The Blues teased their supporters again. It was right there… tantalisingly close. The big win against the big team, a victory over the old enemy, and it was right within their grasp.
With 20 minutes gone in the last quarter, a snap by the incredible Patrick Cripps could’ve topped off a huge day at the office and put the Blues up by 16 points. It was as though at that moment, the momentum, so obviously with Carlton at that point, changed abruptly, and shifted to the Pies.
It’s so often little moments that swing a game. A tap on, a miss and a rebound, a climb up the goal post… and today it was a snap around the corner that could’ve shut the gate. It remained open and the Magpies barged through, pushing the Blues aside to take another four points and break more Carlton hearts in the process.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
THE MAN OF STEELE
Steele Sidebottom has played a bit of a different role for the Magpies this season. With Dayne Beams coming aboard, the 2018 best and fairest moved out to the wing to fill a more outside role and balance that midfield unit, but with Beams joining Taylor Adams on the sidelines, Sidebottom found his number called.
He still had 21 of his 34 disposals come uncontested, but Sidebottom was able to move to the contest more, and had six clearances for the game. He sent the Pies inside 50 on seven occasions and matched that with seven score involvements.
It is gratifying to know that when required, Collingwood can call on Sidebottom to take responsibility in the centre. His sure hands and quick thinking are so valuable, and when you place him alongside Pendlebury in there, they provide a one-two punch that is so hard to counter.
How Sidebottom’s role develops in 2019 will largely depend on others in the team. He is a veritable Mr Fix-It at the moment, and will play a variety of role in the midfield as the need arises. What an amazing luxury Nathan Buckley has at his disposal to be able to use a high quality player like Sidebottom in a number of roles.
There was a moment in the last quarter where it looked as though Patrick Cripps would drag his team, kicking and screaming, to their biggest win in years.
In front of 70,000 footy tragics, Cripps took a great mark on the wing to get the Blues out of jail, and set them running. Not content with one part in the act, Cripps left those around him in his wake and charged forward. With the ball in dispute, he was there again, running to support his teammates.
David Cuningham, who was lively all game, fired out a handball to the running Cripps, who stepped around an opponent and slammed through a genuine captain’s goal to set the Blues alight. It was followed with two more Carlton goals to Cuningham and Mitch McGovern that set Carlton hearts racing.
We know what happened next, but for a brief moment there, Cripps was more than just a great player in a poor side – he was a game changer.
Quiet in the first, over the next three quarters, Cripps would gather a mammoth 13 clearances to lead all players. Giving them a whole quarter head start, the Carlton captain reeled them in and passed them all. His ability to read not only the taps from Kreuzer, but those of Brodie Grundy was almost otherworldly. He is a genuine freak, and is a Carlton man for life. For his sake, I hope they find success soon lest he be remembered the same way Robbie Flower is remembered at Melbourne – a great player on a terrible team.
So at half time, I thought Grundy was on top of Matty Kreuzer around the ground, and in the hit outs, but not by a massive margin.
At that stage of the game, Kreuzer had eight hit outs, and Grundy had 14. Fast forward to the end of the game, and Grundy finished with 48 hit outs to Kreuzer’s 22. That is an amazing development… and not just in hit out amounts – where did all those stoppages come from?
Kreuzer had a good first five minutes or so, but it soon became apparent that he simply did not have the tank to go with Grundy around the ground, with the Pies’ big man sneaking forward for two goals.
Grundy again hit the triggers to score heavily in our Mongrel Player Power Rankings. Leading the totals after Round Six, Grundy will be incredibly hard to beat for the top spot after Round Eight. His key indicators in hit outs, disposals and goals will see him build on what has been a stellar season to this point. Just how good can he be?
Grundy’s second efforts at stoppages are enormous, and when you see your biggest guy on hands and knees, battling to farm the ball out, you would have to be inspired. Averaging over 20 touches per game in 2019, Grundy could give the Brownlow a real shake this year. Pundits often say that it’s a midfielder’s award, but they also say having Grundy is like having another midfielder. Maybe it’s time a big man takes Charlie home again?
It’s been too long.
THE BLUES DEFENDERS
I have to admit, I’ve long thought the Carlton defensive group was a bit of a basket case. Not for any apparent reason – individually I’ve seen Weitering, Marchbank, Plowman and the absent Liam Jones have good games, but collectively there have been times when they looked like the back-six stooges.
Yet even today, in what turned out to be a heartbreaking loss, they really surprised me. Lachie Plowman has made significant strides this year. I’ve asked the question previously in one of these reviews – what is he? I think we’ve finally got our answer.
Plowman is a hybrid defender – able to play tall or small, match players in the air with strength, or on the deck with agility. I may have been swayed in the past by his inability to get involved with the play once his team had the ball in hand, but he is finally becoming more of a link man than he has been. While I don’t think we’re ever going to be celebrating his third consecutive 30-disposal game, we could get to the point where we’re talking about how ineffective his opponents have been three weeks in a row.
