Speed Kills 2: Blues Torch the Saints’ Citadel

Since Ross Lyon took over the Saints, I’ve started to wonder if he might be a fan of avant-garde music. I’m thinking specifically of those La Monte Young-inspired minimalist drones, where the climax is delayed, then delayed some more, and sometimes barely arrives at all. They’re exercises emphasising discipline and theory rather than a quick payoff. Many recent Saints matches have certainly had a similar feeling.

Given the recent history between the St Kilda and Carlton, it’s possible this is just a Blue perspective. Twelve straight losses to a side will have that effect. You start to anticipate the next encounter like a date with a dentist’s drill. I have Sainter friends who’s sons aren’t old enough to remember the last time Carlton beat them. Try telling them about historical head-to-head records and such like. To be truthful, even I had stopped buying what I was trying to sell.

So when Jarrod Waite kept plucking marks in the first quarter on Monday night, I was happy to see him back in some form, but not getting carried away. Even after a blistering first 20 minutes, we’d wasted chances and hadn’t seen our full scoreboard return. When the Saints steadied, and contained the damage to 21 points at the first break, I was worried about opportunities missed.

When the Saints succeeded in slowing the tempo, and got the first goal of the second quarter, those fears increased. But I should have had more faith. The umpire interpreted Goddard’s blink as play on, and Eddy mugged him from behind, leading to a Setanta goal. Suddenly, the Saints couldn’t control the game. They suffered constant harassment from a committed opponent. Yarran dashed down the outer wing leaving opponents in his wake, and Garlett ran amok up forward. Hayes and Goddard were striving to hold the line, but even when the tempo again slowed, and we gave up a late goal, there was a feeling that this time it was the Saints on the ropes.

Up by 32, the Blues kept finding forwards to dominate in bursts. After Waite and Garlett, the third term belonged to Setanta in different ways. He crashed packs, fought on the ground, kept his feet at other moments, dished goals out, and even got around to kicking one himself. It just may prove to be that the answer to replacing a boofhead full forward is to stick a mad Irishman in his place.

Despite a brilliant Gram check-side goal, the margin at ¾ time was 43, and only the truly faithful would have thought the Saints looked likely.

When Juddy roved Kreuzer to start the final term with the sealer, even he dropped his usual reserve to commence the celebrations. The rest of the game turned into Eddy’s private party, with Yarran and Garlett serving the drinks. Kosi’s night was summed up when, at last, he marked in front of goal, only to produce a dismal reverse-shank of a kick. Zac spent the final term proving conclusively he won’t be the one to replace the missing Roo.

Amidst many strong Blues players on the night, I’d like to single out three. Jordan Russell had a long, difficult induction in the ways of the AFL, but he’s easily the most improved at Carlton in our last 12 months of footy.

Carrots Carrazzo couldn’t break into what proved to be a pretty handy Geelong midfield many moons ago, but through hard work and determination he’s turned himself into a valuable team man. Dal Santo has dined out often at Carlton’s expense, but this time Carrots ate his lunch.

Finally, the maligned Houlihan. When times were dark, Houlihan’s laconic style and relative disinterest in defensive aspects seemed to infuriate many of the faithful. Maybe a sense of football mortality has crept in? Or maybe he took note of Thornton’s sacking? Whatever the cause, he’s added to his repertoire of late, and is much the better for it. His forward clamp on Fisher added to the resume.

And so the Saints’ Docklands citadel was finally breached.

What was the broader significance of this night? Almanac opinion has already spewed forth on the subject. Many seem keen to pronounce “Saints Footy” dead and begin dancing on the grave.

Personally, I’m inclined to think this result may be a St Kilda blessing in disguise. The Saints were obviously off the boil, but that keen Saint observer, Cheyenne, is already on the record lamenting the lack of a Plan B. When a plan works so well for a sustained period, it takes a brave man to tinker with it, even if you sense cracks appearing. The Saints got so close last year, it would be easy to blame it on the wet Grand Final day, or a few missed shots. But the balance of their play seemed much better in the first half of last year than it did come finals time.

Having suffered their first belting since the great run commenced, they have the opportunity to loosen up a bit, to change the tune a little. Certainly, you would think a couple of quick youngsters couldn’t hurt. They’ve demonstrated commitment and discipline at a very high level, now some new qualities may be required. It will be interesting to see how they respond.

And what of the Blues? Setanta and his Little Helpers are having fun at present, but you still wouldn’t be putting the house on it as the sort of Dunstall-Brereton structure to see you through the next decade. However, they will definitely be exercising the thoughts of future opponents.

Defensively, the side has improved noticeably this season (Collingwood game excepted), and it hasn’t seemed so reliant on particular individuals down back; although we wouldn’t want to lose Jamison. Despite the predictions of many, maybe Brett Ratten can coach after all?

I think I’ve made my thoughts on the ex-full forward pretty clear already, so I won’t labour that point. Let’s just say that each passing month makes me a little more confident that we’re heading in the right direction without him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few Sainter friends to call.

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. David Downer says:

    Good work JB.

    You beat me to the punch. My piece, in reply, is on its way …and will of course contain many of the same ponderings above …in fact you’ll get some “victim of plagiarism” heeby-jeebies. Too late to make “wholesale changes” now though!

    It was a tough pill to swallow on Monday night – I’ll admit I was somewhat relieved when the 20 game StK “streak” was broken last year ..but this is one streak I never wanted to end!

    Pity it was a school night and you couldnt give it a full whirl on the celebration front ..or maybe you did?

    DD

  2. John Butler says:

    DD

    School night or not, it was about bloody time.

    A dose of historical perspective for some 10 y.o.’s I know.

    I’ll look forward to your thoughts on where to from here for your boys.

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