Someone lost a million dollars on this game. I was staggered to hear that someone was so confident that Collingwood was going to prevail that they plonked down what it usually takes me three months to make on one game of footy!
Just kidding… it takes me about 11 years to make a million dollars.
But he must have been confident to splurge like that, right? He must have thought that his team was going to run all over the Blues, even if they fell behind. It happened in the final round of 2022, right? The Blues looked home and hosed in that game, but the Pies came from the clouds.
He must have thought his Magpies were unbeatable!
And now, he is a million lighter in the wallet, or the bank account, or the share portfolio… is it becoming apparent I don’t know where people stash a cool million?
The Blues were magnificent in this game. They not only matched the elite Collingwood pressure – they bettered it. The small forwards were manic, the mids folded back to aid the defence, and the defenders owned the contest against the Magpie forwards. Of course, this was aided by the Pies seeming inability to hit the ocean from the beach when kicking for goal, but Carlton continued to take it up to the Pies when so many other teams would have gone into preservation mode.
Heading into the last quarter, the commentators made damn sure you knew that Collingwood had a penchant for running over teams. Hell, they spoke over each other to tell you, but the resolve of the Blues not only held firm… it grew into a wave of confidence, itself. With the first three goals after the last change, the Blues blew the lead out to over 30 points, throwing down a challenge the Magpies were unable to answer.
It was Charlie Curnow, Jack Martin, Jacob Weitering, and Sam Docherty making big plays at big moments as Carlton triumphed over the old enemy by 17 points to jump into the eight.
Speaking of jumping, let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Good, Bad, and Ugly from this huge Blues win!
LESSONS LEARNT THE HARD WAY ARE LESSONS LEARNT WELL
That’s right – I am going all philosophical to start with.
I won’t rehash what you already know. You know what the final round of the 2022 season cost the Blues, and you know how much it hurt the club, the players, and the supporters to finish the season like that.
Coming into the final quarter of this game, I was interested to see what Carlton had learnt from their capitulation. As it turns out, the lessons were unforgettable.
There was no trying to save this game. There was no going into their shells and hoping to hold on. No, the Blues maintained their pressure and kept attacking, always pushing forward, always hitting targets further afield, and always making Collingwood defend every portion of the ground.
It is easy to fall into the trap of going long and high to create a contest and get a stoppage, but when you have the footy, I have always been a big believer in keeping the bloody thing. Carlton just took what the Pies gave them. Collingwood pressed back to cut off the long kick? Okay then… we’ll hit up someone on a 25 metre pass. Collingwood cut that off? Okay, we’ll hit up diagonally – our structure is ready for your adjustments.
It was a polished and composed effort from the Blues, handling the pressure and the expectation that Collingwood were going to come with a combination of pressure, attacking footy, and courage under fire. Above all else, it spoke of maturity – this was a Carlton team no longer jumping at shadows. They took the game on, made the play, and reaped the rewards. Many clubs would be happy to fall in against a team like Collingwood, but Carlton were the opposite.
They took the game to Collingwood and asked the question of them. For once, the Pies were unable to answer.
WELCOME BACK, JACK
Not that he’s gone anywhere recently… it just feels as though we haven’t seen THIS Jack Martin in a long while.
A couple of years back, I lamented the player Jack Martin could have been. People forget that he was touted as the best underage player in the country before he was taken by the Gold Coast Suns in one of those crazy little mini-draft things they did ten or so years ago.
How time flies.
When Martin arrived at Carlton, I was hopeful we’d get to see his best, and he started with a bang in the season opener of 2020… before all that Covid garbage ruined the season. He kicked four, dragged the Blues back into against the Tigers, and looked like a difference maker.
Since then, he has only played cameo parts in the story of the Carlton Football Club.
But he stepped into the limelight as the best supporting forward in this game!
With Harry McKay sidelined, the Carlton forward line was smaller, quicker, and looked very dangerous. Martin was matched up on both Jeremy Howe and Isaac Quaynor at points, and managed to lose them in traffic and on turnover several times. As the Blues countered the early start of the Magpies, it was Martin getting involved. As they started building their lead, once again, it was Martin bobbing up. And as Collingwood sprayed shot after shot at goal, Martin made them pay at the other end.
Jack Martin finished this game with three goals to his name, but he felt so much more important. He was doing the little things that so often go unrewarded – it was his block on Darcy Moore in the last quarter that caused the full back to clutch onto the arm of Charlie Curnow. The result? A free kick and goal to Charlie.
