Blues Rediscover That Finals Swagger

We’re all well aware of a grim anniversary that occurred this weekend past. I’ve no intention of adding to the numerous postulations on what that event may or may not have meant. So relax.

But that same week a decade ago happens to also mark the beginning of Carlton’s descent. In the general scheme of things a lesser matter undoubtedly. For those not favourable to us, it’s a cause for celebration (yes, be assured names and numbers have been taken). But if you’re one of the Navy Blue faithful, it’s been a decade of tough lessons. Humility and Carlton aren’t a natural fit.

When the Tigers knocked us out in that 2001 final, and Kouta limped off to hospital with a wrecked knee, we weren’t ready for the anni horribiles to come. The knowledge a lot of it was self inflicted didn’t make it any more palatable.

Two recent interstate finals had signalled a partial return. Both resulted in narrow losses, which indicated how hard it is to win finals interstate, and that the team was still a long way from the finished product. Impatience was still noticeable amongst the fans. Some forget it’s not 1986 anymore. We can’t just go shopping around with chequebook open. Jack had ignored this and tried. Look where that got us.

But the Bombers at the ‘G in front of a full house definitely felt more like it.

Except…what’s with all the Nervous Nellie stuff?

Didn’t we flog this mob by 12 goals a few weeks ago?

So why does Peter Hanlon seem so unnecessarily accurate when he’s taunting us in The Age for crapping our dacks about this game?

We’ve been a miles better side than the Bombers for most of the year. So why are we expecting the worst?

This is what it’s come to. We’re thinking like St Kilda supporters.



It’s game time and I’m still recovering from the 80’s cover band. Fronted by Brian Mannix? With Meatloaf to come on Grand Final day. What’s next? The guy who sang the Pina Colada Song?

The meeja have been banging on all week about Ratten’s job being on the line. No mention that Hirdy might eventually have to start justifying a wage the size of a small African country’s GDP.

The Blues start like scalded cats. But they can’t kick straight.

Essendon can’t clear their kick-ins. Which just gives us more chances to miss.

Naturally, the first shot they get scores a goal. It came from Lovett-Murray hacking the ball out of mid-air to Carlisle.

Then Heppell finds Reimers. Reimers is an annoying mug lair like Dermott used to be. Just minus Dermott’s talent. He tries to compensate with tatts. Annoyingly, he kicks a goal.

Yarran goes for a run. He hesitates and Paddy Ryder runs him down. They score another on the rebound.

They miss a couple more chances. Hurley looks dangerous on Henderson. Ok Hanlon, you smart-arse, I’m worried.

The Blues are kicking with the wind and seem to be carried away with the notion. They bomb high to packs into the forward line. But we don’t have the forwards to mark it.

Suddenly we scrub a kick to the goal square. Setanta catches it. Then plays on and kicks on his left! Jeesuzzz! If that had been smothered…

Then Waker gets a sit over Fletcher. Another. Warnock bombs with the breeze. This time Jeffie has space and runs onto it for his first. This is much better.

Gibbs bangs  one OOTF from 50 on the siren. But we’re still up by 7 points.



As luck would have it, Channel 9 ran a doco on the 1981 Grand Final . ABC2 also played a couple of Rolling Stones docos on the weekend. One on the making of Exile on Main St. The other captured them in their early 70’s prime. Live in Hang ‘Em High Texas. Or some such place.

There was much in these shows to commend. Especially to the modern Carlton side.

Mick Jagger, tarted up like an young drag queen. Mincing around the stage. Pouting and prancing. Hilarious. And great.

Remember, this is in Texas. In the 70’s. A lot of guns in Texas. Both in those days and now. If Mick cared it wasn’t showing.

There’s Mick Taylor stage right. Playing superbly. Reminding everyone why Ronnie would never really cut it as a replacement. No matter how friendly he was with Keef. Keef’s stage left. The dark gravity around which Jagger spins. Mick and Keef are obviously still on speaking terms at this stage.

Charlie sits impassively in the back. The Bruce Doull of the drum kit. Holding it all together with an air of detachment. Bill still looks like the band’s accountant. But he plays good base.

The Stones had a swagger in their prime. So did Carlton. They were good and didn’t care who knew.

