Round 20 – Carlton v West Coast: Eagles show Blues what’s required


The role of the caretaker coach, in its very nature a major admission of club failure, inevitably contains paradox aplenty. In this time of coaching ‘teams’, the caretaker has invariably been an integral part of that which has failed. But someone else has already worn personal responsibility for that (presumably) collective failure. So, in a sense, the caretaker gets to play with house money. Absolved of responsibility to the past, and presumably only temping, he has an unusually free hand. As we’ve seen this season, it can have a catalytic effect.


Nobody could accuse David Teague of failing to take advantage of the opportunities such a situation has offered at Carlton. If you measure a coach by the number of players who improve on their watch, Teague has built up plenty of credits in a short time. The Teague Train has acquired a lot of supporters amongst the Navy Blue faithful. Winning never hurts your popularity.


From the outer, the major change in strategy since Brendon Bolton departed is that Bolton seemed to forever be coaching with some future point in mind, whereas Teague has been much more about the now. The move of Ed Curnow and Marc Murphy back into centre bounces has shored up our midfield. The increased use of Will Setterfield and Matt Kennedy as forwards was probably born of injury necessity, but it has seen both players blossom. Undoubtedly, the team has looked more potent under Teague.


Following our most satisfying win of the year against the Crows, the Eagles loomed as a major test of the Teague momentum. Sighting  the Eagles collective in the flesh for the first time in quite a while, they reminded me ominously of Malthouse’s dominant sides of the 90’s. They’re a big bunch of lads. And it was soon revealed that they don’t lack for pace.


In spite of this, the Blues led at the first break. After Josh Kennedy had some early misses, Carlton took full advantage of the Eagles’ reluctance to follow a marauding Nick Newman down the ground. Newman surprised all with 3 goals by ¼ time. It is likely Adam Simpson would have raised the subject at the huddle, quite possibly at some volume. After a midyear slump in confidence, Newman has rebounded well since his stellar effort against his former side some weeks back. Interspersing Newman’s goals, Sam Walsh kicked a beauty of his own. It was a cherry on top of what has already been an astonishing first season from him.


The opening eight minutes of the second term raised the possibility of a boil-over. Carlton dominated the terms and position of play, denying West Coast an inside-50 during this period. But we didn’t make it count on the scoreboard. The Eagles defence is impressive. McGovern and Barrass ensure kicking high balls into your forward line is an unprofitable exercise. But although they get the headlines, almost everyone in their back six looks capable of hauling down a mark if required. Lewis Jetta had a relatively subdued game, but the penetration of his kicking is a real rebounding weapon. Brad Sheppard has improved out of sight since I last saw him live.


The Eagles absorbed the punches we threw, then struck back. Big time. The seven goals they piled on by half-time was the most impressive burst of football I’ve seen this year. Jack Darling has long seemed like an outstanding athlete who occasionally remembers he’s a footballer. He seems to be remembering more frequently these days. He kicked a couple of goals to spark his team, and soon had plenty of mates join in. They have a group of small forwards that are only challenged by Richmond. Liam Ryan had the day out here, taking a breathtaking mark in the second term and snagging 4 goals along the way.


Carlton didn’t go away. We kept the deficit to 20 points at ½ time, but found it hard to keep in touch through the third term. Patrick Cripps physically overwhelmed Rory Sloane last week, but Elliot Yeo was a very different proposition. It feels like a new best player in the AFL is crowned every week, so the discussion has become largely meaningless, but in terms of versatility, Yeo must rate highly by any reasonable standard.


With Cripps subdued, and Jones, Kruezer and C Curnow amongst the missing, the Blues found themselves 6 goals down at the final break. Under Teague, they’ve come back from similar positions, but they were never going to manage it against this Eagles side. West Coast cruised through the final term keeping us at arm’s length, until we pinched a couple of late goals.


This constituted another of those dreaded honourable losses, but the standard of the match was heartening. If the Blues had been able to play half as well against Melbourne they would have clobbered them. Sam Walsh was again outstanding. Not the least remarkable thing about his debut season has been his durability. Mick Gibbons continued his pleasing development – 3 goals more than filling his small forward quota. Harry Mackay marked strongly when up the ground, but he badly needs enrollment in the Levi school of remedial set-shot kicking. In his 322nd game, Kade Simpson remained eternally effervescent.


This was a game to clarify for Carlton where they stand. We were pleasingly competitive against a formidable team. It will take a very good side to topple the Eagles come finals time. There are lessons to be learned in who stood up today, and who didn’t. But with possibly six currently injured players to add to our best side next year, we can dare to dream.


Now we just need to decide on a coach.