Caleb Marchbank looked really good, and had double figures in intercepts, as did Dale Thomas. Levi Casboult moved back to cover the absence of Jones, and was admirable in the new role, aiding Weitering in the air.
The Blues may have been opened up in the last seven or eight minutes of the game today, but for the first time in recent memory, the defensive unit started looking more like a unit, and less like a loose collection of individuals playing out of position. Whilst I am sure Carlton supporters are sick to death of searching for positives, I’m not sure they have to search too far and wide to find this one.
There are not many sides that become great with a poor defence. Whilst the Blues are nowhere near a great defence, the pieces to a very intricate puzzle are all there. Someone just has to get them all to fit on a regular basis. At the moment, it more resembles me when I’m doing a Rubik’s’ cube. Remember them?
With the cube, it’s all about a system – an algorithm. You do the same thing over and over until you solve the puzzle. Me… I’m a bit thick – I get one side complete and it’s time to get happy. That’s where the Blues are right now. They need to solve the cube – not just one side.
Until they do, they won’t be a good team. And to do it they’ll need a better system. Leaving it to Jacob Weitering late in the last quarter to make big decisions and trust his skill… that’s not the system you’re looking for.
MOORE V CURNOW
This wasn’t quite the same as the Daniher v Moore matchup we were treated to a couple of weeks ago, but it has potential, and if nothing else, Nathan Buckley’s decision to move Darcy Moore into defence has opened the door for a series of fantastic duels for the next however long.
Today’s version saw Charlie Curnow draw the attention of Moore, and though the Collingwood defence was fluid for much of the game, the clashes between Moore and Curnow were wonderful to watch.
You had Jordan Roughead and Jeremy Howe doing time on Curnow as the matchups changed, and when Curnow got on his bike up and went up around the middle and half back, Moore was happy to let him go. This allowed Moore to zone off and attack other contests, but you could tell he was always a little wary of where Curnow was, and what he was up to.
Curnow managed a couple of nice contested marks over the curse of the game, but as players fatigued, the delivery to him dropped off dramatically. I’d love to see a series of five or six games with these two matching up more often than not.
The game has lacked great one-on-one matchups over the past several years, but as a neutral fan, I am so glad we have Darcy Moore in defence now. It opens up a world of possibilities, and Moore’s willingness to take on the big jobs will probably see him in string contention for AA honours this season.
Moore v Daniher. Moore v Curnow. Moore v Jeremy Cameron – I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Collingwood defender. And to think… I thought Bucks was making a mistake sending him to defence. I guess that’s why I’m writing on the internet for free, huh?
Of course, you guys could become patrons of the site and help an old fella out here and there, huh? Huh?
Shame on you for not becoming a Patron today – HB Buckley.
WHEN IT MATTERED
There was a moment in the third quarter when I thought ‘Geez, Adam Treloar’s been pretty quiet today’.
That’d be because he had been pretty quiet, but this is the beauty of the Collingwood midfield. Scott Pendlebury was doing his work, Steele Sidebottom was doing his, and though Treloar was down on his normal output, that midfield was still chugging along.
The thing is, with Treloar not running at his optimum, they had another gear to go, and the Blues couldn’t go with them. I’m not sure there’s a harder runner in the game than Treloar. He isn’t the quickest – he’s quick, don’t get me wrong – but he just gets to contest after contest to make things happen via hard work.
He’s a quick thinker, he’s an intelligent footballer (and I specify footballer, as for all I know, he might be a real dunce) and he demonstrated it with a kick out of mid-air at a crucial clearance in the last quarter. It was that passage of play that led to the failed Weitering kick out of defence and a Tom Phillips goal.
He was prolific in the last quarter and really stepped up when the Pies needed someone to step up. He finished with 34 touches for the game despite not being a real factor through the first three quarters. Talk about saving your best for last; Treloar was a decisive factor in a game that really could’ve swung Carlton’s way without him.
KNOW THE DAMN RULES
Everyone in the MCG saw it coming in the last quarter. Except one person.
Having given away a 50 metre penalty to David Cuningham, Tom Phillips had the obligatory couple of seconds where he had a sook and felt sorry for himself. Then he realised he should probably man the mark, and took off after Cuningham.
But we now what happens when you try that sneaking up behind the player in front of you in this situation, right? We all saw it in the JLT series, and we’ve seen in a couple of times this season – enough to know that if you do that, you’re gonna cop another 50 metre penalty against you.
Bucks knew it. The camera panned to him and you could see him getting all worked up like Joe Ganino watching the gibbons having fun times at the zoo (they’re always going at it.)
