Carlton unravel the zone, while Adelaide just unravels.

The modern AFL environment seems perpetually hyped, with blowtorches primed for target on a weekly basis. Even by these standards, Round 4 seems pretty early for a make-or-break game.  But it couldn’t be denied that the competing sides in this match were badly in need of a win, with pressure mounting on both camps.

About seven weeks ago, these teams played a practice game at Princes Park. Adelaide fielded an undermanned side that day, but their zone remained every bit as unfathomable to the Blues as it has seemed in recent years. Returning to the present, the Crows are still missing personnel, and with a 0-3 start they would have been hoping their tactics would hold fast as before. Certainly their coach seems a man who places great store in his methodology.

On the back of another lamentable effort against Essendon, the Blues were still searching for a post-Fevola method, whist many of the faithful were showing little patience with the coach. The dropping of Waite and Thornton seemed a message sent, although opinion was divided on exactly what the message was. At least it was an indication that a new approach beckoned.

With Betts, Yarran and Garlett in the forward 50, the betting was against Long Bombs to Spudman. Winning clearances, midfield turnovers and zippy forwards running into space over the back of busted zones seemed more on the money.

As Yarran elegantly stroked goals off either foot, the plan met early success. Add a 50-metre-penalty-assisted goal to Chris Judd, and the Blues were off to a flier. A brilliant Jamison interception led to another rebound and goal to Houlihan.

Thrashed in the centre clearances early , by a dominant Judd, the Crows battled their way into the match. When they could win clean possession at half-back, they swept down the ground in a familiar wave and almost invariably produced a shot on goal. But they squandered chances like millionaires, with Brett Burton a particular offender. With frequent Crow misses, Carlton’s biggest danger seemed the decision to leave kick outs to Andrew Walker.

Finally, Richard Douglas kicked straight, and when Burton corrected the radar, the gap was narrowed. Against the flow, Betts marked hard against the right boundary line. Obviously reluctant to shoot for goal, the umpire waved him on. Almost as an afterthought, he threw it onto his left boot and watched it sail through the middle. Things were going Carlton’s way, and they would have enjoyed the first break at 5-1 to 2-7.

In the 2nd stanza, Adelaide seemed so programmed to run and possess that kicking seemed incidental to their intentions. With Carlton pressuring relentlessly in midfield, it seemed inevitable that they would force turnovers and catch them on the break. Yarran, O’hAilpin, Simpson and Garlett all goaled from variations on this theme. Scotland added another after a long series of scrimmages. The Crows’ only goal came when successive 50 metre penalties put Thompson on the goal line.

Half time saw Carlton a dominant 37 points to the better, 10-4 to 3-9.

Those fond of bemoaning the modern game would reckon the 3rd quarter of this contest provided compelling evidence for the prosecution. After Carlton again broke the zone for Garlett to stroll into goal, proceedings degenerated into a midfield brawl. Adelaide succeeded in seizing the Blues up, but couldn’t get much flow into their own game. When they generated shots they were awry; Burton notably butchering a couple more gilt-edged chances.

As the quarter lurched around like a drunken arm wrestle, the Blues finally forced the ball down the outer wing by dint of handball and sheer willpower. This passage ended with a Simpson running goal to stretch the margin to 44 points. Finally, on the ¾ time siren, Taylor Walker kicked the only Crow goal for the term, leaving the score at 12-5 to 4-15.

Having steadfastly refused to depart from Plan A, the Crows at least began the final term going long and direct. This quickly produced goals to Thompson and Knights. Seemingly inspired, they finally decided to make a virtue of Tippet’s height and got the ball to him twice within range, only for him to kick miserably.

Carlton remained under siege in defence, and their faithful were getting nervous, as the Crows continued to miss shots. With the margin closed to around 4 goals, the Blues finally managed their first forward thrust in almost 15 minutes. It ended with Houlihan, who kicked a calming major.

Almost immediately, another Crow defensive cough-up found Garlett snapping over his left shoulder from deep in the pocket to kick the sealer. Floodgates were then declared open, as exemplified by Henderson marking unopposed in the goal square, whilst surrounded by spectating defenders.

The final score blew out to 16-7-103 to 6-19-55.

The return of the skipper was crucial to Carlton. Judd’s strength and balance in the clinches remains wondrous, and his tackling was fierce. Andrew Walker was allowed to sweep across half back all day, collecting possessions at will. Simpson, Murphy, Gibbs and the 3 zippy crumbers all deserve credit. Finally, the oft-maligned Houlihan provided many telling touches across half forward. I wonder if he took note of Thornton’s demotion?

Adelaide must be contemplating the dramatic downturn in their fortunes since half time in the 2nd week of last year’s finals series. Hawthorn would no doubt attest to how unsettled personnel can rattle the most intricate game plan. But no matter how good your Plan A is, opponents will eventually adjust. If you refuse to contemplate alternatives, your use-by date can overtake you.

Two wins against struggling opposition hardly heralds a new Carlton dawn. But Brett Ratten can feel satisfied with his week’s work; he took the coaching honours hands down.


Adelaide: Thompson 2, Burton, Douglas, Knights, Walker
Carlton: Garlett 3, Houlihan 3, Yarran 3, Simpson 2, Betts, Henderson, Judd, O’hAilpin, Scotland

Votes: C. Judd- 3, A. Walker- 2, K. Simpson- 1

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. Sadly I left the highly entertaining Albury v Wodonga game at 3/4 time to watch the 2nd half of the Blues, Crows. If there has ever been a worse quarter of football played it hasn’t been since the “local” thunderstorms turned Morabbin into a quadmire and the ensuing fotball into mud wrestling. A win is win but gee, ( as Mike would say) it was not convincing. The crows are shot ducks and any other team, barring the Tigers, could have got right back into that game given the amount of possession the Crows had in the 3rd quarter. The next 3 weeks could be ugly for the Blues although we will beat the Pies as they are similar in there list and ability to ski downhill.

  2. John Butler says


    The next 3 weeks will indeed be very telling.

    We tried to sit on our lead in the 2nd half against the Crows, and it almost undid us.

    But a win against a team which has had the wood on us will help the team psyche (I hope).

    We will see.


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