AFLW Round 4 – Western Bulldogs v Carlton: Blues get run over by the future. Someone call an ambulance

Friday, February 23rd
Whitten Oval


I’m not one usually given to superstition, but if I believed in ghosts, I reckon you’d find a lot of them at old footy grounds.


The last time I’d watched Carlton play for real at the Western Oval was a dreary, sodden June afternoon  in 1991. It took until the final minute of that game for Mark Arceri to kick Carlton’s only goal for the day. It spared us some embarrassment, but not much. Though this February Pride evening was celebratory in many ways, it wasn’t long before those old ghosts of ’91 reappeared.


Whilst the ground itself was festive, things might have been tense in the Carlton change rooms pre-game. Already missing Davey, Harris, Brazzale and Gee, Danielle Hardiman and Katie Loynes were late additions to the absent. When you only have a playing list of 30 to start with, that’s going to test anyone’s depth. Though the Bulldogs had significant injuries themselves, the Blues were about to discover how deep they batted.


The answer came quickly. And brutally.


Kicking with the aid of a blustery wind, Carlton were in scoreless, desperate straits at quarter time. The Dogs’ forward pressure was relentless, they were clearly outrunning us on the spread, and the Blues’ were unable to apply their trademark tackling pressure with any effect. Though the Dogs had only 1-4 on the scoreboard, all omens were ominous.


All hell broke loose once the Bulldogs had the wind. Winning first possession out of the middle, the Dogs bombarded their forward line under little pressure. Lacking their two key defensive organisers, the Blues’ defence was all at sea. Chief beneficiary of this was Brooke Lochland, former ice skater, now goal sneak extraordinaire, who proceeded to have the biggest picnic of her life. At the drop of seemingly every ball, she was just too quick and nimble for her markers. She’d kicked 4 goals by half time, the Bulldogs had 6.8 to zilch on the board, and the game was dead as a contest.


In moments of sporting disaster, supporters look for signs of character. Who’s up for a fight in times of adversity? Lauren Arnell has had a tough season so far. Last year’s Carlton skipper failed to get a disposal in round one, then found herself dropped for the next two games. She’d begun better in this match, until she produced a Gubby Allen moment in the second term, as things completely unravelled for the Blues. Kicking across our defensive goal, she only managed to pick out Ellie Blackburn, who was almost laughing as she popped through the easiest of goals, and then gave Arnell a mouthful to go on with.


From this low point, Arnell’s warrior instincts kicked in. She hasn’t played in nine Darebin Falcons premierships by accident. After the margin had blown out to 57-0, Arnell raised herself to kick 2.1 in a late quarter burst. This effort would constitute her team’s entire score for the match. It was a show of defiance that sadly didn’t spread to many of her team mates.


The final term was really just a question of how many goals Lochland would finish with, and by how far the Dogs would break the previous record score. Lochland kicked seven, a new record tally. She could have kicked nine or ten. The Dogs finished on 12.14.86, winning by a record margin of 73 points.


Though they won their first two games, the warning signs for Carlton have been visible for a while.


Their midfield group are predominantly inside ball winners. They are now getting outrun on a regular basis. This  has led to opportunities for the forward line drying up. A total of 10 goals in four matches is the league’s lowest. By contrast, the Bulldogs have scored 29 goals. The absence of Bri Davey’s precise delivery has crippled Carlton’s ball transition. They’ve been reduced too often to just bombing kicks down the line and hoping. The Blues seem stuck playing last year’s style as the competition has moved on.


These midfield issues were evident last season, but Carlton chose to focus on recruiting two key position players during the trade period. Interestingly, Carlton’s women’s list manager resigned in the week prior to this game.


On a night that celebrated the future, it was appropriate the Bulldogs flagged the way forward for on field change. Spreading quickly from stoppages, they used short, precise passing to pick Carlton apart.


Hannah Scott plays the Davey role for the Bulldogs, with clean disposal and good decision making off half back. Emma Kearney, Ellie Blackburn Aisling Utri and Monique Conti led a midfield group that overwhelmed their opponents. And Lochland played the perfect small forward’s game, ensuring that Katie Brennan’s absence was more than covered.


The Bulldogs were, in a word, brilliant.


With their percentage now demolished, Carlton’s only option is to win their final three games and hope. They will get significant personnel back this week, and have previously shown themselves to be stern competitors. This game will have been a shock to the group. Next round will be a major test of their character and adaptability.



WESTERN BULLDOGS     1.4     6.8     8.9     12.14     (86)
CARLTON                               0.0     0.0     2.1        2.1       (13)

Western Bulldogs: Lochland 7, Toogood 3, Blackburn, Bruton
Carlton: Arnell 2

Western Bulldogs: Lochland, Kearney, Scott, Toogood, Blackburn, Conti, Utri
Carlton: S Hosking, Arnell, Moody, Gay

Umpires: Mirabile, Rowe, Howorth

Official crowd: 8987 at Whitten Oval


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. Yvette Wroby says

    Well reported. Can feel your pain. Let’s hope they at least rattle the bars in the next 3 games to make up for this one.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Wouldn’t have liked to have run into you at half-time, JB. Did you have a couple of donuts to sweeten the pain?

  3. John Butler says

    Yvette, watching Lauren Arnell being interviewed afterwards, she looked numb. The Falcons aren’t used to losing much. That was probably the worst defeat she’d had in a long career.

    Phil, the occasion offered its compensations. I caught up with Gigs and Mic Rees, and ran into Peter fuller at the end. And it was a happy occasion for many there, for non-playing reasons. Also, unlike the Arceri game, I wasn’t cold and wet.

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