R11 – Disco Double-Header – Carlton v Gold Coast AND GWS v Geelong

Round 11
Saturday Matinee Double Header

Carlton Blues v Gold Coast Suns



Geelong Cats v Greater Western Sydney Giants


Chart Topping Games


Carlton Blues v Gold Coast Suns

The early season glam team Carlton have plummeted down the charts with a bullet over the last month with only one win and three losses. The Baggers now find themselves outside the eight and in danger of free-falling if they can’t turn things around very quickly.

While the last month has been a nightmare for the Blues and their loyal fan base, the Suns have turned the fortune of their season around and they are climbing up the charts with three wins and only one lose over the same stretch.

Both clubs have now won six games and lost four for the season, with the Suns superior percentage over the Baggers being the difference on the ladder. Carlton’s low percentage is worrying, and it could really bite them long term. Close wins are great to watch, but they don’t put much credit in the percentage bank.

This game is a must win for both clubs.

Carlton needs to grind out a win just to get their season back on track, while the Suns need a kill in foreign territory, south the northern borders to prove they are the real deal. Gold Coast probably had their best win last weekend in Darwin since their inception into the big time, but it means very little if they can’t start to get a few wins on the road in Melbourne.

The winner of this game will have seven wins to their name and will be sitting nicely at the halfway mark of the season, while the loser will be relegated to the dreaded middle rungs of the ladder, amongst a pack of other clubs trying to force their way into the finals.


Geelong Cats v Greater Western Sydney Giants

At one point or another this season both Geelong and GWS have been the flag favourite, but both have stumbled badly, losing three-straight games coming into this clash at GMHBA Stadium.

This is a must win game for both clubs.

In the humidity and heat of Darwin last weekend, the Cats suffered arguably their worst ever defeat under the stewardship Chris Scott. Yes, Dangerfield, Cameron, Hawkins, Duncan and Sam De Koning were missing, but nobody could have forecasted the spanking they received from the Suns. It was the most un-Geelong performance I have seen this century, and questions were raised (a bit prematurely) about whether this mighty club was on the verge of falling over the cliff.

The Giants on the other hand have just hit a brick wall, and their season, which started with such promise after making the Preliminary Final last year, is now at the cross-roads. A win away from home would straighten things up again for the Giants, while a loss would place the Big Big Sound in jeopardy of being back with a group of teams fighting to get out of the mid-table.

The Cats have an impeccable record at GMHBA Stadium (Port Adelaide game aside), but the Giants are one of only a few teams in the competition who do not fear playing at the Cattery. Ironically, in same Round 11 game last year the Giants knocked off the Cats at GMHBA which set up the rest of their 2023. They have no fear when it comes to this place. None.


Why the Double Feature?

I asked HB last week if I could review both games in the one article as all four of these teams need to win to strengthen their finals credentials coming up to the halfway point of the season. HB warned me it will be a daunting task to write a double review, but he has given me the go ahead to write the review of these two games where all four clubs are vying for the same positions on the ladder.

With the Dockers and Pies drawing last night, and Essendon and Port Adelaide having relatively soft games to which they should win, it has really tightened up the jockeying for positions in the eight for the four clubs battling it out this afternoon.

The Blues, Cats and Giants need to win to get their seasons back on track, while the Suns need the win for their own credibility south of Tweed Heads.


Tom Hawkins – Congratulations 356 Games

Before I get into the details, I just want to pay tribute to a great of the game. Tom Hawkins is one of the all-time great players, not only for Geelong, but also the AFL. There is no doubt he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame one day after (if) he retires.

Take a bow Tomahawk – you’ve a true champion of the game.


Where To Start?

Carlton 15.12.102 defeated Gold Coast 11.7.73 at Marvel Stadium.

Great Western Sydney 11.12.78 defeated Geelong 11.8.74 at GMHBA Stadium.


