Round 1 – Richmond v Carlton: Seven minutes told the tale


My expectations of victory for this game were low to non-existent. Which made me like every other Blues supporter I know. So when the final siren sounded on a Richmond victory, by precisely the margin I had forecast, why did I feel even more disappointed than last year? Or the year before.


Domestic matters being currently hectic, it was Mission Impossible to book a ticket for this game with any certainty. So I was on the couch again, like every other game for the last 18 months, watching the idiot box (yes, Taylor and Brayshaw are on duty). It was me, a mate, and a tasty cab sav. That sour feeling at the end of the night wasn’t the fault of the cab sav.


The football and virus gods had conspired to see Richmond unfurl two premiership flags ahead of this game. The Front Bar produced the best line on this situation – something to the effect that this was the equivalent of telling a homeless person you had just bought a second house and expecting them to be happy for you. The salient question for success-starved Bluebaggers was whether the team was angry enough about all of this to really do something?


Things started promisingly enough. We appeared to have waived our customary gentleman’s offer to the opposition of a five goal start. Levi got the first. O’Brien and Dow kicked goals and were busy. Richmond still looked potent. Any sniff of a midfield cough-up was pounced upon. But Weiters played a mighty defensive quarter, and the defense as a whole looked sound enough. We looked dangerous when we got the forward handball chains happening. Terms were basically even at the first break.


For a while in the 2nd term we finally started winning centre clearances, Crippa kept barging through tackles, and we found ourselves a couple of goals up. But we still found ways to waste chances. On his Carlton debut, Lachie Fogarty had been useful, but when presented with a set shot from 30 metres out he kicked it like a man who had never contemplated such a situation. Then Fish chose to run wide on another gettable set shot and hooked it.


Then came one of those periods where you cannot ignore the men in green. Amongst other decisions, Richmond scored two goals directly from 50 metre penalties – one for encroaching the ‘protected’ area, one for the new stand-still-on-the-mark rule. Through gritted teeth, I’ll confine myself to this observation. Both decisions were technically correct interpretations of rules that have penalties disproportionate to the offence usually committed. In neither case was the ball holder impeded in the slightest from doing what he intended. That is the case in 90% of such decisions. Too often, game momentum is swung on trivial actions. That problem is the rules, not the umpires. Where the umpires come into question is whether the rules are applied evenly to both teams


For purposes of balance, it must also be noted that Dusty reprised one of his Grand Final efforts when he smothered an O’Brien kick, fended off Liam Jones, and calmly snapped a sausage roll over the left shoulder. Still, Richmond’s half time advantage was the sum of those two 50 metre penalties.


The third term was a classic lesson in the importance of taking your chances. We had the balance of play, but because we kept missing we only briefly took a narrow lead. Harry missed twice from marks close to goal – one a rushed around-the corner effort, the other by crazily playing on and getting run down. In stark contrast, Sooky Jack nailed two shots from a fair way out on tight angles. One player has a predictable, reliable set shot process. The other is Harry.


So we entered the final term with our 20 scoring shots contriving to trail their 18 by 8 points. A poor cough up from O’Brien saw the inevitable rebound end with Dusty. Richmond by almost three goals. We looked like we might be fading, tiring. Then Oscar McDonald flushed one from way downtown. Harry decided to settle on a boring old drop punt and closed us to 10 points. Then, from a kick out, we took it on through the middle and Gibbo closed us to 5. From the next centre bounce we surged. Sam Walsh perfectly weighted a handball that put Paddy Dow into the clear 30 metres out. Paddy missed. We could have lead with all the momentum and emotion suddenly our way. Still, we were only 4 points down with seven minutes to play.


Richmond, more specifically Dusty, owned those last seven minutes. Reading the needs of each given moment, Dusty drifted up field to win crucial ground balls, or dropped deep to cause mayhem among our defenders. His team mates, particularly Shai Bolton, lifted around him. We ended up losing by one point more than we did last year.


A lot can be said for our efforts on the night. Richmond were certainly nearer full strength than we were. And they are, after all, the benchmark everyone is chasing this year. But it’s those last seven minutes that worry me. Richmond lifted, we wilted. Richmond made the play, we reacted and increasingly panicked. They looked like they believed, nay expected, to win. As it turned out, it wasn’t just Carlton’s supporters who didn’t believe.


You could say that’s just the obvious difference between a club that’s one 3 out of the last 4 flags, and a club that hasn’t seen finals for 8 seasons. But how do Carlton make that step to real belief? Richmond are the living proof it can be done. When we last won a final back in 2013, Richmond were us. We came from 5 goals down to upset them. They were the ones with demons of doubt back then. How times have changed.


