AFL Round 22 – Carlton v Essendon: Football as train crash

This was football as train crash, and to salt the wound it was the second occasion when the odious Essendon had triumphed, when Carlton had dominated for much of the match.

Travelling to the ground, I had a sense of unreality about the occasion – that the off-field distractions would trump whatever took place on the field. Would the edge that always accompanies games between these two rivals be muted or reinforced by the intrusion?

Ultimately, Essendon’s key players willed themselves to victory. I find the booing of Watson unedifying, but understand why others feel their impotence to demonstrate their objection by any other means. That it seems to inspire Watson to a higher level of performance is testament to his mental strength, and suggests that its practical effect is counter-productive from the viewpoint of his detractors.

Sadly, I have to accept that Carlton has far too few players with equivalent mental strength. I think of it as a combination of belief and will, and it is an essential ingredient of the successful in sport. The boxing mantra a champion gets up when he can’t, or the competitor who wins when he can’t exemplifies this characteristic. I’d argue that a successful football team needs at least one player who embodies this characteristic in each part of the field – preferably two in midfield – who can steady the ship when the opposition is surging, and capitalise on their own side’s ascendancy. Judd, at his best was the exemplar, but only Simpson demonstrated these qualities on Saturday night. Meanwhile Essendon could call on Goddard, Watson and Hurley to lift their team mates, and ultimately get them across the line.

The pattern of the match was established early, with Carlton dominating general play, while Essendon secured value from their comparatively rare forward thrusts. Brock McLean’s injury and substitution prior to quarter time would ultimately prove significant. He was coming off a bog against Richmond, and his strength in the clinches was sorely missed. Quarter-time saw the Blues 1 point to the good (or more correctly plus 7 behinds minus 1 goal). Newcomer Menzel had been a bright light for the Blues with two strong contested marks and goals.

The first ten minutes of the 2nd quarter saw the Bombers assume control. They ran to a thirteen point lead, their biggest advantage for the match. Carlton kicked the remaining two goals of the quarter to close to within three points at half-time.

The early stages of the 3rd quarter gave promise of Carlton’s putting the match out of the Bombers’ reach. The ball barely crossed the centre line, but 2 goals 5 was a paltry reward; this left the door ajar, and the Dons reduced a 20 point margin to eight, with consecutive goals to Hurley and Goddard. The Blues then finished the quarter strongly but the wayward kicking continued, deplorable because so many of the misses were either set shots or kicks on the run with ample time to steady. 4-8  to two straight goals reflected the balance of the play for the quarter, but also revealed Carlton’s vulnerability.

The final quarter was reminiscient of the early season match when Essendon’s grandstand finish buried the previously dominant Blues by five points. They have evidently improved by a point over the 11 weeks since, as they stretched winning margin to six this time around. The Bombers dominated the quarter and kicked 4-3 to 4 behinds. Yet Carlton still had plenty of opportunities – two posters and a set shot miss that Bryce Gibbs might normally be expected to kick in his sleep confirmed that the Blues would fall short. Gibbs shot was particularly galling, as Yarran declined to attempt a shot from 53 metres following his mark. He laid it off to Gibbs at 40 metres, slight angle, but in keeping with the pattern of the night, Gibbs’ kick produced a (predictable) behind.

As I left the stadium, my reflections were of a horrid day in 1981, when Neil Daniher (and his co-conspirator, umpire Ian Robinson) conjured a one point victory for Essendon at Princes Park. The common theme was how did they do it? The fact that the despised Bombers have managed larceny by trick twice in season 2013 merely adds salt to the wound.


CARLTON             4.2    6.7     8.7     9.22    (76)  

ESSENDON          3.9   5.10   9.18   12.10  (82)   



Carlton: Menzel 2, Yarran 2, Tuohy, Henderson, Gibbs, Betts, Armfield

Essendon: Hurley 3, Watson 2, Crameri 2, Zaharakis, Ryder, Myers, Kommer, Goddard



Carlton: Simpson, Curnow, Jamison, Scotland, Yarran.

Essendon: Goddard, Hurley, Watson, Hocking, Hibberd.


Umpires: Stevic, Stewart, Mollison


Official crowd: 53,630 at the MCG


Our Votes:  3 K. Simpson  (C) 2. B. Goddard (E)    1. J. Watson (E)

About Peter Fuller

Male, 60 something, idle retiree; Blues supporter; played park/paddock standard football in Victoria's western district until mid teens, then Melbourne suburbs; umpired for approximately 20 years (still engaged on light duties - occasionally fieldie, regularly on the line). I thank the goddess at least weekly, that I was born and grew up in the southern States of Oz, so that Aussie Rules was my game from earliest childhood. I still love it with a passion, although I can't pretend to a thorough understanding of the tactical complexities of the contemporary game.


  1. Good summary of the game Peter. From an Essendon supporter point of view, this was a classic steal by Essendon. Carlton were clearly the best team for three quarters and should have been so far ahead at 3/4 time… Simpson was superb all day – unstoppable. Menzel handy and kicked straight.

    I think the win should be dedicated to every individual in the ground who booed a decent, honest, fair, hardworking player called Jobe Watson.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Taity, Thanks for the comment. As I noted in my report, Watson seemed to be lifted by the crowd reaction. While I’m not sure I’d endorse all four adjectives you’ve used, I’m very much of the school “win without crowing, lose without crying” although I do a good whinge, when the occasion and circumstances permit. I was loath to associate myself with some of the clowns a few seats in front of me who brought out a wooden spoon to taunt the Essendon fans as they celebrated after the siren. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the saga, it scarcely seems a legitimately earned spoon.

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