Let’s Start at the Finish – Cats v Giants

The game at GMHBA Stadium today will go down as one of the most remarkable games I will ever review.

It had a little bit of last quarter Toby forward magic, and a lot of last-minute heroics by Leek Aleer, as the Giants secured a win for the ages by four points.

Midway through the third quarter the Cats looked totally cooked, as the Giants bounded away to lead by over five goals, but when the Giants had the chance to really put the foot on the throat on the struggling Cats, things suddenly changed. Jesse Hogan missed a set shot at goal to seal the deal, and from the kick-in, the ball rebounded to Tom Hawkins who was able to spot up his mate Jeremy Cameron, who slotted truly, and the Cats were back in the game. Late goals to Brad Close and Tom Hawkins saw a game-high 31-point lead whittled away to a mere 13 points at three-quarter time.


The First Two Quarters

Geelong slammed on five straight goals in the first, while the Giants were suffering a case of the yips as they booted 2.4 for the term. Geelong couldn’t miss, while the Giants missed some easy shots.

I marked the first quarter as a bit of a nothing quarter as it appeared both teams were finding their feet after a horrid month of footy. The Cats led, but the Giants weren’t out of the contest.


Second Quarter – Green on Greene

Kieran Briggs started to really dominate the centre bounces in the second quarter, bringing the likes of Tom Green, Finn Callaghan, James Peatling, Lachie Whitfield, Toby Greene, and Ryan Angwin into the match, who all started to win quality ball as they ran over the top of the Cats. The Cats midfielders looked pedestrian as the Giants continually charged the ball forward.

The revered Geelong backs were shellshocked as Jesse Hogan, Jake Riccardi and Aaron Cadman marked contested ball after contested ball and in the process, they slammed on 6.5 for the quarter against a very uninspiring Cats outfit who managed just 1.2. The Giants should have been further ahead at the break, but they slaughtered some easy shots in front of gaol.

Apart from Jack Henry, all the Cats defenders were having shockers, especially the experienced Tom Stewart and Sam De Koning. I thought I would never use the word impotent about a Geelong defensive unit, but in the second quarter they were swept away by the Orange Tsunami as they looked hopelessly on.

This game felt as good as over at halftime thanks mainly to Tom Green and Toby Greene who tore the Cats a new one, but as good as they were, the Giants lead by only 21 points.

At halftime I noted the Cats looked defeated and if the Giants could hold their nerve in front of a hostile crowd, then they would run away with the game.

Sadly, for the Giants, Stephen Coniglio had to be subbed out of the game during the second quarter with what looked a shoulder injury.


The Third Quarter – Five Goal Leads can be Dangerous

Shortly after halftime, goals to Riccardi and Hogan put the Giants five goals in front, and they looked to be coasting. On the other hand the Cats looked slow, with little to no resistance when they tackled, and around the ground they were missing easy targets.


Cometh the Moment

Hogan looked set to put the Giants up by six goals, but he missed and within mere seconds from the kick out, the Cats ran the ball the length of the ground to Hawkins, who passed to Cameron, who truly goaled. It was the spark the Cats needed.

Suddenly this game was back on, and the crowd sensed the occasion and found voice for their hometown heroes. Players who looked all game like they lacked desire suddenly started to feed of the crowd and from nowhere the Cats were up and running again for the first time in at least six and half quarters of football (I covered the game in Darwin last week).

The old firm of Hawkins and Cameron, with their one two punch, rekindled the fire in the entire team. Players who couldn’t mark or handled the ball all day, suddenly ran with purpose and poise, and the old, polished Cats had returned from a long hiatus. From that moment on the momentum had swung and the Cats started clawing their way back into the match.

Tom Stewart started marking the ball again in defence again, as did Zach Guthrie, while Mitch Duncan, Ollie Dempsey, Brad Close, Tyson Stengle, Zach Tuohy, and Max Holmes were suddenly collecting meaningful possession around the ground and delivering the ball with precision. It was like somebody had switched a light switch on at GMHBA Stadium and the out of form players suddenly realised they could play again.

