Pies Have the Steadier Hand in MCG Shootout

It was only fitting that an 80,000 strong gathering of the rival clans should assemble to celebrate 100 years since Collingwood last beat Carlton in a Grand Final. Ok… I know only one clan would be celebrating that little statistic, but that’s about all the joy I’ll get from this report.

At least, unlike a couple of the alleged “rivalries” in this round, there’s never any doubt where these two teams stand. The merest scent of the ancient enemy will always raise hackles and set pulses racing.

Pulses were certainly racing on the field, as the game launched at frantic pace. The contrast to Friday night’s exercise in inertia was blinding in every respect, as play flowed and scoring was a constant prospect.

Carlton had individuals winning a lot of possession- Judd, Murphy, Simpson and Carrazzo notably- but much of this was to little effect. Collingwood were combining better and dominating the clinches. The Blues’ excessive handballing seemed less a calculated plan than a reflexive response to Magpie pressure.

A Murphy running goal from a tight angle provided an early highlight, but a strong Dawes mark out at 50 on the boundary, followed by a great kick, was an equal effort. Dawes’ strength was to trouble the Carlton defence for the remainder of the day. Yarran threatened early for the Blues, but after kicking their first goal, he squandered his opportunities.

The first break found the Pies leading 4-2 to 3-2.

The next 20 minutes of play belonged completely to Collingwood. The Blues were powerless to break a pattern that had them struggling to move the ball through mid-field, eventually giving it up, and being too slow to adjust on the rebound. Ball got things rolling with  a left foot snap, then Thomas, Medhurst, Didak and Ball again all goaled without answer, to open up a 39 point lead. It was beginning to look like a very dirty day.

Completely besieged, the Blues then tried some keepings-off in an attempt to regroup. This prompted much derision from a baying Magpie mob, but seemed to do the trick, as Setanta bounced up from the ground to goal, then quickly found Yarran for another. Setanta was then held, and his third goal saw a semblance of a contest restored. The move of big “Sauce” Jacobs into centre bounces helped, assisting Judd in gaining some Carlton momentum.

Just as the Blues surged, Didak snuck out the back for an easy goal, and despite a Murphy reply, Dawes was put on the goal line by a 50 M penalty and stretched the margin again.

On the balance of a hectic first half, Carlton was fortunate to only trail by 28 points, 7-2 to 11-6.

After Dawes opened the 3rd term as he did the 2nd– with a set shot miss- proceedings quickly turned into the Setanta Show. Everything the big Irishman touched was suddenly gold. A seemingly mishit snap dribbled through, and even a dropped mark saw the hitherto unsighted Bets pounce to goal. Setanta’s first instinct isn’t always the right one, but he’s an awkward match up athletically, and his ability to retain his feet is an asset not to be underestimated.

An Irish takeover threatened. Judd had assumed control in the centre, and Gibbs was joining the party, as the Blues finally worked into the open to take advantage of superior foot speed. Goals to White, Houlihan and Betts closed the gap to 4 points. Luke Ball sharked a tap beautifully to score his 3rd, in an effort to staunch the flow, but the Blues closed again when Reid ridiculously gifted Setanta 50 and his 5th goal.

At this point, Dane Swan obviously decided he’d tired of the insurrection. He bounced through a long range goal, then weaved through several defenders to barely miss another, and generally marshalled his troops to steady. As thrillingly as the Blues had counter-attacked, an O’Brien long-bomb on the siren found them still trailing by 27, 13-5 to 17-8; barely any advance at all.

The now traditional Dawes miss, followed by Neon Leon confirming a personal shocker with the most wildly extravagant banana attempt, kept hope springing eternal in Blue hearts. Judd continued to carry the side on his shoulders, and a Betts volley closed the gap to 22. But that was pretty much it.

Disappointingly, Carlton faded badly from this point; the Blues wilting in the face of Collingwood’s methodical organisation. A one-out contest between Scotland and Macaffer typified the rest, with the Magpie winning it hands down. When Dawes marked in a pack for his 3rd goal, it was time for the donning of the gold bogan tuxedo, and the bragging to begin.

The trouble with catch-up football is that it usually catches up with you. The final margin blew out to 53 points.

So how to put all this sound and fury into a bigger context?

Brett Ratten spoke pre-season of his ambition for Carlton to improve their ability to hold possession. He reckoned the helter-skelter style of recent times was no recipe for sustained success. The 24 goals conceded in this game would suggest he’s right.

The Blues are very much a work in progress. They need to reach the stage where they consistently beat good teams without the skipper getting 3 votes. Tellingly, they probably had the majority of standout individuals in this game, but the Pies were much better as a unit.

