Questions Answered, But Others Posed

The anticipation of this game offered tantalising fodder for speculation.

Questions regarding Geelong didn’t concern their quality: they’ve already established their pedigree in recent seasons. Premierships will do that. Eighty-five wins out of a hundred will do that.

Instead, the speculation was more to do with their mental state for this contest. Would they suffer a let-down from the Magpies game? Or would the passing of Bobby Davis act as a spur?

Personally, I doubted the latter. It’s emotionally draining to lose someone close. Lord knows, the loss of a family dog on the weekend was enough to leave  me feeling pretty flat. Pippi was just a small family hero, so the effect of Bobby on the Geelong family can be imagined.

The question marks over Carlton were very much about quality. Though we’d only lost to the Pies, we’d produced some wildly flamboyant football along the way. Would we fly or flop tonight?

Early on it was fly. And the Cats looked flat.

Jarrod Waite started proceedings with a Showtime checksider, and Carlton had a clear edge in pace across the ground, which made the decision to leave Wojcinski wearing the sub vest look a curious one. We were the hunters, and a few Cats looked a little harried. Fearing the chase-down, Geelong were rushing disposal and struggling to generate much from their own efforts. Their only telling plays came when Carlton gifted them clean possession, or the umpire gifted them 50 metres.

Yet Carlton only led by two goals at ¼ time. Once again, the quality of our play wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard.

Goals were exchanged more liberally in the 2nd term,  but the pattern was familiar. Carlton appeared to have the edge in general play, but the Cats converted their chances coolly. When the Blues threatened to get a break, Geelong found a reply. Kelly and Selwood were matching Murphy and Simpson in the middle, but a number of Cat stars were quiet. Stevie J getting free of Jordan Russell more often than he’s recently managed, but on several occasions he chose the convoluted option when the moment required simplicity.

Then he collected a spill and goaled. Garlett replied, but  a Murphy defensive miss-kick soon gifted Stevie another. Then Carlton failed to kill a goal line contest and Hawkins was gifted yet another. Suddenly, the Blues were playing Santa. But there was no Blue cheer at the sight of Chris Judd limping down the race before half time.

With the scoreboard even, Carlton didn’t get out of the blocks after the break. Travis Varcoe did, breaking away from Dennis Armfield to kick 2 goals. Varcoe is vital to the Cats. They have plenty of classy players, but they don’t have many who can break lines with foot speed. His 3rd quarter burst saw Geelong at their most dangerous.

Andrew Walker sprinted behind the zone for a reply, but Varcoe’s 3rd saw the Blues tottering. At similar stages to this in recent seasons, we have fallen right away.

Not this time. Murphy’s manic pursuit of the ball saw Ottens fall in his back 15 metres out. Then Scarlett gave Walker a free and compounded the offence by offending the umpire’s sensibilities, conceding 50. Garlett and Yarran chased Cats down from behind. Carlton were suddenly alight.

Then Duigan similarly offended an umpire like Scarlett had, presenting Stokes with a shot right in front of goal. Whatever was said in either incidence, it wasn’t visibly demonstrative.

Geelong led by that Stokes goal at the final break. With Judd confined largely to hobbling around the forward line, other Carlton players would need to step up.

Or maybe not? Stokes threatened to add the first of the final term, but Laidler stopped him dead in his tracks. From the Carlton rebound, Judd swooped, gathered, and slotted one his left (uninjured) foot, sending Blues fans into ecstasy.

Then Judd streamed out of the centre to find Simpson, who continues to be man on the spot at crucial times. He put us in front from the 50 line, then Armfield hit the post from long range.

Carlton fans were screaming but Chappy, as usual, was calm. He levelled scores with an across-the-body snap. Walker missed, then Stokes found Stevie J, who coaxed through the set shot. Then Pods finally outjumped Jamison and wobbled one through. Had that done it?

Not yet.

Waite pounced on a loose ball and dribbled it through. Then he marked under pressure out near 50. The shot just failed to clear Geelong hands.

Waite led again and clunked it. His pass found Walker. Would he repeat the St Kilda game?

The kick tailed left. As we groaned, big Warnock appeared under the floating ball. Enright, clearly outreached, adopted the time honoured defender’s policy of making him earn it. He smacked Warnock across the chops.

Hindsight now suggests that Warnock should have taken the Brian Lake option, stayed down, and left it to someone else. Instead he took the kick, which slewed wide from 15 metres. If Warnock is lucky, the concussion will erase the memory.

