Blues keep it together in the West…Just

Almost everything in modern football is categorised, calculated and rendered as statistic, yet one of the most essential components of the game- confidence- remains a mystery defying precise measurement. No one completely understands the many forces that lead a team to gain or lose confidence, yet the results of either are usually plain to see.

Carlton was team in search of answers to the mystery as they headed west for a crucial match. Since a round nine belting at the hands of the Hawks, confidence had drained from the playing group like an untended wound, and performance had declined to match.

They now faced an opponent boosted by a Le Cras goal-fest which had produced a rare away win. The task suddenly seemed much tougher than it appeared when these sides met in round 10.

The first quarter of this contest provided little to suggest that the Blues were any closer to rediscovering belief. Targets were missed, balls fumbled and tackles- if they were attempted at all- didn’t stick.

Jordan Russsell had been handed the task of subduing Le Cras, and wouldn’t have been much encouraged when his opponent opened with a strong candidate for goal of the year; making the ball talk as he caressed it with the outside of his foot from the boundary line. Fortunately for Carlton, the Frenchman’s accuracy and judgement were soon to become more problematic.

Some Le Cras misses and a late Garlett goal left the scoreboard at ¼ time flattering the Blues’ efforts, only trailing 2-5 to 3-3.

As Armfield was crunched at the opening of the 2nd term by the newcomer Hams, it prompted the question of whether this made him a pressed ham? Lame jokes aside, it was looking like no laughing matter for the Blues, as Le Cras took advantage of an open forward line to goal twice, joining an Ebert major in sinking the Blues further into the mire.

Ellard had been given his first game of the year with the apparent intent of negating Priddis at stoppages, and whilst he performed that task commendably, he added to the number of Blues routinely butchering the ball when in possession.

Judd and Yarran seemed the only Blues prepared to take the game on, with too many hanging out the side or back waiting for a cheap possession. In a couple of minutes, Marc Murphy seemed to embody many problems as he first miscued a shot on goal when he should have passed, then he lacked sufficient intent contesting a loose ball with Beau Waters.

Jarrad Waite was being thrown around the ground in an attempt to get something going, and he ventured a run from defence that ended with a Henderson shot, which he duly squandered.

Finally, Yarran chanced to run around the mark and slotted a goal from 45 out, giving the Blues a slight pulse.

In reality, Carlton’s best ally was  a succession of wasted West coast scoring opportunities, as they reminded everyone of their own modest achievements this season.

A ½ time Carlton deficit of 26 points was bad enough, but it could have been a lot worse against sterner opposition.

With their season on the line at the long break, it was tempting to speculate on what Brett Ratten might be saying to his troops. The Butler household had a few suggestions. Amongst a wide field of prospective candidates, he might have suggested that even if you lacked confidence, you can still go hard at the next contest. A bit of John Kennedy “don’t think, do” might have even scored a guernsey.

The coach at least signalled more positive intent in the positional changes he made at half time. It also seemed the players might have remembered that victory had been achieved against this opposition earlier in the season largely by the assertion of mid-field dominance.

They now threatened a repeat, as centre clearance control was established, even though scoring chances were still being wasted. Simpson, Judd and Gibbs all surged to the fore as Carlton produced the first 8 inside 50’s of the 3rd term. After a string of misses, Betts and Henderson finally managed goals, and the Eagles struggled to win possession in the face of increased pressure.

Lest Carlton were getting ahead of themselves, the first Eagles inside 50 for the term saw Le Cras slip Russell and shoot, only for Hams to gather the errant shot and goal. The Frenchman followed by setting  Kennedy up for a goal, and West Coast threatened to come again.

But weight of Carlton mid-field possession now told. Betts sharked a Waters handball to gift Garlett, then Judd bounced twice from a centre break to kick another. Yarran snapped accurately to make the margin less than a kick, and you could sense the resistance faltering.

Late in the term Murphy had space to crumb and goal twice, giving the Blues the lead. The term saw the inside 50 count a remarkable 23-6 the Blues’ way, with a season high 7-9 the scoreboard result.

The margin was only 11 points, and the Eagles would have still have held out hope. Sadly for them, their runner gifted Betts the final term’s opening goal by failing to remove himself from the vicinity. Then Hampson plucked a mark to stretch the Carlton lead.

The Blues were flirting with wrapping the game up when promising Eagle newcomer Strijk came off worst from a massive collision. After the lengthy delay, the Blues attempted to play keepings off without inspiring much confidence.

The Eagles regrouped and pressed, but their efforts were wasted through a succession of missed shots on goal. The worst offender was Frenchman Le Cras, who continued to blaze wide with team mates in better position. His tally for the game would end at a wasteful 3-5, with several other opportunities frittered away.

A pattern of missed chances by both sides was finally broken when Yarran found Gibbs who steadied the Blues. Soon after, Garlett kicked accurately from 50 to seal the result.

The final margin of 26 points was the mirror image of the half time difference; a nine goal turn around that probably says more about the fragility of the Eagles than anything else.

Their coach’s approach remains a curiosity in many respects. Opposition sides have dined out on the Blues of late by playing a loose man in defence, yet the Eagles’ coach appeared to ignore this option, amongst others.

Carlton will be relieved to arrest their slump, though it may prove a short respite against the Pies next week. With other weekend results falling perfectly for them, a finals spot is theirs to lose now.

You wouldn’t think them likely to cause much September carnage, but if that mysterious ally Mr Confidence has really returned to the fold, rather than merely flirted, you just never know.

West Coast       3.3   8.9   10.11    11.17 (83)
Carlton              2.5   4.7   11.16    15.19  (109)

West Coast:
LeCras 3, Kennedy 2, Hams 2, Ebert 2, Strijk, Embley
Carlton: Betts 3, Garlett 3, Murphy 2, Waite 2, Yarran 2, Henderson, Judd, Hampson

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. Tony Robb says

    nice summary JB. A win is a win is win BUT?

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