Youngster Shannon Neale took a strong mark, out-positioning Jake Riccardi in the gaol square and reduced the margin to 20 points with his goal, while another goal to the rejuvenated wily old veteran, Tom Hawkins further reduced the margin heading into three quarter time.

I am going to give special Toby Conway, who was well beaten by Kieren Briggs on the day, but he found a way to have an impact on the game during the third quarter surge.

Momentum was with the Cats, and it looked like they would run over the top of the Giants.


The Fourth Quarter – Heroes with no Villains

For the first half of the last quarter, it seemed the Cats would steamroll the Giants as they just kept possession inside their forward 50, while the Giants couldn’t get the ball over the centre line.

Two players I have highly underrated over the journey, Tyson Stengle and Brad Close, were extremely dangerous during the final quarter and it was two stellar goals by Stengle that drew the Cats equal with about eight minutes left on the clock. Just after, to the naked eye it looked like Close had dribbled through another goal from a crowded pack, but the decision was reviewed and overturned by the ARC. Nonetheless, the Cats lead and they had all the momentum.

The game, for the entirety of the final quarter, was being played in the Geelong forward half, but try as they might, the Cats could not score the goal that would seal the game for them. Haynes, Whitfield, Idun, Taylor, Himmelberg, Perryman, Aleer, Tom Green, Kieran Briggs in the ruck, and others, stood up as forward assault upon the forward assault was thrust their way. The best they could do was clear the ball back to the centre where a host of Cats players were lining up to send the ball back from whence it had come.

The entire Giants defensive unit stood tall to a man in the last quarter after losing all shape and form midway through the third quarter. They had regrouped and they were toughing it out.


Toby Greene you are a Magician

With a few minutes left on the clock, this game deserved a few special moment and a hero or two.

The Giants couldn’t get the ball past the centre line for most of the quarter, and they did not look like kicking a goal, however, some players need just need a split second to change the course of a game.

In one of the only forward forays the Giants had in the final quarter, the ball landed in the hands of Toby Greene, who kicked one of the great clutch goals of all time.

Running away from the pack towards the boundary, Toby kicked what I described at the time as a reverse banana goal from 40 metres out running away from the goals. It was sheer Toby brilliance – the type of goal we’ve come to expect from him, perhaps unfairly. And yet, here he was, in the position to win the game for his team, yet again.

Bang, the Giants were suddenly back in front, but there was still enough time on the clock for the Cats to snatch back the lead.


Leek Aleer, You Beauty

Leek Aleer, who had played well all day in defence for the Giants, became the hero in the last minute of the game with two brilliant contested intercept marks which won the game for the Giants.

The first mark was taken in the forward pocket with about 57 seconds left on the clock, in a pack where he never took his eyes of the ball and juggled the ball three times with pressure around him until he finally held the mark. When Aleer kcked the ball down the line he probably had a fair idea the footy would be returning again, and he was prepared.

In the next play the ball was kicked to about 15 metres from the Cats’ goal, directly in front, and it looked most likely a Geelong player would mark the ball, but from nowhere Aleer jump into and over the pack to take a match winning mark which will be a contender for mark of the year. Leek Aleer, you beauty, your courage under fire saved the game for the Giants.

Giants win by FOUR points, and they get the FOUR points.


Post Match

This win puts the Greater Western Sydney Giants above the Cats by a few percentage points. This game was decided by moments and both teams had their moments to win the game, but in the end, it was a spectacular goal and one of the best defensive marks which separated these two teams.

Another year, another win at GMHBA Stadium for the Giants. I know they play a lot of footy in Canberra, but this venue now seems like a home away from home for them. What a win by a very gutsy team.




Feeling Blue


This is a relatively straight forward match to review. Carlton jumped the Suns early, the Suns showed some fight, the Blues gradually got further ahead, and when the game was done and dusted the Suns found just enough form to slightly dampen the Baggers win.


