AFLW Round 2: Carlton v GWS – Old ghosts and new beginnings
3.35 pm, Sat, Feb 11
Ikon Park, Melbourne
Sitting high in the shade of the Richard Pratt Stand, you get a fine panorama of the other Princes Park stands. They speak eloquently to the story of the last few decades in the life of the Carlton Football Club. On the far northern wing sits the hastily renamed Heroes Stand, formerly the Elliott Stand. Once hosting the big end of town as they wined and dined, it now hosts cheap office partitioning and sundry stored detritus. Perhaps the Ozymandias Stand might be more fitting nomenclature.
Covering the eastern end of the ground is Jack’s largest monument, the Legends Stand. One of the more substantial white elephants in football folklore. An expression of the failed ambition to be a minor MCG. Once president, then club, then ground, fell on hard times, this stand has sat largely idle for the majority of its history, a corroding reminder of the debt it entailed.
To the west sits evidence of more recent progress. Shiny new buildings host training and administration facilities. And, of course, the Dr Geoffrey Edelsten café and aquatic centre. Regarding the titular Dr, Ross Oakley’s autobiographical observation that “Edelsten’s reputation was substantially damaged after he filed for bankruptcy in 1987, when he was deregistered as a medical practitioner in 1988 for over servicing, and when he was sentenced to a year in jail in 1990 for hiring a hitman to assault a former patient and perverting the course of justice,” seems somewhat understated. It is a reminder that rogues and establishment types have rubbed shoulders throughout Carlton’s history, and that often it has been difficult to tell them apart. Football is Carlton’s (and Melbourne’s) melting pot.
But the AFLW is about breaking through the constraints of the past. A new future is football’s eternal promise. These women are its most recent ambassadors.
After the blockbuster debut of round one, there was the potential that Carlton’s women might suffer from the dreaded sequel syndrome. Hot, humid February conditions were more likely to suit the visitors from the north who, despite the absence of injured marquee players, had finished strongly against a Crows outfit that has so far greatly impressed. The crowd was highly respectable, considering GWS could still fit their Melbourne supporter base into a couple of trams.
GWS began as they had finished. Though they looked generally undersized, they ran fast and hard, and harassed a Carlton team that looked a little sluggish. The Blues had elected not to have Alison Downie open ruck duties, and GWS’s Erin McKinnon put her youthful 189cm to outstanding early purpose, dominating the smaller Breann Moody. Given armchair service, the Giants’ midfield locked the ball in their forward half, but couldn’t find a goal. It was very much against the flow when Blue Bianca Jakobsson kicked the first, but not when Aimee Schmidt instantly replied for the visitors. They deservedly led when Jacinda Barclay brilliantly got ball to boot whilst being tackled.
Carlton would have been in more difficulty but for the imposing presence of Bri Davey. Her ability to read the play across half back saved several perilous predicaments. Her strength in the tackle left one smaller opponent suspended in mid-air, legs flailing. Another tackle crunched Jess Dal Pos, forcing her off the ground. To Dal Pos’s credit, she returned to herself star.
Carlton regrouped in the second term, but only had a single Darcy Vescio goal for all their forward possession. GWS skipper Amanda Farrugia had sacrificed her midfield role to cover the dangerous Vescio. She was a good match up on the ground, but relied on the support of team mates in marking contests. Carlton led by a solitary, unconvincing point at half time.
For most of the third term the game looked in danger of slipping away from the home team. Goals to McWilliams and Dal Pos saw the Giants lead by 13, with Carlton looking decidedly short of answers to their opponents’ pressure. A contested mark in the GWS goal square was awarded Carlton’s way, a decision that only looked correct on subsequent replay. The Blues were clinging by a thread.
The tide turned without much warning. Downie had been swung into the ruck, negating McKinnon’s influence. Shae Audley crumbed a forward stoppage to kick a heart starter for the Blues. Kate Shierlaw had looked hesitant in defence, but more dangerous as a forward marking target. One of her wobbly kicks was cleverly plucked by Daaaarrrrcy! As clever as Vescio is on the ground, it’s her strong hands overhead that are possibly her greatest asset. And her reliable conversion of chances.
Suddenly back on equal terms, it was the more experienced Carlton line up that finished the game stronger. A brilliant snap from Gabriella Pound, followed by an agile pick up and snap from Downie, gave the Blues breathing space. Lauren Brazzale (how good is it to have all these fine Italian names back in Navy Blue) looked to have sealed proceedings with a fine set shot. But the Giants weren’t done with just yet. A quick reply from Hannah Wallet kept interest alive, and Alex Williams desperately ran down Jakobsson when she seemed certain to goal. But time was not the Giants’ ally.
Carlton will be relieved to escape a game they didn’t control for long periods, particularly as Arnell and Vescio were largely subdued. It was a test of team mettle and depth. A test they passed. GWS have shown significant improvement through the course of two difficult road trips. A home game against the similarly winless Freo presents an opportunity to build on that momentum.
The return of Princes Park to active duty has brought evocative memories flooding back to those of us of a certain age. This club has meant much to generations since 1864. As Carlton has stumbled through recent years, its identity, relevance and credibility have all been brought into question. The ground grew shabby. It is still shabby. But now it is fulfilling its purpose once again.
CARLTON 1.0 2.3 4.4 7.5 (47)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.1 2.2 4.4 5.4 (34)
Carlton: Vescio 2, Jakobsson, Audley, Brazzale, Downie, Pound
Greater Western Sydney: Barclay, Schmidt, Dal Pos, McWilliams, Wallett
Carlton: Davey, Audley, Downie, Exon, Hardiman Jakobsson,
Greater Western Sydney: Dal Pos, McKinnon, Guest, Beeson, Barclay
Votes: 3 Davey (Car), 2 Dal Pos (GWS) 1 Audley (Car)
Official crowd: 7,884 at Ikon Park