Thanks Jack! Maybe don’t give away a 100-metre penalty, next time, huh? That’d be great.
Whilst I am not ready to jump on the Jack Martin bandwagon, seeing him able to contribute like this makes me think back to when he was just a kid coming into the system and some said that he was the most impressive kid they’d seen. That talent does not evaporate.
Between him, Jesse Motlop, Lachie Fogarty, and David Cuningham, the Blues seemed to get the mix right, and I am sure there will be more than a few questioning whether the Blues’ forward setup is better off without the big bloke who won’t be back til finals.
AND YOU CANNOT HANDLE… PRESSURE!
Oh, I loved the work the Blues put into Nick Daicos in this game.
It wasn’t just one player – it was all of the midfielders working in unison to prevent the Brownlow favourite from gathering any steam at the footy, and they did a great job of stopping the secondary possessions Daicos usually gets after dishing off and taking off on the outside.
Adam Cerra, George Hewett, and Sam Docherty all took their turns to nullify Daicos’ run and carry and ensured every possession he got was hard-earned. I’m sure there will be some of you who look at the stats-sheet and figure that he still had 28 touches – the most of anyone on the park – and therefore had a good game.
No, no, no… not by the standards he has set for himself. He ran at just 54% efficiency in terms of all disposals, with his kicking under 50%. Whilst he is usually the type to do a heap of damage with the footy, the pressure from the Carlton mids forced him to hack the footy forward and hope for the best. It came off at times, but it just as much luck as it was skill when it did.
The defensive attention he received seemed to make him a little more reluctant to hit the contest hard and I counted three instances where Daicos could have got to a contest, but opted to prop and wait for the ball to bounce, or gave up on it. It was not like we are used to seeing from him.
Of course, he is still a kid – we cannot forget that, and bash-and-crash footy is not really his one-wood, but there are expectations that are team-wide that need to be met. I am not sure Nick met some of those that are undoubtedly part of what makes Collingwood tick, and the early and consistent pressure from the Blues in and around the contest were big contributors to that.
THE HOWE MOVE
Jeremy Howe was actually thrown forward just over halfway through the third quarter, but it took the experts on commentary about half an hour to point it out to you.
If you weren’t paying attention, you may have thought that Luke Hodge was eagle-eyed in the last quarter with about 10.30 remaining in the game. It was then that he made the observation that Craig McRae had made the move.
Yeah… thanks Hodgey.
But even with the experts being a little slow on the uptake, Howe grew as a marking target as he started to feel more at home at the opposite end of the ground. His timing on leads and reactions on hack kicks were excellent, and with three goals to his name in the heat of the last quarter, he may have opened the eyes of the Collingwood coach as to the possibilities of switching him more often.
With Mason Cox looking like little more than a ninth goalpost out there, and Brodie Mihocek soundly beaten (pummeled, actually… completely destroyed) by Jacob Weitering, Howe gave the Pies a target they desperately needed. It was too little, too late, however, as by the time he started to have an impact, the game was gone.
THE INSIDE JOB
I don’t remember Collingwood getting monstered on the inside like that for a while, but Carlton were humming in the midfield in this game, and their efforts in close confines often left the Magpie mids searching for answers.
Patrick Cripps and Jordan de Goey engaged in a ripping battle for supremacy in the guts, with Cripps collecting seven clearances and laying ten tackles, whilst JDG gave the Pies plenty of burst from stoppage.
The problem was that the Blues were just too strong in the clinches. And Cripps aside, they probably shouldn’t have been.
It speaks of the hunger of the Blues in this one =. You had blokes like Adam Cerra early, then George Hewett and Paddy Dow getting first hands on the footy and farming it out to their runners. The Magpies’ on-ball department just seemed to run themselves into trouble too often and were unable to get clean extraction.
The Blues were +33 in contested touches in a contest where Collingwood had more of the footy (+30) which again indicates that Carlton were hungrier and willing to dig in at every contest. With more contested footy and more tackles laid (+10), the Blues did what no one else has been able to do this season.
They beat the Pies at their own game.
I DIDN’T FORGET YOU, CHARLIE
During the week, we had a bit of a play around with Coleman Medal numbers. With Charlie Curnow beating the living tar out of West Coast on two occasions this season, there was a bit of a feeling that he was picking on the weak kid n the class with those hauls, having not really had a big bag against quality opposition.
However, kicking six against the man who is likely to be chosen as the All-Australian captain this season… now there is a feather in his cap!