Matthew Scarlett had thus far had an interesting night. He hadn’t got a lot of the ball, and had occasionally indulged the sly streak of malice which many champion defenders have possessed. A poke in the eye, a boot stud to the nuts, and he’d let a couple of Blues know he was around.

But when it counted, he reminded Carlton why they’d love him in Navy Blue. Twice he marked in the dying minutes, repelling any Carlton hopes.

The Cats held on by 2 points.

The Blues work in progress is definitely progressing. We can play some scintillating football, just not yet enough of it. We don’t reliably make the most of our play. When we’ve stalled in games, it’s generally been caused by a breakdown delivering the ball to the forwards. Sometimes it’s the fault of the kicker, other times the forwards haven’t read the play. Once, Laidler kicked perfectly into a space that should have found a leading forward, but no one had moved.

We also look to be missing a tall at either end. I have hopes the players to fill those spots are on the list, but I also suspect they won’t find the time to regain fitness and form this season. A lot of key Carlton players are still light on for games experience.

Still, we’ll give a yelp come finals. With a bit of luck, we may do better than that.

It’s probably harsh to find fault with a 8-0 team. After all, Geelong weren’t at their best tonight but still won. However, I left the ground a little less sure about their flag prospects.

Big blokes are having more impact on the game this year, as sides look to kick long to beat defensive zones.

I worry about Geelong’s big forwards. J Pod made for a great story last season, and he’s a good mark, but there don’t seem to be a lot of other tricks reliably in the repertoire. This may account for his ordinary record away from Kardinia Park. Meanwhile, Jack Hawkins remains an indulgence a less talented side couldn’t afford.

You would think the state of Cam Mooney’s health will be exercising Cat thoughts.

In a season that is already testing players’ endurance, some of those pre season doubts about ageing legs going the distance still seem relevant. Those big bodied midfielders are great in close, but like it a lot less if the game becomes a footrace.

Still, for a slow side with dodgy forwards they aren’t travelling too badly.

What the Cats still do best is win games. As Mr Harms has previously pointed out, winning habits become ingrained. Some of the muscles may be getting older, but the muscle memory of winning hasn’t deserted them yet. The ability to do the right thing at the right time in the heat of battle remains a priceless asset.

It’s one I hope these new Blues acquire.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable 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. JB – like the Pies/Cats game this wasn’t a ripper game in the purist sense, but it was enthralling nonetheless. Close, pretty tough, good skills mixed with poor disposal under pressure.

    No question the Blues have improved. They’re right in the mix this season, except for perhaps the Pies who are still the best side. The reliance on Judd is a worry but every team has a few irreplaceables.

    If Warnock got concussion from Enright’s tap to the head then he’s must have the softest head in footy. I reckon after missing his shot he wanted to check himself into rehab but got taken to the Epworth by mistake.

    There is some new terminology that has appeared in the O’Donnell house this year; whenever a game gets close we start muttering the words “all we need is 10 minutes of Varcoe”. We got it again on Friday night. Pure class.

  2. John Butler says:

    Dips, the trouble with most ruckmen is how can you tell when they’re concussed?

    But I don’t think I’d fancy being on the end of one of those ‘taps’.

    If Enright was going for the ball, his aim is very bad.

  3. Phantom says:

    Tactical retreat from Wornock.

    The Carlton supporters I was watching the game with have passed the hat round to raise enough money to put a contract on him.

    Thay laughed at me when I suggested that he may miss and chased me out of the room when he did.

    One of my top ten moments in footy watching.

  4. John Butler says:

    Phantom, watching from standing room, his body language at the time was that of a golfer staring at a 4 foot putt he didn’t want to have to hit.

    Given subsequent diagnosis, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s usually a pretty good kick.

    Some of your lads were a little grouchy on Friday night. Not the Gazza’s-bluing-with-the-coach-grumpy like last year. More I’m-sick -of-chasing-these-bloody-kids-around kind of grumpy. But they still won.

    You have to take your chances. In footy, and in life.

    Cheers

  5. David Downer says:

    JB,
     
    As a dog-lover whose canine companion features here regularly, my sympathies on the loss of yours. Sucks.
     
    Carlton are well on the way. They could even pinch a flag this year if the cards fall the right way – it may be shaping into one of those gettable years, long way to go. But with consistency and natural progress (as we know, not always guaranteed), they’ll be in it up to their ears in 2012.
     
