AFL Round 23 – Carlton v Essendon: The Perfect Ending

Rnd 23 – Carlton v Essendon

August 30th, 2014


Some may think I’m mad. A win is always the ultimate goal (pardon the pun!)

But to my mind, after the season Carlton have produced and endured, there’s a certain poetry to finishing with a draw.

Yes, on what was the cliche ‘perfect afternoon for footy’, two arch rivals fought it out only to end on exactly the same score.

It was a traditional Saturday at the MCG – which in the modern era of AFL are few and far between! The sun was shining and the temperature had risen to an uncharacteristic 21 degrees for the second last day of winter.

As I sat in the stands taking in the magnificent ‘colosseum’ that is the ‘G’, I took a deep breath wondering what was in store over the coming few hours: would it be joy, frustration, despair, admiration, elation or something unexpected. Whatever was to come, the anticipation of watching the last game of yet another season was palpable – a Saturday afternoon as it should be.

Carlton’s opening quarter was a gem – six goals to one – we had positively jumped out of the blocks and the game was full of the promise of things perhaps to come. Naturally that initial hope was quickly dashed by a Bombers unit that settled into its stride in the second quarter and took control, bringing all Blues’ fans back to earth with a thud.

A five goal lead had turned into a 14 point deficit by half-time.

So when the ‘infamous’ championship quarter began, the 30 minutes upon which team fortunes and game outcomes usually turn, heart rates were up, fingers were crossed and incantations were being uttered.

At the final break, the die was cast – this was going to be a battle to the death. There was just seven points in it.

It didn’t matter there was nothing tangible riding on the result. Carlton was 13th and that’s where it would end; Essendon was safely into the finals and nothing was going to change the Bombers’ march into September this year.

So what was motivating these two old rivals in this battle? History, pride or perhaps just a good old fashioned sense of competition – No player, no team runs out on the field to lose!

By this time in a game, especially a close one, inhibitions have gone the way of the dodo! Arms fly up when goals are scored, foreheads slapped and hair pulled when mistakes are made – all with accompanying loud vocalisation. And that was just me! But I’m pretty sure all those around me were in similar form.

The final quarter was as it should have been. The season being fought to the death. And that was obviously the same frame of mind the players were in as tempers frayed and eventually a few fists flew.

With the final seconds counting down Carlton had the ball in its forward 50 and the ‘what if’ ground was being laid.

‘What if’ Bryce had kicked a little longer and not as high – would it have made the distance? ‘What if’, in the contest for the ball from that kick, the tap through had been the preferred option rather than the attempted mark in front of goals?

There will always be ‘what ifs’. At the end of the day, the siren sounded and all stopped and looked – the scoreboard read 90 points a piece. It was a draw!

It’s the strangest feeling when an AFL game finishes and there’s no music. No team song is played following a draw – obviously. So the atmosphere is a bit anticlimactic.

For myself, I was surprised to find I felt no sense of disappointment or despair. Does that make me a bad supporter?

I was quite satisfied with a draw. Of course a win would have been good and yet with a draw everything seemed to fall into place. I felt it was a just, even a poetic end to a very strange and frustrating season for the Blues.

At times the team had seemed to be either out of sync or even at odds with the coach and his ‘game plan’. At other times, the run and carry of old emerged and they were a joy to watch – admittedly these instances were fleeting but nevertheless still kept the seeds of hope alive.

If we ignore the aberration that was Round 22, the final five to six weeks of Carlton’s season produced football which held promise for the future. Finally, everyone seemed to be on the same page and moving in the same direction. A little tweaking here and there, some blooding of new talent and the anticipation for a healthier 2015 was in the air.

So really, a draw was in fact the perfect end!

Not a win to put a false gloss on an ordinary season but neither yet a loss to make all think that while the plot had not been lost it was definitely playing hide and seek.

Yes – I feel quite satisfied. We didn’t deserve better than 13th overall but we certainly had earned the right to hope.

And as for all those pundits who complain that a draw is a non result – I beg to differ. The scores were on the board for all to see. Two teams scored 90 points …. each!!!


About Jill Scanlon

Blues fan and sports lover. Development through sports advocate; producer, journalist and news follower. Insanely have returned to p/t study - a Masters of International & Community Development. Formerly with ABC International / Radio Australia in Melbourne.

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