Round 1 – Carlton v Richmond: No way forward for Carlton

The MCG is bathed in Navy Blue light. The electronic advertising signs are trying their best imitation of the stands from Princes Park. The old hovercraft from the ‘90’s has been resurrected. And speaking of resurrections, Fev is delegated the task of handing the ball to the umpires.

Just before game time the ground is left smoke-shrouded by a fireworks display. Some kind of weird tribute to the Fog Match of ’71?

Is Carlton condemned to spend the 21st Century thinking of the 20th?

The Blues start like they think otherwise, though Daisy is out of the game almost before you can blink. Contrary to cultural stereotypes, we’re doing the blue-collar stuff better than Richmond -chasing, tackling and winning contested ball. Judd, Murphy and Gibbs (the usual suspects) feature early. We’re killing them around the packs.

But we again spray shots at goal. 4-7 is the sort of return we usually live to regret. Richmond’s only two goals come from quick defensive rebounds that allowed Griffiths to sneak behind our defence. The most prominent Tiger is a rangy type wearing number 33. A quick scan of the Record informs me his name is Kamdyn McIntosh. More of him in a minute.

Quarter two starts even more promisingly as we stretch the lead to four goals. Just as Blues fans dare to hope, we cough up a couple in bad positions and you can see the anxiety blow through the team like a Victorian cold-front. Correspondingly, the Tigers lift.

From this point on, the contest is dominated by one aspect of play – Carlton’s complete inability to find a forward target. We go 45 minutes without a goal.

The Carlton kick inside attacking 50 may be the single most impotent act in modern football. We kick long to smalls. We can’t hit the talls, even if they’re in any sort of position, which usually they are not. Our midfield ball carriers either go short and wide, or bomb pointlessly to the opposition defence. A problem that was common under Ratten now seems endemic under Malthouse.

Partly this is due to personnel. Not since the aforementioned Fev have we had a big forward who really commanded the ball. Neither Henderson nor Jones are pack grab types, which made the omission of Casboult perplexing, no matter his form. When the contest was over, Rowe kicked a couple to hint at what a bigger target might achieve.

But the problem is deeper than personnel. Method is impossible to discern. The lack of understanding between ball carrier and prospective target is often startling. Either the players don’t understand the Malthouse game plan, or they can’t deliver it.

Richmond fans will be relieved. And they’ll be delighted about Kamdyn. He was instrumental in getting them rolling in term two: breaking tackles, bursting packs, loping along the flanks like a scaled-down Richo. He played with a vitality that quickly deserted the Blues.

Richmond will regard it a bonus to win with Martin, Deledio and Cotchin all quiet. Ellis and Vlastuin filled the void admirably, as did Taylor Hunt in his Tiger debut. Cousin Jack had one of his more productive outings on Jamison, scrounging 4 goals in various ways.

The question for Richmond was their one-dimensionality. The majority of their score came from quick defensive rebound, mainly after we gifted them the ball. Better opposition will be less obliging.

It doesn’t say a lot for Carlton’s upside that Juddy still looked our most damaging player. Docherty was our most consistent four-quarter contributor. Bell finished strongly, but committed his usual quota of clangers. White was a surprising choice to tag Martin, performing admirably. If only Malthouse could identify forwards as readily as he finds taggers. None of our recruits showed imminent signs of making  much difference.

This game was worryingly reminiscent of last year’s opener. We worked hard early, but once the game settled into its pattern we couldn’t match it. The inability to score eventually creates a sense of futility.

The theory is that play will open up this year, as teams seek ways to match Hawthorn’s scoring proficiency. If that transpires, the Blues look poorly positioned to try and keep pace. It’s only round one, but another long  season may already be looming.


CARLTON      4.7   6.9    6.12   11.12   (78)

RICHMOND  2.3   7.10    9.13  15.15   (105)


Carlton: Jones 2, Menzel 2, Rowe 2, Bell, Gibbs, Jaksch, Simpson, Tuohy

Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Lloyd 3, Griffiths 3, Grigg 2, Gordon, Martin, McIntosh


Carlton: Docherty, Judd, White, Bell, Gibbs

Richmond: McIntosh, Ellis, Vlastuin, Hunt, Maric, Riewoldt

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. The Avenging Eagle and I have a family commitment on Friday night and have to miss the “Last Man Standing” Cup. Happy to offer you a couple of free tickets if you are in Perth for the game. Its warmer than Ballarat.
    I was disappointed to see Melbourne’s improved form. Looking like a 3 way race to the bottom with the Saints.

  2. John Butler says

    First goal wins and we all go home?

    Watching the rain tumble down here, I wouldn’t mind a trip to Perth PB. Sadly work prevails.


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