How Did Carlton Win?


The Defence

I am going to start this review from the defensive end of the ground as defence has been Carlton’s ‘Achilles Heel’ all year. Carlton’s defence has leaked goals all year and while the quality of players up the field have ensured the Blues win, the club has been held back by a defensive unit which lacks structure and gives opposing teams a chance to overrun them.

Two players came back into the Blues team today, Adam Saad and Mitch McGovern, and boy what a difference they made. While I would not have either player in my best on ground, their impact to the team can be measured in terms of the structure and stability they bring to the backline.

McGovern is to Weitering what Lever is to May; a duo who work well in tandem with each other doing the heavy grunt work down back and feeding the ball to the runners like Saad and Nic Newman. They are the Generals who control the play and set up the run from defence.

Carlton need the injury prone Mitch McGovern fit and healthy for the finals, and if he does have any niggles, they may need to nurse him as much as is practicable to September. He was off the ground a few times during this match for extended periods receiving medical treatment, and while he was absent it was the only time during the match the Suns’ forwards looked threatening.

McGovern finished the match with 20 possessions and eight defensive marks, however, his mere presence in defence frees up other players like Adam Saad, Brodie Kemp, Nic Newman, George Hewitt, Lachlan Cowan and others to play a more attacking style of game from the defence. All the aforementioned players were in Carlton’s best today.


To Marc Pittonet or not Marc Pittonet

Tom De Koning played one the best games of his career to date as being basically the lone hand in the ruck. Witts may have had the better of him in tap outs, but TDK smashed Witts around the ground today. TDK had 25 possessions, with five marks and 27 hit outs, basically rucking all day alone, save for some assistance from Harry McKay.

Therein lays the problem facing the Blues selectors when Pittonet is fit again. Don’t get me wrong, Pittonet is good player – he is a mountain of a man who knows how to take the space of an opponent, but can he and TDK work effectively together without messing up team balance? Further, Harry McKay is a thoroughbred, and does the club want to take the chance on him bashing into ruck contests consistently? It’s a quality problem to have.


Carlton’s Engine Room

Last week I heaped praise on the Suns midfield brigade of Rowell, Anderson, Miller and Flanders, and even coined the phrase the new ‘Fab Four’, such was their dominance over the Cats, but a week can be a long time in footy. With Sam Flanders not playing, the ‘Fab Four’ were reduced to a pretty ordinary trio of cover band performers by Carlton’s engine room. Rowell was effectively neutered for the entire game, while Anderson and Miller tried hard all day, but they were outclassed by Sam Walsh, Patrick Cripps, Matt Kennedy and Blake Acres.

After a couple of quiet weeks by their standards, Walsh and Cripps, aided by Acres and Kennedy, with assistance from Newman and Hewitt, tore the Suns to pieces today. Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh in full flight are pretty special players to watch, but while they hurt the Suns around the ground, they didn’t hurt them on the scoreboard. It is my only knock on Cripps and Walsh, they need to really start hurting opposition teams in front of goals.


Charlie Curnow v Mac Andrews and Zac Williams

Until halftime, the most dangerous forward on the ground was Zac Williams, as Harry MacKay played further up the field and Charlie Curnow was being well held by Mac Andrew.

In a coaching move only Damien Hardwick will understand, after halftime he put Mac one on one with McKay in the ruck when he was filling in for TDK. The move backfired badly as Curnow was allowed of his chain, and by the time Mac moved back onto Charlie it was too late as the Charlie had bolted.

Curnow is a rare kind of forward in that he can split a game open in seconds, as he did in the third quarter today. The Suns had Curnow under control, and they let him into the game, and he made them pay. Do coaches have short memories, this is the same Charlie Curnow who ripped the Suns to pieces late last year.

By days end Curnow had booted four goals in the second half and when the Suns looked like challenging, Charlie was the difference. While Curnow starred, Williams was the perfect foil around his feet, and he also kicked four goals – well done Zac.

