Round 1 – Richmond v Carlton: A New Carlton? Or the Same Old Richmond?

Who matters most at a football club? What does a key to success look like?

As it has blundered its way through the 21st Century, Carlton’s answers to these questions have invariably been inadequate. In the face of an increasingly dysfunctional club, all would-be messiahs have found the burden too great. It culminated in a  2015 season that was such a debacle, expectations weren’t so much diminished as obliterated.  When the earth has been scorched, it’s not a question of rebuilding, it’s a necessity.

So a Blues banner quoting Mao’s “journey of a thousand miles…” wasn’t some perverse nod to our former coach’s penchant for Chinese philosophy, it was more a statement of the bleeding obvious. Things seemed a little more buoyant in Tigerland, with a banner declaring the dawn of “Richmond supremacy”. No danger of getting ahead of yourself there.

There was little Richmond supremacy to see early. The most striking aspect was that Carlton suddenly resembled a modern football team. The sclerotic, self-doubting play that had become endemic under Malthouse was gone, replaced by slick ball movement and defensive structures that pinned the Tigers in their defensive half.  The crucial missing Carlton component was a finishing touch up forward. Too many attacks ended with a long bomb to no one in particular. Alex Rance had a picnic mopping up.

Just when Richmond might have teetered, Carlton failed to come to grips with the new 50 metre penalty “interpretation”: a couple of goals were gifted against the flow. Self –inflicted wounds. For all their midfield dominance, it took a superb Kruezer left foot snap, and a Murphy missile from deep in the left pocket for Carlton to take a narrow quarter time lead.

Thereafter Richmond regained their equilibrium. Skipper Cotchin, unsighted early, started to find the ball. Kane Lambert followed up a lively start. Houli rebounded from defence. Vickery’s bulk was proving a surer avenue to goal than anything the Blues could find. Carlton’s zoning required intensive off-ball running. They looked to tire as half time approached. Thoughts of the new 90 interchange cap came to the fore.

The Tigers squandered chances to stretch their lead early in the third term. Carlton found their second wind. Offseason, the Blues influx of Giants had captured headlines. Now, it was their Crows recruits who made their mark: Sam Kerridge ran powerfully, Matthew Wright scrounged 3 opportunist goals. Carlton led into the final change with the momentum their way and their midfield ascendant.

Commencing the final term, Levi Casboult marked and had the chance to stretch the lead. Sadly, Levi had returned to his old kicking ways. A bag of wheat would have flown truer.

Thereafter, Richmond offered no second chances. Lambert dominated late, clearly the best Tiger four-quarter performer. Lloyd snapped two fine goals. Only Simpson and debutant Weitering  really held firm as the Tigers camped in their forward line. Kerridge tarnished a good personal night with a horrible turnover that allowed Miles in for the sealer. The Blues tried to surge late, but in truth the Tigers looked more comfortable than the 9 point margin suggests.

Both camps will make their claims. Minus Deledio, Maric, Grigg, Conca and Yarran, the Tigers showed depth to prevail. Lambert and Menadue caught the eye. But the efforts of Martin and Riewoldt underlined continuing concerns. Both contributed significantly to victory. But both also clearly had moments where they indulged themselves at the expense of team rules and interests. While some of their most talented continue to pick and choose when to buy in, it’s hard to see any great supremacy ahead.

Carlton, the club that has made a fetish of living in the past, is now preaching the future. Rebuilding isn’t about the now, but some distant moment. That requires a considerable shift in psychology, and a new maturity and patience. None of it will come easily.

Blues fans will be heartened that they controlled possession and position for large parts of this game. Murphy and Gibbs are still young enough to be part of that future, and they were outstanding this night. Cripps, Weitering and Graham showed they’ll be important. There was plenty to like about Brendon Bolton’s coaching, but he’ll be acutely aware of the distance between honourable losses and success.

The future still awaits.