    As you mention, the Cats just know how to win, but at the same time, they’ve had their fair slice of luck in 2011. If for some rub of the green the other way in the dying stages, Geelong (8-0) would be 5-3. To put that in perspective, St Kilda would also be 5-3 if the rub similarly went their way, yet the Saints (2-1-5) are on the verge of a complete re-build. Mind you, the Cats would belt them at the moment!
     
    The Cats are flying and obviously look, and are, the goods …but it’s amazing how this game of inches can ultimately result in such diverse outcomes.
     
    DD

  6. John Butler says:

    Thanks DD

    We Butlers are nothing if not sentimental about our pets. Goes back generations.

    Hope Cuba is handling your Saints induced mood swings OK.

    I agree with you. A lot can happen this season. But I think a little too much would have to happen too quickly for the Blues to go all the way.

    Which leaves the question of what they’ll do with the coach. There are some itchy fingers around.

  7. Phantom says:

    M Malthouse JB. Will bring Pendelbury with him. There is a lot of money in cardboard and the ‘Cardboard Kid’ Visey Judd can’t play forever. Pendles will be a good repalcament.

    It might cause a little myrth to youse Blues supporters as well. Make the Pies grumpy as well.

    Regarding the old Cats chasing the young Blues. I was happy that we won. It was always going to be a danger game. Your weapon was speed and coach Scott et al managed to deal with that.

    I looked at the roster early in the season,while listening to the cynics, and thought we could be about 3 – 5 or worse by now. Looks ok to me. Wait till we start playing well and don’t give teams a start.

    Looking forward to this Saturday ‘free to air’ night. How the game pans out is quite appetising. Could be close as well.

  8. johnharms says:

    Phantom

    What you meant to say is that there’s a ridiculous amount of work to be done in running a cardboard factory, and it’s hard to find good staff. So the obvious place for cardboard manufacturing and distributing staff would of course be the Collingwood dressing room.

    So obvious; so, so obvious.

  9. Phantom says:

    Hot off the press JB.

    Judd holding Enright which inturn effected his spoil. No free kick to Enright.

    Judd foot contact to Mitch Duncan’s shin is a kick is it not? Duncan didn’t even get a free kick.

    Pattern emerging. Protected species. Brownlow coming up. Good for business.

  10. John Butler says:

    Phantom

    We wouldn’t impugn the intentions of nice boys like Matty and Corey would we?

    There’s more than one protected species out there.

    Here puss, puss, puss…

  11. Phantom says:

    Meaow.

  12. Tony Robb says:

    Hi JB
    Unlike some of the other “purists” above I thought the game was ripper. Open fast and hard. Realistically the Blues should be 7 and 1 with more accurate kicking but I like what Im seeing down back other than the return of Mrs Thornton boy who will hopefully now take his rightful place in the magoos along side that doyen of dopiness McLean. I believe there was strong correlation between the cats getting even in the 2nd Q and the 10 min of shite given by McLean. He was a dud at the Dees and a bigger dud playing amongst better players now. The return of the KruzeController will boost he fwd stock and then the blues will become a very dangerous team
    cheers
    TR

  13. John Butler says:

    TR

    I reckon MaLean gets another game against his old mob and then they have to decide what they think about him.

    Personally, watching Kruze in the 2’s, I think he’s some way off being able to have much impact.

    Henderson also looks like he’s missing a pre-season. And young Watson’s lost confidence at the moment, which is a pity as he could have taken Thornton’s place.

    Hope all is well in Polly town. When are you coming down again?

  14. Blues have been impressive this year, all signs point to them being contenders. Guys like Laidler and Duigan have helped bolster the ranks and sure they could do with a player or two but they’re a solid all-round team who knows what they’re about.

    Reckon you’re spot on about the Cats forwards. Geelong have been pretty ordinary at converting inside 50 this year. Despite some rose-coloured glasses views of Tomahawk, he’s lucky to be in the 1s, and they can certainly only afford him or Mooney (his youth may mean he prevails there). Aside from the big forwards, they’re missing a bald brownlow medallist who kicked 44 goals last season while Stevie J, Stokes and Varcoe are spending more time in the midfield which is hurting their production.

  15. Tony Robb says:

    Hi JB We will be down on the weekend of July 21.
    cheers
    TR

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