As much as I have praised Curnow, his opponent for most of the day, except when it mattered most, Mac Andrew was the Suns best player. Mac Andrew is all arms and legs, but he is developing nicely into a very good, bordering on elite, back-man. His 17 possessions and 11 defensive marks were a highlight on a bleak afternoon for the Suns.


Some Negative Blues

Carlton had the chance to smash the Suns by a thumping margin, and midway through the last quarter a 10-goal win was in the offering, but instead they leaked easy goals to the Suns in junk time when they knew had the game won.

If the Blues had played the game out and won by 10-goals they would be sitting in sixth position on the ladder instead of seventh, behind Collingwood. Close wins are great and exciting, but building percentage when the opportunity arises is an essential for any team aspiring to be near the top of the ladder.


When will the Sun Rise?

The Suns came into this game after a run of three straight wins, and after spending excessive time in the Northern Territory, so excuses can be made for their performance today, but I think the result is a true reflection of where the club is at in its development presently.

Rowell had a bad day in the office, which happens to us all from time to time. Anderson and Miller tried hard. Witts battled the game out. Ben King didn’t have his kicking boots on. Jeb Walter probably should have been managed this week, while Lukosius, Holman and a host of others were beaten on the day.

The positive the Suns can take from this match is they weren’t blown out the water and they played the game right out and, in the process, they protected their percentage as best they could.

Currently the Suns sit tenth on the ladder, a position which won’t change over the weekend, yet, they are only a game out of the Eight – they are still a chance of making the finals for the first time, but the job just got a little harder today.


Saturday Matinee Post Notes

Form can be fleeting and fickle, and an entire season can sometimes rest on one game, or even just one play. The Cats have now slipped from being clear on top of the ladder a month ago to fifth, possibly sixth, if the Dees win tomorrow. Next week they get the chance to get back on the winners list as they host the injury depleted Tigers at GMHBA Stadium, followed by a tough road trip to the SCG to face the Swans before their bye. Hopefully for Cats supporters, they aren’t saying bye-bye to the season.

The Giants can rest on their laurels for a week and chill out before they travel to Tasmania to play the unpredictable Hawks outfit at UTAS Stadium after their bye.

Carlton, keep the lid on it and start playing week to week. A trip to Adelaide Oval to face the in-form Power is the next challenge. It promises to be an entertaining encounter.

As for the Suns, they take on the Bombers at People First Stadium in a massive game for both clubs.


Finally – What is holding the ball? I’m confused.

In the opening minute of Blues game Charlie Curnow was tackled with the ball clearly in his possession, and he was swung around for approximately two seconds until he could dish to Zac Williams for Carlton’s first goal. Curnow was grinning as he did it as he tested the umpires early in the game. A similar tackle occurred at GMHBA Stadium in the first minute when Tyson Stengle, who was caught in a similar tackle to Charlie, was laughing as he waited for the moment to get the ball to Tanner Bruhn for the Cats’ first goal.

I said to a friend during the week, I don’t exactly know the rule on holding the ball, but I know it when I see it. A massive amount of latitude is now given to the player with the ball in hand, and it is these moments that lead to the tackler taking the bloke with the ball to ground. Had Mac Andrew attempted to further prevent Curnow from disposing of the footy, by taking him to the ground, the umpires may have reported him for a dangerous tackle, as Charlie had one armed pinned.

This is the mess the AFL have created, and they need to clean it up, quickly!

It was interesting to hear both coaches lament the umpiring after the game. They are as confused as we are, and this is a less than ideal situation for the league, the players, and the supporters.



I tackled reviewing two consecutive matches today, which has taken about 10 hours overall. Attempting such a task only makes me appreciate the work you do every week to keep this site going, and the tolerance Mrs Mongrel must have for your passion.


(I’m settling for an instant this morning, mate – HB)