cannot afford to lose Sam Walsh heading into the Finals.

Fortunately for them, he returned to the field after about 10 minutes of getting assessed and went about his business as if nothing ever happened. Watching him play is almost as if he’s the Terminator; you can’t just kill him – or his ankles maybe.

He came back on the field and had a big say in the remainder of the quarter – he had 11 disposals in the third term including five of his seven clearances for the game. He was a lot quieter in the last term, but by then, the Blues were fast on top of the contest and it was left to the likes of Cripps and Kennedy to get them home.

He finished with 31 disposals for the match, 14 of which came from ground ball gets and four of his seven clearances came out of centre bounce stoppages, but also had seven score involvements, five tackles and 23 pressure acts.

I’ve rolled an ankle before, it’s manageable in the moment during a game of football, but the morning after is where it’ll get you. Looking at the replay, it’s both a testament to his toughness and a miracle that he wasn’t subbed out then and there.

 

THE GOOD IRISH

With the exception of dropping a sitter of a chest mark that led to Josh Honey’s goal in the third term, I really liked seeing Callum Brown in defence in this one.

It wasn’t too long ago that we saw him up forward and come up with four goals against Hawthorn in a losing effort. But there’s something about just how he goes about it that I love. Maybe it’s just the competitive nature that he brings each and every week. Mark McVeigh would know plenty about that – competitively speaking, he was a prick of a player to watch as an opposition supporter throughout the years.

He had four intercept marks – led all Giants in this category and was the equal leader for the Giants for intercept possessions alongside Harry Himmelberg with 10 for the match. He also had 11 kicks at 100 percent efficiency for over 330 metres gained in this game. Brown also led the Giants and was equal-highest player alongside Lewis Young for spoils with six for the match.

Regardless who comes in as coach next year for the Giants, whether it’s Alastair Clarkson, David Noble, Don Pyke or Daisy Pearce, Callum Brown needs to play more games. His ability to read the play – either as a forward or as a defender – is continually evolving and with the athleticism that he possesses, he’s got a very bright future ahead of him.

 

AND ON HIMMELBERG…

Loved him a lot in this game. Even though it was a few years ago, the thought of him sniping Marcus Bontempelli in the finals a few years ago continues to live rent-free in my head but having said that, he’s found some real rhythm and groove as an offensive facilitator across the defensive half.

As mentioned just above, he was the equal-leader of the Giants for intercept possessions with 10 for the game, but it’s his ability to get his hands on the footy and be productive with it that is most impressive. With 617 metres gained, he led all players on the ground in terms of rebounding and gaining meterage, but his kicking went at 79 percent efficiency.

On an afternoon when the Giants looked hesitant in trying to take the game on in various moments of the game, Himmelberg has the confidence and the swagger to go for these kicks. There was a passage during the second term in which he marked the ball on the wing and opted to switch the play 50 metres in board and it opened up the entire play and it led to an opportunity in front of goal.

He finished with 25 disposals, seven marks – three of which were intercepts – also four score involvements and eight rebound 50s.

In his early days, he was good as a forward and showed that he’s a capable goal kicker, but he’s truly found his position as an elite rebounding defender. All they need now is a key defender to take over from Lachie Keeffe and Phil Davis to help out Sam Taylor. Poor bastard can’t be expected to take on the world all by himself.

 

THE TWIN TOWERS GETTING PRODUCTIVE AGAIN

So I covered the Blues last week from the Mongrel and I touched on the performances of Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow, key pillars up forward and crucial for Carlton’s chances to go far this September.

In terms of hitting the scoreboard this week, both managed to hit the scoreboard five times, but contrasting results, with Curnow kicking 4.1 and McKay with 2.3; having said that, I thought the manner that both led and rotated between presenting towards the football inside 50 and further up the ground was just absolutely terrific.

It’s a good case of forward line synergy, with 20 marks between the pair (10 marks each) and five contested marks (Curnow three and McKay two), both proved a handful for the pair of Lachie Keeffe and Sam Taylor – Keeffe in particular, who had a hard time on both McKay early on, then Curnow when he found himself isolated on him.

Talk about someone who needs to play more games, Lachie Keeffe is someone who doesn’t need any.

I was very impressed with Curnow’s ability up the ground to; a) present further afield and continue to link up and b) the penetration he gets with his kicks when he either goes for goals or spots up a teammate inside attacking 50, they just looked like they carry a lot more sizzle on them.

Also between the two of them, they had 19 score involvements – Curnow nine and McKay 10 – which if you think about, they also had a hand in nine other scores, Curnow had a direct goal assist in amongst that as well.

Even if the Blues don’t go far this year, it’s scary to think that as they head into the prime of their careers, they’re going to be so damaging no matter who they come up against.

 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

Loved Zac Fisher’s game, just looked willing to take on the game at every opportunity and just has got poise and composure beyond his years in congestion. A natural footballer as some might say.

Patrick Cripps’ game was huge in this one; just to rattle off the numbers; 34 disposals, four clearances, six inside 50s, two intercept marks, six marks overall, 1.2 from six score involvements and 33 pressure acts.

Probably one of the best games I’ve seen from Will Setterfield. Haven’t been entirely sure what his role has been in this side over the years, but he has looked quite solid across the forward half, linking up well and getting on the scoreboard in this game – kicked 1.1 from 24 disposals and nine score involvements to go with that.

Tom De Koning has got some class by foot, but he got completely out bodied by Braydon Preuss in this game; 36 hitouts – 13 to advantage to De Koning’s 12 and three, despite the fact that De Koning actually attended more ruck contests.

Thought Mitch McGovern’s intercept marking was big in this game. Has struggled for continuity this season due to injury, but he just looks a natural across the half-back line as the intercept marking option.

Nic Newman’s foot skills were absolutely outstanding in this game. I’ve accused him of being a turnover merchant in the past, but I thought his rebounding link-up work by foot in this game was excellent.

Nice to see Nick Haynes stay in the defensive half for the whole game. The attempt to move him forward for some kind of negating role just didn’t work. Took a couple of intercept marks and found some old form back, but still remains a way off from his best.

Liked Xavier O’Halloran’s game – looked more like he was given the license to roam and go get his own football – seven ground ball gets, six intercept possessions and six marks to go along with his 23 disposals.

Another great game from Stephen Coniglio, though he was able to use his body in the contests well enough and managed to go forward and kick two goals as well. Finished with six clearances and five tackles from his 21 disposals.

Toby Greene was the only one who was looking like a viable threat up forward for Giants. So strange to say that he took a great mark and it wasn’t the mark of the day. He finished with 3.2 from 15 disposals and five marks.

And I think that’ll do me for this one.

The win that Carlton needed to stay away from potentially missing Finals altogether and to stay in striking distance with those in the top four. Next week sees them taking on Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval next Saturday night.

As for the Giants, they take on the Swans next Saturday in their second Sydney Derby this season. Regardless of where the two sides sit on the ladder, you can guarantee that this will be a tough game of footy.

 

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!