Predictably, the whistle blew, a second 50 metre penalty was awarded to Cuningham and for the second day in a row, we had a team score a goal after the initial infringement occurring in the backline.
I watched Scott Pendlebury barking at him minutes later as he also found himself out of a starting position as the ball was about to be bounced. After such a strong first half (19 touches) those sort of brain fades are a real worry.
We saw a level of silliness last night from Dane Rampe I didn’t think we’d see matched today, but Tom Phillips, take a bow. How you could be unaware of the situation involving both 50 metre infringements and the 6-6-6 starting positions is beyond me. These were the rules they harped on about all pre-season. It was all over the papers, all over the internet, and I believe that umpires attended the clubs to demonstrate what not to do.
But you did it anyway, and you’re lucky you didn’t cost your team the game in the process.
Please tell me I wasn’t the only one waiting for the Pies to run over the Blues. You could see it, feel it, touch it, and if you tried really hard, you could probably smell it… but that may have been me.
A couple of weeks ago there were questions as to whether Carlton knew how to win. Some will scoff at that suggestion today, as they did when they fell over against Hawthorn, but when you’re leading in the last quarter and you give up not one, or two goals, but the last five of the game from the 22 minute mark, you have to start wondering what you’re doing as a team.
You give Carlton a semi-pass here – they are playing a classy outfit, but they are a team of professional AFL footballers, themselves. Or they’re at least paid as such. Composure is a part of the game – a huge part, and for whatever reason, when the challenge comes, Carlton cannot handle it. They double grab, panic kick, and players who have stood up for the first three quarters start to make the kind of errors that have become synonymous with the club over the last… wow, how long has it been?
I’m a child of the eighties. Rarely would I ever feel sorry for a team that experienced such success in my lifetime, but today, watching the momentum shift, and then watching a Carlton team drown under a black and white wave of momentum, I started to feel something for Carlton no teams wants.
It was pity.
I felt pity for the players who tried their guts out only to see teammates go into their shells. I felt pity for Brendan Bolton who looked so resigned to the fact his team was about to capitulate. I felt pity for the thousands of Carlton supporters who have been so patient waiting for this team to mature to the point they can win these games, and I felt pity for the club as a whole, as it seems as though they are stuck in a losing culture.
In conversation with my Mongrel colleague after the game, he conceded that today was the first time he’s ever felt as though he was part of a loser club, as opposed to this team being just a loser team. That should speak volumes – the Blues should have won this, but they fell into old habits, made mammoth mistakes, and were beaten by over three goals, completely undoing all the fantastic work they put together in the first 90 minutes of footy.
Carlton fans can’t be any more patient. This has to start working, and the team has to start winning. With every “honourable loss”, the Adelaide Crows rub their hands together.
Were my eyes deceiving me, or did Marc Murphy actually put his body on the line in some contests today? Can someone please give him a concussion test, as he hasn’t done that in any games I’ve seen of Carlton in a looong time.
Liked the game of Jack Silvagni up forward. Whilst he only had one goal to his name, he added two goal assists and three tackles inside 50 as well, and was lively whenever the ball came in quickly. He is one of the few forwards that have made Jeremy Howe look a little uncomfortable when they were matched up together. I know a lot of people have been frustrated by Silvagni’s lack of progress (you can tell the Emperor about it when he gets here!) but there is plenty of improvement left in him, and calls for him to explore options elsewhere are probably a bit premature.
Jordan De Goey threatened today, but apart from that stunning goal out of mid-air in the last quarter, what the hell is going on with his kicking? He was shanking them all over the place in this game, and if Collingwood supporters want to be honest, they’ll tell you he’s been doing it all year. Some compare him to Dustin Martin at times, and he’s another who just butchers it by foot.
Hardly sighted Will Hoskin-Elliott until late in the game. He was so quiet that I actually didn’t even realise he was out there until the third quarter. It looked as though Tom Williamson was responsible for WHE for a fair amount of the game, and if that was his man for the majority, he should be commended for his work through the first three quarters.
Not so sure he should be commended for his work in the last quarter, however, as Hoskin-Elliott seemed to get off the leash a bit.
Great to see Jaidyn Stephenson back as a permanent forward after the experiment to move him up the ground earlier in the season. He’s a forward… don’t take him out of his natural habitat again. It’s unethical.
How long til we get to see Harry McKay start taking big contested grabs again? Just the one today as Jordan Roughead refused to allow him room. Maybe we were a bit too bullish a bit too soon about McKay? He’ll be fine, but big blokes take time.
So, the Adelaide Crows will get at least a top three pick now, it seems?
Next week the Blues have to make the trip to face GWS, and despite the signs of life I saw today, Ii don’t think it’ll end well. Meanwhile, the Pies hit the MCG again to take on the Saints. And the beat goes on da-da-dum-da-dum.
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