Big Jack overdid the swagger. The club let him. We’ve seemed inhibited by the consequences ever since. Not quite sure of ourselves. The bravado about kitchens seemed forced. It would be good to see the current team have a real reason to swagger.

The 1981 GF commends itself not just for the fact we beat the Pies (again). Though that never loses its lustre. But our team in those days believed. And we were the ones who were annoying. Was there ever a player more annoying to the opposition than The Dominator?

May we annoy many more opponents in the future.



Young Dyson Heppell had identified the Bomber’s big concern during the week. Those ‘slippery little suckers’. I bet they weren’t planning for Brett Thornton.

The new defence we’ve constructed this season has only infrequently accommodated the most experienced defender on our list. This has left Thornton plying his trade largely as a decoy forward, though whether it was intended to be a decoy role has been the subject of debate amongst Carlton fans. It might just have been that he couldn’t get the pill.

Not today. In our hour of key forward need, the T-Bird suddenly had mitts like Johnny Brown.

The Blues began the second quarter as they did the first. Quick out of the blocks but inaccurate. But Thornton was clunking them like he was born for it.  He goaled from 50 and then quickly gave to Jeffie for another. We were 5 goals ahead and running.

For a bloke who can’t coach, Brett Ratten was having decidedly the better of his contest with the coaching Dream Team.  By sticking Mitch Robinson on Fletcher, ol’ Gadget wasn’t able to peel off and intercept incoming kicks as is his preference. Without Gadget to mop up, the Bomber defence was a rabble. They couldn’t organise a third man up to spoil. Whatever plans were made for Garlett and Betts now lay in ruins.

When Eddie kicked long to the square, only to see the ball clear the pack and bounce through, you knew it was our day. Yarran had got nabbed again on the end of a 4-bounce effort, but he wasn’t deterred. He continued to play catch-me-if –you-can.

It was a 7 goal margin at half time. And Juddy had barely touched it.

If confirmation of the result was needed, T-Bird kicked the first goal of the 2nd half. He’s never played a better game.

Party time started early. By term’s end even Juddy was flying for hangers.

Not too many Bombers were doing much to spoil the party. Hocking and Stanton excepted. The coach certainly appeared out of ideas.

Essendon’s day was typified by two final term incidents. When Gibbs dropped the ball in a goal square tackle it bounced straight to Eddie. And when Jeffie wobbled a floater to the goal front Walker didn’t have to leave the ground to mark unopposed, while three Bomber defenders looked on.

Sticking with the Exile theme, Carlton’s day was a combination of Rocks Off and Rip this Joint. Essendon’s had turned into Turd On The Run.

Essendon are undoubtedly in a rebuilding phase. Carlton knows something about that. But I’ve heard a lot of pass marks being handed out for their first season under Hird, Thompson, et al. Brett Ratten would love to be marked so easily.

If Carlton go to Perth next week and get done, this win will be but a pleasant stepping stone on our climb back. But we’ve beaten better Eagles teams than the current one over there. Subi need hold no fears for us. And the Blues have lots of fans in the West to cheer us on.

That’s for next weekend.

Meanwhile, I’m off to put Exile on again. And to practice my swagger. Maybe even a strut.

Who knows, they may come in handy sometime soon.

Votes:  3- Murphy (C)   2- Warnock (C)   1- Thornton (C) (!!!)

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. Was there ever a player more annoying to the opposition than The Dominator?

    Yes – Ronnie bloody Wearmouth……..and Renee bloody Kink…………..

  2. David Downer says

    Maroon 5’s current ditty “Moves Like Jagger” might quickly become Carlton’s September anthem if they keep up this sort of shtick. A J.Butler iTunes download might just crunch it into No.1 on the ARIA singles chart.

    Rupert Holmes sang Pina Colada. Check him out, fair dinkum…

    Yours in stealing A.Fithall’s thunder…


  3. DD, I’m completely ignorant of Maroon 5’s work. I suspect I won’t regret this fact.

    Dips, oh, that’s right. You blokes used to lose finals to Collingwood. :)

  4. Great read JB.

    I am definitely one of the ‘Nervous Nellies’. I ticked off each point Hanlon raised, about how last time we were full strength and they were missing their captain and their eminence grise (who looked more ‘grise’ than ever before by match end), and we had no excuse for ballsing this right up but hey, when did we ever need an excuse?