Moore had the early ascendancy. Playing in front of Curnow, he managed to drag down a couple of intercept grabs before Charlie even got a touch, but as soon as Curnow started leading up the ground and catching Nathan Murphy out on switches, it seemed to throw things out of whack for the Pies defence.
The next thing you know, we’re looking at Charlie and Moore going one-on-one in the third quarter, and suddenly, Moore was pawing him like Joe Ganino at the wrk Christmas party. The result saw Charlie ultra excited – not because of the pawing, but because the umpire saw the pawing and Charlie converted two goals from free kicks.
This deserves a bit of credit. Having watched the way Darcy Moore has played all season, Curnow worked extremely hard to get the preferred matchup. Usually, Nathan Murphy drops back to take the last line of defence – he is a bit stronger than Moore and harder to displace, but Charlie got Moore one-out deep and used his body to cause Darcy to panic. Two goals in five minutes, and the game was just about over.
Yes, there were those who brushed off Curnow’s efforts against West Coast. Yes, the opposition wasn’t great. But there is no way you can brush off this performance. Six goals against the Pies… that is big boy stuff. And in this game, the big boy stood up and carried his Blues home.
As some of you may be aware, I have a bit of a soft spot for the wingmen, and I tend to watch how they play their roles pretty closely.
Whilst this season has seen Ollie Hollands have some ups and downs, I was really impressed with the way he responded after having a moment that was not his best early in the game.
Trailing a ball to the boundary, Hollands had Brayden Maynard, who definitely looks like Scott Pendlebury’s slow cousin, bearing down on him. Maynard, bigger and stronger, forced Hollands to ground and beat him hands-down in the contest.
This was a test for Hollands – how would he respond?
He did so by recommitting to the contest and going again with Maynard the very next time they encountered each other. This time, it was Maynard wrapped up in a Hollands tackle, and driven to the ground. Hollands then ended the first quarter by picking up several disposals in one of the more impressive “I’ve got this” performances.
He finished the first quarter with eight touches to be one of the Blues’ best, and whilst he still has a lot of development (and a fair few gym sessions) to get to the level required, Carlton look to have their wingmen all set for the next few years, with Blake Acres on one side, and Ollie Hollands on the other. They certainly did an admirable job against the pairing of Josh Daicos and Steele Sidebottom, who have arguably been the best one-two wing punch in the league this year.
Go well, Ollie – I don’t know you, but after seeing the way you picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and took the game on, I was impressed, mate.
Adam Cerra has been fantastic for the Blues this season. I don’t think it is a stretch at all to state he has been Carlton’s best and most consistent midfielder in 2023, is it?
Losing him in the third quarter of this game had the feeling about it that it could have been pivotal, but you have to give the Blues a heap of credit. Even without Cerra, and already missing both Sam Walsh and Matt Kennedy, they continued to win the footy at the coalface against a very polished team.
Cerra was the instigator in the first half, collecting six clearances to set the tempo, and when he went down, his work was continued by Patrick Cripps, George Hewett, and eventually Paddy Dow (who has no left side, I realised, and it forces him to turn back into trouble here and there. I am amazed he has not rectified this).
Cerra will be an interesting watch over the next little while. He was instrumental in establishing the momentum for the Blues, and his inside/outside game was giving the Pies plenty of headaches before he departed. Fingers crossed for a low-grade strain or tightness. Anything more at this time of the season could spell trouble.
THE WAR ON PHYSICAL CONTACT
Did you get a little frustrated watching the umpires paying downfield free kicks when there was an opposition player attempting to pressure the bloke with the footy?
I sure as hell did.
At what point did we, as a sport, decide that crashing into an opposition player as he kicks the footy was illegal? I’m not sure it was ever stated, but it seems like every time there is body-pressure on the player attempting to get rid of the footy, the umpires immediately blow the whistle, even if the contact comes at the point of kicking the footy.
Are the opposition just supposed to allow the other players to kick the footy, now?
This decision has crept into the game over the last 12 months and the game is worse off for it. Whilst I am not going to sit here and say I am in favour of late hits after the ball is clearly released, paying downfield free kicks for contact less than half a second after the disposal seems to be a directive that the umpires are having to follow. In many cases, it is penalising fantastic desperation being demonstrated by a chasing, or approaching player.
This strikes me as just another effort from the AFL to curb the physicality of the game. They call themselves the “custodians of the game” but really, what are they achieving by paying downfield free kicks, aside from making the game a little softer?
