In years gone past, a clash of two football heavyweights would have drawn a near capacity crowd at the MCG. On Sunday afternoon, supporters braved the swirling Melbourne in what could only be described the game befitting of the two club’s present status.
One team, over the past four years, has brought the game into disrepute. A once proud club had been brought to its knees by an administration and coaching panel devoid of any compass treating its’ supporters with contempt. The only systems in place were the systemic mismanagement of players, old and new. A club that was once despised and loathed for its’ success and arrogance had been placed in stocks in the AFL town square and ceremoniously pelted with rotten fruit.
The other team, Essendon, are faring much the same. Once seen as innovators, the Bombers too have gone down the path of systemic mismanagement of another kind. Their blissful ignorance in treating the players as guinea pigs made worse by the club’s failure to acknowledge that it had destroyed the reputations of young men who foolishly followed the party line, with their coach’s blessing. The original crime was the result of a club putting blind faith in a witch doctor. There ongoing denial and pleas of innocence rubbing more salt into the festering wound which the club inflicted upon itself.
Still, nearly 44,000 supporters turned up. The Blues fans buoyed with optimism with the arrival of a new coach and some new kids and seemingly a game plan of sorts. The Bomber’s faithful were there as a sign of solidarity. Flying the flag in adverse times when the club is at rock bottom.
That both group of supporters where still there after half time was more amazing as the first half took comedy to level not seen since Buster Keaton was at his best. Yes it was windy. Yes it was tight in the contests and finding space was tough. But the rubbish served up by both teams reminded me of an under 8s game played on a full size filed during a torrential downpour. Four goals, in sixty minutes, none of which were scored in the second quarter. That is some type of shitful. To make this visual degradation worse was the injury to Jacob Weitering towards to end of the second quarter. With Patrick Cripps withdrawal before the game, the two beacons in Carlton future had suddenly been extinguished.
Thankfully, someone in the Carlton rooms knew a bit about sports medicine and it looks as though both will be okay for next week. Thankfully it wasn’t Leigh Matthews who, after looking at the replay, diagnosed a left shoulder injury despite Weitering leaving the ground with his right arm tucked into his jumper after partially dislocating the right shoulder. Dr Matthews I presume.
There must have something in the oranges at half time as the second half resembled a game of footy. Carlton’s midfield had been good in the first half but delivery into the forward line was second rate. Thomas was getting plenty on touches and looked like a player somewhere near the $4.95M he gets paid a season. Actually it was Mick’s love child’s best game in three years. Phillips starting holding on to marks and was dominating centre bounces and Kade Simpson continuing turning defence in attack. White had a very solid performance that might see Jamison running around in the magoos again next week if Weitering doesn’t get up. Wright is also cementing his spot as a small forward who deosn’t mind putting his head over the pill. And Docherty. Where has he been hiding that sort of form?
The Bombers rebounded and got back in front late in the third quarter before Carlton got a settler going into the final change seven point up. I think Brendan Bolton said said something in the box that had cranky words in it. The last stanza saw the Blues kick away early only for the Dons to fight back once again. The crowd by now had thawed from the first half’s freeze out and the atmosphere was like the good old days. Carlton rallied again with Phillips putting the game away with a strong mark and goal.
It was neither classic, nor a game for the purists. However a win over Essendon is a win, is a win, is a win. The Blues are now two on the trot with the scum to follow next Saturday. A great position for Carlton to be as the only ones with anything to lose are Collingwood and Nathan Buckley. How nice would it be to finish the career of another Pie’s coach.