Now to that perennial question for many. Are the Pies the Real Deal this season? If they are to improve on recent seasons, most hope would lie in the improvement of WellingBeamsBottom. If they can continue their recent form, it gives the Pies a powerful midfield unit. It will also help their previous deficit in leg speed. Ball won’t help that, but he should improve their ball-winning capacity. But you wouldn’t expect him to kick 3 goals too often.

The Magpies should be up there yet again, but I’ll reserve judgement until we see them against sides who don’t give up the ball so easily. We may have a better idea by the completion of round 11.

Personally, I’m never fussed when the Pies are May champions. The higher the Magpie gets, the bigger the splat when he falls.

The contrasting styles on display between Friday night and Sunday arvo beg a question of the general footy follower. There’s no contest as to which appeals more as a spectacle. But spectators don’t set the playing agenda in the AFL. Coaches will inevitably go with what they think will win, even if that’s “Saints Footy”.

But the Saints method is yet to win a flag either. For my money, the way to a premiership probably lies somewhere between what we saw on either Friday or Sunday.

I’d be interested in what other Almanackers think. Would you be willing to sacrifice entertainment for a flag? And is that necessarily the equation?

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. Danielle says

    JB, i’d like your opinion please.
    Is Ball just not presenting well beacuse he doesn’t need to (wellingbeamsbottom seem to have it under control) or becuase he’s too lazy to get his onw footy.
    I’m starting to like Lukey slowly and until he shows some sort of consistency i think i will always be pondering that question.
    Also, they say Juddy was BOG.
    I think i have seen him play better for the Blues before, what do you think?


  2. John Butler says


    Ball does a lot of unseen work in the packs. He’s not lazy, he just lacks a yard of pace.

    Juddy was close to BOG, although Swan probably made the match-winning play when he stopped our comeback near 3/4 time.

    Carlton need to stop being so dependant on Judd.

    Of course, this is just IMHO. :)

  3. Danielle says

    2- hmm, i shall have a closer look at Ball’s efforts in the packs in the upcomming game, if it’s speed he lacks then he should just run faster! lol

    i agree with you, The Blues do need to be less dependant on Juddy. It’s like everytime he stepped off for a breather my boys cranked up a gear, then when he came back on, he was the one spuring the ball forwards and into your fifty to the forwards. i was disapointed in Gibbs’ effort this match, normally he gives my boys a headache.

    I loved watching it, eventhough it wasn’t as close as i hoped it would be.
    Still, there’s no rivalry like PIES V BLUES! :)

  4. Steve Healy says

    JB has a point Danni, Ball does do a lot of in and under type work that isnt seen, he has lacked a bit of authority in game’s so far this season but he certainly showed what he is capable of yesterday, he kicked a couple of great goals on the run with a bit of dash.

  5. Steve Healy says

    Hang on, the game wasn’t as closed as you hoped it would be?

    Surely you’d be happier with a 53 point win over the blues, its all about percentage!

  6. John Butler says


    I reckon wins might come into it somewhere along the line. :)

    But percentage always comes in handy.

  7. Steve Healy says

    I guess Collingwood supporters are spoilt by all these wins, but then again, i am talking to a geelong supporter

  8. Andrew Fithall says

    Courageous writing JB. And was that also your act of courage on Friday in talking to Jim Edmond as mentioned in today’s Sporting Life?

    On Chris Judd – until his defensive effort improves, his net value to the team will be significantly less than what he contributes offensively!

  9. John Butler says

    Andrew, ’twasn’t I who bailed up said Jimmy. I’m far too shy and retiring.

    RE: Juddy, He’s pulling much more than his weight already. You can’t have it every way. If your focus is winning the ball, chances are your man will sneak away at times. You just need to pick your moment. And a few of his team-mates could help out a little more as well.


  10. Andrew (8) – big call re: Judd. Bit like saying John Coleman would have been better if he’d learned to spoil.

  11. Andrew Fithall says

    Dips and JB – the nephew of a good friend of mine earned bog plaudits in a game when opposed to Judd. It was he who made the comment to his uncle about the lack of pressure at one end of the ground. Sorry but cannot name the player or the team.

  12. John Butler says


    There’s no doubt opponents sometimes plan from the presumption Judd won’t mark his man. A smart player can take advantage of this. But Judd would work on the principal that he’ll cause more damage than his opponent will. Usually he’s right.

    Carlton’s broader planning comes into it. The better teams are organised to peel off and help when required, and have an awareness of the game’s pattern. To my eye, the Blues are still spasmodic at how effectively they do this (both coach and players).

  13. Chalkdog says

    Well I never! Outing a certain Carlton player as a downhill skier.
    Crio will confirm I have a long history of “potting the superstar” but it hadnt occurred to me that this one had any weak spots [apart from the 12 months employment with his 3rd party contractor that may or may not have happened]

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