If it’s clearly late, pay the free. If it is high contact, by all means, blow your whistle til the cows come home. But if it is just good body-pressure, allow the game to flow. No one is paying money to hear whistles blowing for line-ball guesswork.
“PEOPLE CAN GO TO GROUND FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS”
Does that comment sound familiar?
If not, I’ll explain it to you. It was how the defence team for Willie Rioli tip-toed around the issue of Nathan Murphy going to ground too easily in his altercation with the Port forward last week. In what looked like a bit of – and pardon the language – a bitch slap, Murphy crumpled to the turf and sold it like he’d been shot. There was not a lot in it and the tribunal halved Rioli’s initial sentence.
“We’re not suggesting any of the action was feigned, but a player might not resist going to the ground in circumstances that may draw attention to what is an obvious free kick.”
And that was the follow up statement from Port.
Fast forward a week, and here we are again, with Matt Owies – that giant of a man – laying a block on Murphy in a marking contest. Sadly, it cost Charlie Curnow a great contested mark in a one-versus-two situation.
In what could only be called a slight body check, Murphy once again crumpled to the turf in order to ensure the umpire saw the “heinous” act from Owies. Sure, it earned him a free kick, but is that the type of player you want to be, Nathan? Is that the type of action you want to be known for? Having a glass jaw and a glass constitution whenever there is physical contact?
If so, then that’s fine, but playing for free kicks is something no supporter truly likes. It may be effective now, as you’ve pulled it off a couple of weeks in a row, but people learn. Supporters learn. Umpires learn. And once people get used to you buckling at the knees and flopping like a shit NBA defender, you’re gonna start hearing about it.
Your rise to prominence this season has been wonderful to watch. You’ve permitted Darcy Moore to be more expansive in his role as a key defender, but for crying out loud, mate… keep your damn feet and play the footy instead of flopping around trying to draw a free kick, lest you end up with a reputation that is hard to shake! You’ve got a mate playing in the twos that cannot get a run. He had great early success with playing for free kicks – where is he now?
Clean up this crappy act before you end up suffering the same treatment by umpires who you’re making look silly, or you’ll soon be joining him.
Possibly a few.
I’m a bit Tom Mitchell fan, but he fell away in this game. Provided valuable link play through the wings early, but struggled later in the game.
11 centre bounce attendances for Taylor Adams – I thought he may have been the one able to turn the tables in terms of clearances for the Pies, but it was not to be. He and Mitchell are tagging out of the on-ball role by the looks of it.
Jacob Weitering is an unsung hero. He was our Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 and couldn’t even make the AA team, and this season, he is quietly and effectively going about holding the Carlton defence together. I rate Brody Mihocek, as he is a tough player who works hard all game, but Weitering just had his way in this one. Fantastic defensive effort, particularly as at the other end, the bloke that has got all the press this season was having six kicked on him.
Bad kicking is bad football, right? You hear it all the time, but when you see so many missed set shots at goal by the Pies… I reckon there will be some self-blaming going on in their changerooms. McStay and Elliott were the biggest culprits.
Loved the start by Matt Owies. Found space everywhere in the first quarter and was always the first to dart back into space on turnover. The Pies’ defenders push up so high, that if a turnover comes before their defensive structures are in place, they can be found out. And they were found out in this one.
Didn’t like the botched inboard kick to Cripps, from Matt Owies, however. Sometimes, you just have to kick the goal, mate.
The short kick game of the Blues was on point in this one. Never backwards – did you notice that? Always looking 20-25 metres ahead; always advancing. Their precision delivery cut through the Magpie defensive structure several times.
And how good was the score review footage, once again? Blurry… no chance of getting a clear picture of whether the ball was touched off Jamie Elliott’s boot, or whether it was a goal… if you want to see what an unprofessional cock-up looks like, have a look at the way this decision was reached. The AFL need to invest in some high-quality cameras – whether it is part of the new TV deal or not, someone has to foot the bill. That we’re seeing these images that appear as though they’ve been shot on my old Nokia… it’s not good enough.
Next week, the Pies take on the upstart Hawks at the G. An away game, apparently, so they’ll likely just add four points to their tally. Meanwhile, the Blues and Saints tangle in a game with huge finals ramifications… that’s right, Baggers… FINALS!
Like this content? You could buy me a coffee – I do like coffee, but there is no guarantee I won’t use it to buy a doughnut… I like them more. And I am not brought to you by Sportsbet or Ladbrokes… or Bet365, or any of them.