RICHMOND     4.1   7.2   10.6  14.8 (92)
CARLTON       4.4   5.7   11.9  12.11 (83)

Richmond: Vickery 3, Menadue 2, Riewoldt 2, Lloyd 2, Lambert, Edwards, Vlastuin, C. Ellis, Miles
Carlton: Wright 3, Everitt 2, Lamb, Gibbs, Kreuzer, Murphy, Cripps, Phillips, Walker

Richmond: Lambert, Rance, Martin, Houli, Menadue, Lloyd
Carlton: Murphy, Cripps, Gibbs, Kerridge, Docherty, Simpson

Official crowd: 75,706 at the MCG


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. I go the other way on Riewoldt. it was he inserting himself into the packs on out D50 that put the steel in the backbones. the first leaderly thing in yellow and black all night.

    as for team rules, it’s hard to see any. Dimma has said “we’ll have to play better”. Thanks, Dimma.

  2. Good match summary John. What excites me most is some solid structure to our game plan. I hope to see it evolve further and improve over the season. As you say, the future still awaits.

  3. John Butler says

    Pete, some of the things I saw would be pretty obvious in any team.

    Jack running away from goal, taking a wide turn and blazing on his left foot, burning 2 guys who were on their own forward of him. At a stage when the game was in the balance.

    Re Dusty, he did some great stuff, (he has the best stiff-arm block in the league), but he just watched us run off without chasing on a number of occasions.

    Picking and choosing.

  4. John Butler says

    DJL, it was a nice change to see us play some football that had an obvious purpose to it. That had completely disappeared under Malthouse.

    But once again, we failed to seize the crucial moments. It’s been a long time since a Carlton side had that knack. Until I see that return, I’ll contain my excitement.


  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nice report JB. Blues moved the ball well in flashes and Kreuzer and Gibbs were prominent. At least the Malthouse boundary shackles are off.

    To think that Carlton fans are now resigned to being pleased with an honorable loss to an ordinary Richmond. Never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.

  6. The Bluebaggers are watchable again JB. You and the rest of the Silvertails must be elated. They’ll worry more than a few this season. They certainly caught The Striped Marvels by surprize, which they’ve done a few times over the years; notably in the 1973 GF. But you’ve blown your #1 Draft Pick chances and the opportunity to add another Sylvan Shield to the Trophy Cabinet.

    BTW, Dusty’s not a team player. Never has been. Never will be. It’s all about Dusty. We’ll move him on as soon as we can find a replacement with the right attitude who can match Dustin’s ‘don’t argue’ forearm.

  7. I look for body language as much as execution early in the season. Bryce Gibbs attack on the ball was something I have not seen from him in recent years. A good sign.
    Eagles under Woosha at the end and your Blues under Woosha looked like cannon fodder at the Somme. Had completely lost faith in the generals and their game plan. From game 1 under Simpson, as with the Blues under Bolton last week, the players at least looked like they believed they were not just being sacrificed on the altar of ego.
    Something to build on.

  8. John Butler says

    Thanks for the comments gents.

    Phil, we’ve ended up exactly where we deserve to be.

    El Wrappom what would Tom Hafey have made of Dusty?

    PB, I think you’re spot on re Gibbs and the team generally. The difference between Woosha and Malthouse is that Woosha took more than a decade to wear out his welcome. Mick only took 2 seasons.

    Hope you and the AE enjoy your visit to the Car Park. Enjoy the lunch.


  9. E.regnans says

    Everything I’ve read JB, simply has B Bolton as the New Messiah.

    Interesting groupthink at play.

    Great work, as always.

  10. John Butler says

    Messiah complexes die hard at Carlton E Reg.

    I’m not sure the Carlton community has made the complete emotional commitment to a rebuild it likes to kid itself it has. Nothing like a few beltings to sort out who’s on board and who’s not. We’ll see. I hope to be proved wrong.

    I think Buddy’s boys will be a sterner test than a rather ordinary and undermanned Richmond, as your battlers showed last night.

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