Dockers Steady the Ship, but no Kreuzing for Blues from here

As the physical demands of the AFL season continue to grow, the period around the mid season break has become increasingly significant.

All teams appreciate the respite for sore bodies, whilst those for whom the season hasn’t gone to plan get a chance to take stock and relaunch. For young sides that have been early season bolters, it is often a time when the staggers may be setting in, and the break provides an opportunity to freshen the troops.

So it was for both Carlton and Fremantle on Saturday night. With recent losses taking some gloss off both campaigns, this was one last hit out before the week off. A chance to build some confidence for the run home.

If both sides were looking at it this way, it was hard to tell as the early stages unfolded. Intensity was notably lacking, and sloppy disposal and a lack of manning up appeared the order of the day. The whole affair seemed rather drained of energy.

The one notable exception to this trend was the seemingly odd match up of Judd and McPhee. There was no doubting the Fremantle player’s mission for the night: to make life as uncomfortable for the Carlton skipper as allowed. Apparently assigned a similar role on Lenny Hayes the previous week, McPhee was approaching the task as if his career depended on it; which given his otherwise wretched form, it probably did.

The prevailing trends of the match revealed themselves early despite the lethargy. The Dockers were pushing numbers back and awaiting turnovers, with their midfield surging forward in the modern counter attack style when opportunity presented. David Mundy was an early beneficiary of this tactic, getting away for three shots on goal.

In trying to thwart the last of these, Matthew Kreuzer landed awkwardly, knee askew, in a moment that has subsequently proved to be the end of his season.

With the Blues forward line missing Setanta Oh’Ailpin for the first time this season, one of the key questions was whether Waite and Henderson could find space in a crowded area, and whether Setanta’s helpers would be able to feed off their efforts. The early signs weren’t encouraging. Snaps and half chances were about all that was on offer.

When McPhee marked strongly and found Barlow on his own, his goal from a tight angle saw the Dockers lead 2-4 to a lamentable 0-7 at ¼ time.

Jarrod Waite raised Carlton hopes with a quick goal to start term 2, but this was to prove a lonely highlight of a dismal period for the Blue cause. Fremantle upped their intensity, and largely took hold of proceedings. Their willingness to work harder in midfield created many chances, whist their superior physical intensity was typified in the instance when young Morabito ran straight through an inadequate Scotland tackle to goal.

Michael Barlow’s stellar debut season has been much discussed already, but there is little secret to what has caused his success so far. His willingness to work from one contest to the next was a highlight, and his preparedness to push forward as Carlton opponents dropped off would see him end the game with 4 goals and 30 touches.

Left solo in the ruck, young Sam Jacobs was finding the leviathan Sandilands more than a handful, with the Docker thumping many hit outs 20 metres to his sides’ advantage. When the Blues were forced to turn to Brett Thornton as backup ruckman it was presumably for comic effect.

With the Dockers sitting back, Carlton were able to get the ball just inside the 50 metre arc plenty of times, but they rarely threatened to convert. Henderson was leading up the ground quite reasonably, but Waite was failing to present at crucial moments, and just not making it to enough contests to allow the smaller forwards into the game. Setanta’s contesting was being sorely missed. Only a Thornton pluck from a Docker’s grasp just on the siren saw the Blues goal.

At half time, it was 7-4 to 2-12.

Garlett managed to dibble a goal out of a pack upon resumption, to again raise faint hope, but Barlow quickly answered. When Waite was the recipient of a downfield free for blocking on Judd, this only served to raise eyebrows as to why this incident should have been picked amongst many alternatives. The Judd/McPhee scrimmage looked increasingly like it belonged across the road at Festival Hall.

Despite Waite threading the needle from this chance, the pattern of the game seemed largely undisturbed. Jamison gifted Ballantyne with a terrible defensive handball, and Crawley added to the Docker midfield party by sneaking forward twice to goal. Pavlich had been left in the midfield in a tussle with Gibbs, and whist his possession count was down, his physical presence more than compensated.

When Thornton snuck forward for his 2nd, and Garlett managed a clever soccer volley from an angle, the Blues had managed their most productive quarter despite appearances. The ¾ time margin was a still gettable 26 points.

Barlow’s 4th seemed to hose down prospects of a comeback, and though Yarran roved Sandilands to give Betts an open goal, Fyfe’s quick reply kept expectations quelled.

As if to mock what had gone before, the Blues now mounted a late surge through the twin agencies of Henderson and Betts. Despite a Ballantyne soccer goal, the margin narrowed dramatically as Henderson marked twice to goal, and Betts escaped his marker to add another 2, the latter making the difference only 8 points.

With a Saturday night snatch and grab a late prospect, Carlton sent a panicky kick forward. The ball fell short of Thornton, safely into the arms of a Docker. Rather than accept the fact, Thornton chose this crucial moment to put on yet another of his patented displays of exaggerated, yet pointless, frustration. This caused the umpire offence, and the subsequent 50 M penalty pricked whatever bubble may have formed. The moment had passed.

A Fyfe miss after the siren saw the Dockers home by 9 points.

A Docker loss would have been an injustice, as they dominated the terms of the vast majority of this contest. That Carlton could get so close despite this fact will only heighten their supporters’ frustrations.

Fremantle now go to the break with a 9-4 win/loss ledger. This is fine reward for a consistently good effort this season. The dramatic overhaul of their list is reaping quick reward through a group of talented youngsters.

Carlton will be less happy facing a 7-6 ledger. But perspective needs to be maintained. This probably exceeds many pre-season expectations. The performances against Geelong and St Kilda served to raise hopes beyond the level the team can consistently maintain.

Kreuzer’s loss is a savage blow to a young up and comer. But if adequate replacement can’t be found out of a mix of Jacobs, Warnock and Hampson, them Carlton’s recent list management will stand exposed.

More worrying was the feeble response to Judd’s harassment. The skipper has carried many on his shoulders in recent years, and the lack of support he received tonight stood as a poor contrast to, for example, the way the Cats support Gazza. If the Blues expect to become a top side, the load must be more evenly carried.

As a last comment, the umpires fickle attention to off the ball harassment was also highlighted by this game. Stand by for another reactive “crackdown” on such matters in next week’s games. Appearances need to be maintained in AFL land.

Carlton         0.7    2.12  6.13    12.17 (87)
Fremantle    2.4    7.4    11.9    14.12 (96)


GOALS
Carlton:
Betts 4, Waite 2, Thornton 2, Garlett 2, Henderson 2
Fremantle: Barlow 4, Crowley 2, Ballantyne 2, Mundy, Morabito, Bradley, Sandilands, Hasleby, Fyfe

Votes: 3- Barlow  2- Sandilands  1- Walker

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World’s Most Livable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. smokie88 says:

    John
    Terrible misfortune for Kreuzer. I hate to see any player do an acl, let alone a young bloke with his career ahead of him.
    I thought the Blues did well to fight on and get so close, but I fear they may now have “hit the wall”.
    Their mid-season break has probably arrived at just the right time.
    DD

  2. John Butler says:

    Smokie

    It seems particularly cruel for Kreuzer, who is such a wholehearted kid.

    After the last two weeks, the Blues badly need to regroup.

    Particularly if they’re going to fend off your boys.

  3. Michael Viljoen says:

    Well done on predicting the crackdown. The penduum swung down and hit Mr Baker very hard.

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