CARLTON        4.1       6.3       8.6       11.9 (75)
WEST COAST   2.5       9.5       14.7     15.9 (99)

 Newman 4, Gibbons 3, Murphy, Walsh, McKay, Lang
West Coast: Ryan 4, Darling 2, Shuey 2, Waterman 2, Rioli, Cameron, Allen, Petruccelle, Kennedy

Walsh, Newman, Gibbons, Simpson, Mackay, Petrevski-Seton
West Coast: Yeo, McGovern, Shuey, Ryan, Gaff, Sheppard

Crowd: 32,802 at Marvel Stadium



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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 passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Good report, JB.
    The Eagles are still my tip for the flag.

    Re the “Teague Train”: I must say that I am most uncomfortable with players advocating for a coach. That is not their role, and they should have no input into the coaching process unless specifically asked by the board. It is fine to support the caretaker, but that should be the end of it.

  2. John Butler says

    Smokie, re the value of players’ testaments about coaches, I always think back to 2015, where the players were hand-on-heart professing they still supported Malthouse. Their efforts on the field suggested anything but that.

    In what circumstance would a player ever publicly not support a coach?


  3. Terrific summary JB. Your players look to be enjoying their footy under Teague whereas playing under Bolton always seemed like a time bomb defusing prac exam. Highlights the ability on your list and much more to come next season with injured bodies renewed. Whether he is the right long term answer is as unknowable as moving in with the girlfriend. Can the relationship sustain cold pizza, dirty sox and indeterminate bathroom habits? Still have a sneaky feeling Clarko might do a Hodge/Mitchell/Lewis.
    Eagles are better than last season with the small forwards maturing. Better sides put bigger bodies between McGovern, Barrass and the ball. Expect screens/blocks to be a major discussion point in finals. Yeo is the best in the comp at doing a job on Cripps/Fyfe/Danger etc. Not the best disposal and can go missing if just asked to play. Best competitor in the league but not the best player. With a half-fit NicNait (50/50 chance) and no injuries I only fear Tigers with their relentless pressure (and a wet day – which we can play but neutralises our best weapons).
    David Teague? We taught him everything he knows. Pago begat Clarko begat Simmo begat Teago? And so the generations revolve.

  4. John Butler says

    PB, always entertained by your observations.

    I’m open minded on the coach debate. Let’s see who’s really available at season’s end, then make up our minds. But Teague has certainly done himself no harm.

    Your Eagles are a serious team. It will take a serious team to best them.

  5. joehuddler says

    Good work John. We were sloppier than in recent weeks, but mostly because they were simply too much for us. They have plenty under the hood. I believe we’ll get a look at the other main flag chance up close this Sunday too.

    On the topic of the Teague Train, i’d say it survived the West Coast test despite the defeat. Interesting to see if it’s still on track Sunday night.

  6. John Butler says

    Joe, I was impressed at times by our ball movement against that sort of pressure. Some mistakes, but definite signs of progress.

    The remaining games shouldn’t really make or break Teague’s chances. I think it really comes down to who is actually available after the season. We could definitely do worse than Teague. But could we do better?

  7. Be assured JB, The Tigers are taking our upcoming encounter with The Team All Carlton Knows very seriously. It should be a good testing ground for our only slightly more testing match the following week. I’ve rated The Silvertails list highly for some time now. What took you so long to change your coach?
    You want some more advice? Get rid of Judd.

  8. joehuddler says

    Hi John, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it! And I don’t think there’s a coach selection sub-committee or anything of the sort that can tell us. You can have all the experience, past success, and be paid a kings ransom – and stuff it up. Or you can have none of that, and succeed. All I know is that I like watching Teague’s Carlton right now, I go into games thinking we will compete and potentially win – and even that feels like glorious summer after such a lengthy winter of discontent.

    On the topic of players recommending him. I listened to someone I know make a sterling point recently, which I will not do justice. However, he essentially believed that young people are different today. Drill-sergeant coaches are for the scrap-heap, and young people (footballers included) expect to be involved now, and have a say. They follow the people that give that to them. I reckon it is a massive feather in Teague’s cap that the players – the two standouts for me being Kade Simpson and Patrick Cripps – want him.

    If they’re all playing for him, which they are, i’m quite loathe to the idea of rolling the dice. I say back him in for season 2020, and if it goes awry next season we retain the option to change it up. I think that would rally the club, players, and fans together and set up 2020 quite nicely.

  9. E.regnans says

    I’m with you JB on Peter_B’s observations.
    I also need to relate that I always find your match reports insightful and interesting; thought-provoking.

    On the caretaker coach – I think your opening paragraph is perfect.
    I understand that relationships between players and coach have changed over the years.
    But things are pretty twisted if players have any input into who should be their coach.
    There would be clear roles at footy clubs these days.
    And clear responsibilities for each role.
    Players must surely be kept at arms length to the responsibility of appointing a coach.

    One thing’s for sure – none of us is in any position to know who is best.

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