    I don’t often read the other Melb daily (the one Hanlon doesn’t write for but Aker does, as does Andrew Bolt) but I think it was their John Ralph who connected Hendo down back, Bert up front and Tex Walker as the kind of Buzz (or Harmesy-plus-hair) running, jumping, never standing still mercurial forward presence: all those moves came from the supposedly atrophied brain of our Wurzel Gummidge lookalike and soundalike coach who (at least according to the talkback Noise, and who else’s views need be considered?) had the tactical awareness of a goalpost and couldn’t motivate Imelda Marcos into a shoe shop.

    Maybe these ‘experts’ took your friendly advice after the last Essendon game, and took that long walk off the short pier. They sure as hell weren’t to be heard in the aftermatch, or on ‘Harf Time’ on SEN – unlike Aunty Jack, there wasn’t a whimper, far less a scream, as they plummeted away….

    We must be some kind of show against the Eagles but in any case we won’t beat Geelong and I’m not convinced I want us to. Geelong can beat Collingwood, and do. Carlton couldn’t and, let’s get realistic, probably still can’t. But our turn will come

    (Was there really a Rolling Stones track called ‘Turd On the Run?)

  5. RN, yes there was. It’s on Exile. Side 3 (speaking vinyl-wise). The weird side. Every double album needs one.

  6. You’ve got a Heart of Stone John

  7. So you don’t wanna spend the night together Andrew?

  8. JB – I agree with you about Carlton’s vulnerability in Interstate Finals. No Sympathy for the Devil over West.

  9. Andrew Fithall says

    Dips – only one “e” in Rene Kink. Bad enough name already without you feminising it.
    DD – Maroon 5 – not one of mine. Thanks for asking.

    JB – Love your work. Can’t say the same about your football team/club/former president/current president/etc/etc

  10. AF, there’s actually two. One before the N and one after.

    His main talent was an uncanny, almost Jackjo-like ability to squeeze a lot of publicity out of not much achievement. Yes, he was extremely irritating.

  11. Andrew Fithall says

    Thanks for the correction Rick. Don’t overlook Rene’s fine acting skills as Tank in The Club.

  12. All of Pearl Bay appreciated his work in ‘The Club’ – esp his cleaning up of Bob Jelly.

  13. DD, I’ve just followed that link.

    I’d missed the live Rupert experience. I had only ever seen the clip on the boat.

    Can’t believe Rupe never kicked on. The moves of James Brown. The showmanship of Freddy Mercury.

    How’d he miss?

  14. Good to see the Collingwood boys continuing the tradition on Neighbours AF.

  15. PB

    No sympathy asked for. None expected.

    Looking forward to the contest.

    Hope all those Blues supporters don’t scare you poor Perth folk.

    I know it’s quiet over there usually.

  16. Make sure they bring their passports. We are pretty quick to export any illegals to Christmas Island. Offshore processing of terrorist suspects is all the go out West.

  17. AF – you say ‘Rene’ I say ‘Renee’. Big fat poonce. Especially in 1981.

  18. JB

    You’re votes were the same as mine.

    Also love the Stones references (particularly Mick Taylor era Stones), as well as the Maroon 5 bashing on the comment thread.

  19. Litza

    I always said you were an excellent judge. :)

    And don’t start me on Ronnie Wood…

  20. JB,

    You must have been Happy although it’s too early to be thinking about drinking from the Loving Cup.

    Essendon’s defence was Torn and Frayed.

    Hird continually pleaded with his troops to Stop Breaking Down.

    No mention of Essendon suffering from Ventilator Blues.

    I now need to scrape the shit off my shoes.

  21. And so many tracks left Flynny.

    Tumbling Dice & Casino Boogie- Essendon’s coaching changes (and habits?)
    Shake Your Hips – Eddie and Jeffie did plenty of that
    I Just Want To See His Face – thoughts of anyone chasing Yarran
    Let It Loose – Essendon defensive strategy

    The Stones were underestimated for football relevance. :)

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