Coming into this game, there was a small part of me that wondered “what if…”
What if West Coast could put something special together for just one game? Carlton hasn’t necessarily travelled too well over the last couple of seasons, and with the long trip to play at Optus Stadium, if everything went their way, could the Eagles cause a huge boilover?
Well, it didn’t take long for the answer to become apparent, and that answer was a resounding NO.
Led by a career-best nine goals from Charlie Curnow, Carlton recorded their biggest win in over a decade, smashing the Eagles by 108 points.
In short, it was a massacre, with West Coast simply unable to match Carlton at the contest (-23) or in open play (a massive -148) as they were far too polished for the inexperienced and messy Eagles. West Coast had a dip – don’t get me wrong, but Carlton’s best was far too good for anything the blue and gold could dish up on the night.
With former Docker, Blake Acres having a party on the wing, and the powerful Carlton midfield having their way all over the park, this turned into a foregone conclusion by halftime, and with nine goals in the last quarter, the Blues absolutely creamed the Eagles.
Here are The Mongrel’s Talking Points.
Hmmmm, it’s almost as though all of this talk about Jeremy Cameron being the best player in the history of the game has got under Charlie Curnow’s skin a little, huh?
If you follow AFL news at all, you will have heard retired greats and media wankers alike having a circle jerk about whether Jeremy Cameron can kick a hundred goals this season. With an average of 4.5 per game, it is do-able.
However, there is this other guy… you may have heard of him, particularly as he is the reigning Coleman Medalist. Charlie Curnow’s nine goals in this outing have bumped his average up to 4.3 goals per game, with equates to just under 99 goals for the season. One more decent bag or seven r eight, and we could be in store for a good, old-fashioned shootout at the top of the goalkicking table… ah, that takes me back to the 90s…
Before we get overexcited, we have to consider the opposition. You or I could probably snag a couple if we had Josh Rotham playing on us, so Curnow booting nine goals is not a huge surprise. West Coast’s defenders were inundated with quality inside 50 deliveries most of the game and it often left the defenders hung out to dry.
Curnow finished with a mammoth 11 marks inside 50. For context, the entire West Coast team totalled four for the game. He kicked 9.3 for a total of 57 points off his own boot, eclipsing the total score of the Eagles by 13 points in a powerful display.
It’s strange – rewind a few years and Curnow seemed to have his career in jeopardy. He was consistently getting injured away from footy (basketball, lifting weights, slipping over at his sister’s house – that one was my favourite) and it appeared as though his troublesome knee was going to hamper what was reportedly going to be a great career.
Back to the present, we’re back on track for that career to be great once more. Curnow’s reach and timing are fantastic, and with an overmatched Rotham simply unable to corral him, he had a field day at the Eagles’ expense.
Next week, he gets the Harris Andrews-led Lions, with Jackson Payne emerging as a legitimate second defender this season. Can Charlie continue on his merry, goalkicking way? R will he need a little more help from the next guy we’ll discuss?
THE SACRIFICE OF HARRY
All the discussion will be about the work of Charlie Curnow in this one, as it should be – he was a monster out there, and his eyes must have lit up when Josh Rotham went and stood next to him to open the game.
Rotham is a borderline best-22 player. Probably in the 22-25 area if we’re being honest. Though I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him here and there over the journey, I am not sure he is gonna be there when the Eagles rise back up the ladder. So, with Curnow having the second-string defender (who is really about the fifth string, injuries considered), there was always the chance that he was gonna have a big day.
So, what do you do if you’re Harry McKay?
You’ve got the number one defender on your tail and you know that without him in the picture, the West Coast defence is going to be torn apart by the remaining firepower on your team.
You do the team thing – you take him away from the contest and leave the others to do the damage.
And that is exactly what Harry McKay did in this game. It’s not his first rodeo, having done exactly this earlier in the season when Curnow found form, yet, still people questioned whether this duo could work together – Garry Lyon said they had a rooster problem at Carlton. Are you kidding me? Give me this “problem” at my club whenever you’re ready, please!!!
McKay was selfless again, often playing the decoy role to draw Tom Barrass away from the vulnerable matchup of Curnow versus… anyone else. And once again, it worked a charm.
If you find someone who is a bit thick – we’ve all got those types of people in our lives – that tries to tell you that it was a pity Harry McKay didn’t get amongst the goals, please advise them that winning by 108 points doesn’t just happen when players are selfishly attempting to fill their own goal quotas. No, it happens when the forwards are willing to share, work for each other, and remain committed to a team-first approach. That is what Harry McKay did in this one, and he should be applauded for his role…
BUILD ME A WALL
What Carlton did in this game was not rocket science. It was a game plan built around restricting the ball movement of the Eagles, setting up across the middle to prevent them from moving the footy quickly, and punishing them when they turned it over on the re-entry.
If you want to know where the game was won, the above paragraph outlines it as succinctly as you’ll find. The Eagles had neither the running power, or the skill to carve their way through the Carlton defensive web, and when someone like Jayden Hunt or Tim Kelly threw the ball n their boot to clear the area, they knew it would not be long until the ball came back their way with interest.
Carlton were clinical in this regard, doing to West Coast what St Kilda did t them only a week or so ago, but with a more potent killer instinct and the ability to convert opportunities. Sure, some may look at West Coast as a live kill for any team worth their salt at the moment, and there is merit to that school of thought, but to go for the jugular and win by 108-points… this Carlton team means business, and they weren’t going to settle for your measly ten goal win when a big percentage boost was on offer.
