An off-Broadway opening

Round 1 Carlton vs Port Power
7:40 PM March 16, 2014, Etihad Stadium
Official crowd: 24,460

It’s quarter to six Sunday evening outside Etihad. They’re selling tickets but the gates are shut. This seems the next logical step in AFL scheduling. If only they were allowed to sell the tickets without letting us in. Think of the cost efficiencies. It’s not like they really care if we turn up. They’ve made that abundantly clear by giving us a Sunday night, Thursday night, Sunday night start.

At least we supporters should know our place by now. We’re to behave and consume while the AFL spends TV dollars on dreams of empire. I suppose it’s a legacy of a sort.

A desultory crowd loiters. A lone trumpeter plays club tunes. His Lily of Laguna is so mournful it sounds like The Last Post. I don’t fancy the omen.

The first Port supporter I chat to is Geelong born and bred. The football heart is no less mysterious than the romantic heart.

When finally inside there seem almost as many attendants telling you where you can’t sit as there are potential sitters. Premium seating makes little sense unless seats are at a premium.

Carlton have left out all their youngsters and given Menzel the vest, but start like they mean business. Tackling, smothering, harassing, they pressure Port into repeated error. Daisy and Everitt open their Carlton  accounts, then Davey Ellard bobs up with a bonus brace. We dominate clearances and general play. Port look jittery. Yet 4.4 to 1.0 at QT is a handy score line, not a dominant one.

Thereafter, the game fluctuated according to Port’s ability to win clean possession. When allowed, they spread fast and skilfully and made the Blues look pedestrian.

Westhoff and Gibbs had both started as defensive loose men to some effect. Westhoff moved forward in the second term, and with Port assuming control of centre clearances Carlton soon has a major Hoff headache. Neither Everitt nor Watson can handle him. He kicks four goals and takes over the game.

Carlton struggle, but hold. Our better centre bounce spells involve Warnock, as Kruezer is having one of those days where timing and judgement are astray. Curnow and Gibbs push forward to kick a couple apiece and we wrest the lead back at the half. Still, all of their big forwards threaten while ours are unsighted. We’ll need to keep winning first possession.

Which is precisely what we don’t do. Port kick four in seven minutes to open the second half. Wines, Hartlett, Ebert, Polec, Wingard and Cornes threaten havoc. Fortunately, Henderson has quelled the Hoff. The Blues dig in again. Everitt bombs a one-step torp to Waite for his first. Then Waite gets on the end of an Ellard bomb. It’s old school, but momentarily effective. Yarran flows from half back, receives from Tuohy, and regains the lead. We spend the remaining minutes of the term adding behinds to that lead.

Enter Robbie Gray. Five minutes into the last he shrugs a tackle and snaps truly. Lobbe is now feeding his midfield a fine feast. They clear for Gray again, then Shultz, to goal. Carlton have disappeared.

The silence from the Carlton contingent at this point is eerie. It is the sound of pessimism.

Jamison launches a kick out almost to the centre circle, but the bounce finds the sole Port player amongst a Carlton cluster. Polec slots the rebound. Then Gray is again too clever. Too good. Though 12 minutes remain, his fourth goal settles the contest.

When Port struggled early, teenager Ollie Wines shone. He remained prominent throughout, his youthful effervescence highlighting what Carlton lacked. Port are young but know what they’re about. They’ll be a team to watch this season.

Do Carlton know what they’re about? The reluctance to play youth suggests not.  Shortcomings of list and individuals are now well established. The team is willing, but limited. These problems have survived from one coach to another. It is well past time that others came under scrutiny.

Our President has loudly proclaimed the club’s 150th anniversary. It is a proud landmark for a proud club. A club previously prepared to act boldly when boldness was required. But football needs a plan, as well as boldness. It would be nice to see evidence that plan existed.


CARLTON                 4.4     8.8     11.13     12.15 (87)
PORT ADELAIDE     1.0     7.5      11.7      18.12 (120)

: Ellard, Gibbs, Simpson, Cowan, Warnock
Port Power: Wines, Westhoff, Gray, Cornes, Polec, Lobbe, Wingard

Votes – 3) Wines  2) Westhoff   1) Gray

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. I come not to praise Mick, but to bury him? Is that a dagger I see before me?
    Kruezer was first up from a long spell. I reckon he is your hope if he can stay sound. He needs a couple of runs, but is a class act if you can get him right.
    Like NicNait he brings a lot of other players into it when he is on song.

  2. John Butler says

    I’m sure Kruezer will improve. I’m sure Daisy will improve.

    I’m not sure it will make enough of a difference.

    Two years ago Port were a basket case. Now they have gone past us. Others have as well.

  3. I’m done holding out on Kruezer… time to write that #1 selection off.

    We’re mediocre on field because we’re below mediocre off it.

    Loved Sticks as a player, but as a President he is as dumb as a big box of hammers..

    Our long-term strategy has been developed by a dozen board members who do nothing but sit around a big oak table and howl at the moon.

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    JB, you had 3 good quarters, one bad. It’s only round 1, mate. Not that I care.

    Is it really worth complaining about scheduling and fixturing? As you said, they don’t care about fans. Bums on couches, not seats. One game in town – no, the country – and it’s 7.40pm. Beyond absurd. Insulting.

  5. Nice to see #realopener Ed Cowan back in favour with the selectors.

    I read today in the Hun that seats which were $20 last year were selling for $40 on Sunday night. Clearly the AFL’s goal is empty stadiums by the year 2020. More likely than an ‘Aints flag anyway.

    Is Jeannie still on the Bored?

  6. John Butler says

    Litza, Kruezer has played plenty of good foorball for us,. As a ruckman.

    Unfortunately, our team management has been so muddle-headed we keep having to try an make him a forward.

    We are in complete agreement re Sticks as Pres.

  7. John Butler says

    Starkers, if we don’t complain it’ll only get worse. Insulting is the word.

    BTW, I’m not pulling the pin on the season like some on Sunday night. I just can’t see us improving much on mediocre as it stands. #wheelspinning

    JD, I’m glad the Blues can provide the Pies some succor in their moment of pain. With Figjjam and Mick molding their teams in their own image I’ve never felt closer to my Pie brethren.

  8. We’re like the ALP and Liberal parties JB, we seem to be merging towards some kind of indeterminate middle ground.

    We are Carlingwood forever,
    We used to know how to play the game…

  9. E.regnans says

    Brilliant scene-setting there, JB.
    Decisions concerning fixturing, grounds, seating and pricing continue to defy common sense.
    I wonder how the golden goose is feeling.

  10. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Always respect and enjoy your articles JB. I don’t know if Collingwood and Carlton even exist anymore. Maybe we are following simulacrums of clubs that at one time meant more than just symbols/brands/interpellations.

  11. John Butler says

    They still mean more than some stupid brand Phil. At least to the fans. We need to keep restating that.

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