I wasn’t optimistic about this game, but I have hopes for the season. So I remain disappointed. Richmond were no unstoppable force tonight, even with Dusty. They were gettable. This turned out to be an opportunity not taken.


I think Thursday night against the Magpies will be huge. For both clubs.



RICHMOND     3.3      8.5      10.8      15.15 (105)

CARLTON         3.2      6.6      8.12       11.14 (80)



Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Castagna 2, Martin 2, Rioli 2, Aarts 2, Lynch, Caddy, Bolton

Carlton: McDonald 2, McKay 2, Gibbons 2, Casboult, O’Brien, Dow, Silvagni, Plowman



Richmond: Martin, Bolton, Graham, Balta, Prestia, Edwards, Riewoldt

Carlton: Walsh, Newnes, Saad, Cripps, Plowman, Curnow




For more from John, click HERE.




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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. Don’t be too down, John. I thought your Blues were great. Aren’t you glad you’ve got Saad? I loved him at Essendon.

    And you’ll always have the glory of having beaten us in a final without having made the eight.

    Hope you beat the Pies on Thursday.

  2. The same effort will beat the Pies soundly on Thursday. But “same effort” aye there’s the rub.
    Evaluating early season games is about the strength of opposition and randomness of the fixture. I fancy your competitive loss to a top side was better than my Eagles unconvincing win over Gold Coast.
    I fear we may pass you going up as we commence our slide. Speed kills in the new iteration of the game, and our ageing midfield lacks it.

  3. JB, in all seriousness I thought the Blues were very competitive, and surely you must take comfort from that given there were a few handy players in the stand?
    In the end, they did not have the talent and class to stay with the Tigers. Grit will only get you so far.
    I fear that Carlton will not be the last team who will go with Richmond for long periods of the game only to end up losing by 4 or 5 goals.

  4. John Butler says

    Gill, so it’s come to this. Richmond supporters offering sympathy. :)

    Saad was good. That 2013 final better. :)

    PB, we could both probably be described as natural pessimists in regard to our teams. You might be worried about your midfield speed, I’m worried about our midfield depth. We’ll see.

    Smokie, you may be right. I hope so. But I thought we went too quietly to our grave at the end. That must not happen against the Pies. (cf: PB’s same effort observation).

    Cheers all.

  5. Stainless says

    Sympathy, JB? I think not. We folk of a certain age have long memories. Eleven consecutive wins over the ODNBs is scant consolation for the years of misery they inflicted on us through the 80s, 90s and noughties. You lot need to endure at least another decade of failure before I can consider the ledger squared :)
    To be empathetic rather than sympathetic, however, I think we Richmond folk recognise in Carlton a bit of our own mob circa 2012-13 – clearly on the improve, able to match it with the big boys for 80-90% of games, but just lacking the poise and class to finish the job. That last step is the tough one, assuredly, and it may not occur simply through gradual improvement. The Tigers experienced all manner of peaks and troughs through 2013-2016 before it finally all gelled. But the signs are good.
    Always enjoy your reports – fine wordsmithing and considered analysis. Thanks.

  6. John Butler says

    Every rebuild can be unhappy in its own way? You may be right, Stainless.


  7. Peter Fuller says

    I’m definitely in the glass half full camp after Thursday night.Your pessimism is obviously plausible. However, I think that there was a qualitative improvement evident in comparison to previous seasons. Ball movement which you alluded to in your report was better. the players are running harder and for longer. Personnel is better, and we had a few of our hypothetical best 22/23 missing. My reservation is the ability to run out quarters, which might be fatal the reversion to the standard length of the game. I also think that any team which is progressing (says he hopefully) has an issue with belief. I think that was evident against Richmond, and again you perceptively addressed the topic.
    Losing to the best in the competition by 7 minutes with the margin inflated by the two gifts of the technical application of the rules, gives me grounds for optimism.
    I’m currently in Queensland and watched the Swans obliterate Brisbane on Saturday night. They played with the freedom of a team with lowered expectations.
    Stainless the sentiment is reciprocated, although I confess to contributing to the Save our Skins campaign against my better judgment.

  8. John Butler says

    Peter, we’re both hoping you are more on the money. We’ll get a good idea tomorrow night.

  9. Paddy Grindlay says

    glass half full, I reckon.

    the Blues were there and thereabouts for much of the game. I reckon Walsh has outstripped Cripps as well.

    you’ll do in the Pies tonight.


  10. John Butler says

    Paddy, I bloody hope so.

  11. JB for mine the problem is the players don’t know the rules it’s inexcusable in this so called professional era and it’s there bloody job that they don’t know them inside out pathetic that clubs don’t do constant exams on the rules it truly pisses me off

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