They learnt that lesson the hard way in 2022, remember?
THE EARLY STATEMENT
I love the way George Hewett goes about his footy, and it was no coincidence that the Blues fell away dramatically in 2022 right around the time he was unable to take the field.
During his time with Sydney, Hewett was often charged with putting the brakes n the opposition’s best midfielder. It was a role he reprised in this game, going to Tim Kelly in the first quarter and absolutely strangling him out of the contest.
Kelly was always going to be the key for the Eagles, and had he got a fast start and got a bit of confidence about him, who knows how far West Coast could have ridden it? They never got the chance, with Kelly blanketed by Hewett and managing just one possession over the first half an hour of footy.
This was compounded by Hewett working off Kelly very effectively, notching 11 touches and two clearances whilst restricting his direct opponent so well.
Kelly found his groove after quarter time, but with the Blues already looking like the better team, you kind of feel that anything he picked up after that, whilst still counting just as much on the stats sheet, mattered a hell of a lot less in the context of the game.
When the footy was hot and the ball was there to be won, George Hewett did what he does best, and that is play the two-way game as well as anyone in the game.
In theory, the forward duo of Oscar Allen and Jack Darling should be enough to trouble most defences.
Of course, that statement is dependent on their midfield actually getting their hands on the footy and then being able to deliver the ball to them in somewhat reasonable fashion.
And therein lies the problem.
It seemed that every time the Eagles were able to generate some decent forward momentum, the inside 50 was cut off, chopped up, and spat back out by the Blues’ defence.
There were n huge numbers for the Blues – Alex Cincotta had nine intercepts, Nic Newman had 34 touches, and Adam Saad played about three quarters for his 25 touches. In the air, Weitering, Kemp, and Lewis Young controlled the ball and gave the tandem of Darling and Allen bugger all to work with, and with Carlton restricting West Coast to just 34 inside 50s (-22 on the night), it had the dual effect of making the Carlton defence look like a million bucks and the Eagles’ attack look like about three dollars in loose change.
THE LESSONS FOR GINBEY
There wasn’t a lot to like about the Eagles in this one, but the experience given to Reuben Ginbey, in getting to play against Patrick Cripps in a head-to-head matchup at stoppages, will likely prove to be a building block for the young man.
Forced to match strength with Cripps, Ginbey found himself in a situation that not many would envy – attempting to stop one of the best clearance players in the game getting first hands on the footy. For what it’s worth, I reckon he did a pretty admirable job.
Cripps had eight clearances, but he was under a fair bit of pressure all game, with 27 of his 33 touches coming via handball. This wasn’t all Ginbey’s doing, of course, but it was good to see the young bloke well and truly up for the fight.
IS THAT WHY THEY LET HIM GO?
I speak of Sam Petrevski-Seton.
There was a point I questioned whether SPS was just not the player Carlton thought he was going to be, but at the same time, I weighed it up with thoughts of whether he never really got an opportunity to hold down a regular spot in the Blues’ rotation whilst part of the team.
So, I was undecided as to whether Petrevski-Seton was misunderstood as a player who had a heap to offer and never really had the chance, or one that frustrated the Carlton brass enough that letting him go was the preferred option.
In his second year on the West Coast list, I reckon we now have our answer.
SPS will be one of those players who racks up 200 games and when you think of it, you look back and wonder “how the hell did that happen?”
He was subbed out of this game in the third quarter, after amassing four disposals for the game, and I reckon he could consider himself pretty lucky that West Coast have such a player shortage, as I am really not sure what he offers the team, other than a shit haircut.
Pressure is one thing, but when you’re a top ten draft pick, considerably more is expected. The curse of pick six…
A FEW QUICKIES
I like what Jayden Hunt is bringing to this Eagles team. He was lively again in this one, often pushing back hard from the wing to assist his defence. He was surprisingly active in the clinches, as well, doing his part to keep the Eagles from being monstered.
That said, you know you’re in trouble when Hunt is one of your team’s best three clearance players.
Great to see Jack Silvagni reap some scoreboard reward. This bloke does the hard yards for the Carlton forward line every week, often without so much as a mention from analysts, but he presents well and never gives up on a play – such a heart and soul player for this club.
Good to see Xavier O’Neill show a little bit in this one. To be honest, I have had my doubts about him being a best-22 player, ongoing, but if he can manufacture goals as part of his game, that opinion changes pretty rapidly.
Great guts from Shannon Hurn to clunk that mark and take the lung-busting impact on the ground. That hurt me watching from home.
Also a solid outing in defence from Brodie Kemp. Looked to relish the lack of polish from the Eagles’ mids, picking off five intercepts.
And finally, Adam Cerra may be overshadowed by other performances, but I felt his first half was integral to the Blues setting up their win. He had 19 of his 30 touches before the main break and was in the running for the best man n the ground until Charlie Curnow started to go nuts.
As mentioned, the Blues get the Lions next week, whilst the Eagles are sacrificed to an angry Tigers team at the MCG.
But yes, Harley Reid looks great, and my fellow Mongrel, Daniel Jon Kershaw, is secretly hoping West Coast doesn’t win a game all year so they can pick him up and my Hawks miss out on him. So, I am barracking fr the Eagles quite a lot this season.
Massive thanks to those who support us. I am leaving this one open for all, as really, reading about a massacre is something only die-hard Blues, or West Coast masochists will enjoy. That said, I am already formulating a “How the Eagles get better” article for early in the week, which is sure to disappoint.
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